Politics: Turnout among young voters important to Dems

by Judy Ferro

After the 2014 election, the New York Times published a lament declaring that voter turnout—at 36%–was the worst in 72 years.

No doubt 2016 will be different. Voters show up for presidential elections. Yes, there has been some drop since nearly 63% of the voters showed up for the Kennedy-Nixon race of 1960, but turnout did reach 57% in 2008 and nearly 55% in 2012.

Negative campaigning may explain the difference. A 1995 study by Stephen Ansolabehere and Shanto Ivengar indicated that attacks discourage many potential supporters. Mostly independents and Democrats, however. Republicans, they concluded, vote Republican no matter what.

No surprise then that Republicans in Congress spent millions of taxpayer dollars investigating Benghazi and Clinton e-mails. No illegal acts found. No charges filed. Yet, Clinton is scarred.

And young voters may be the most affected. In 2015 Ada County released a chart on Idaho voters showing that those aged 20-29 are the largest group of voting age, but only 13.4% show up at the polls. (In contrast, nearly 73% of Idahoans aged 70-79 vote.)

Low turnout among young voters hurts Democrats. In 2004, 54% of voters 18-29 voted for John Kerry; in 2008, 66% voted for Barrack Obama. Democrats need young voters.

A lot of reasons why more young people don’t vote have been suggested: they move more; they are focused on family and career; they don’t feel informed; they haven’t discovered how much of their life government influences.

Bernie Sanders’ success at drawing thousands of new voters to primaries and caucuses, however, suggests another reason: no one has been saying what young Americans want to hear.

NextGen Climate recently polled young voters in 11 swing states on the issues they cared about. Their answers read like the progressive platform. Over 70% supported making health care affordable and accessible, getting the economy to work for the middle class, protecting families’ health with clean air and water, making college affordable, implementing common sense gun safety rules, and moving the country from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Will these voters turn out for Hillary Clinton? The NextGen findings indicated that 43% of youthful likely voters support Clinton and 19% support Trump. That leaves 38% supporting neither.

The big surprise, though, is that most of that number claimed to see no difference between Clinton’s and Trump’s positions. Over 40% regarded the candidates’ stands on health care, affordable college, clean energy, and clean air and water as identical.

The poll didn’t ask voters how they felt about Benghazi or the Clinton e-mails; maybe they are a reason more young people don’t support Clinton. But they do seem hyper aware of her differences with Sanders. Clinton isn’t in favor of a single-payer health system so young people conclude she doesn’t support health care. She doesn’t want to end fracking so they doubt she is in favor of clean energy. She doesn’t favor free community college so she doesn’t support making education accessible.

Young people think in terms of all or nothing. Clinton, however, supports compromises she believes she could get through a reasonable Congress. Understanding such positions requires awareness–and acceptance–of detail and nuance.

Maybe more older people vote because we’ve accepted we’re never going to get perfect candidates. We’re used to choosing the best of what’s offered.

Elections: Close state races

by Judy Ferro

Got the election spirit yet?

The debates are over except for an Oct. 30 meeting of candidates for lieutenant governor.  (You can still view them at the IDPTV and KTVB websites.)

The Idaho Press-Tribune has published the first segment of candidate answers to a wide range of questions.

A flood of TV ads and postcards are delivering candidate messages.

Early voters are lining up to fill in the dots at the Elections Office.

Callers and door-knockers are talking to voters, answering questions about candidates, and offering rides to the polls.

And this week legislative candidates will be squaring off in person at forums on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

At times like this—when volunteers are out in force and candidates are pushing their limits—it’s easy for me to imagine big Democratic victories.  In the spring I remind myself what the odds are and vow not to get too optimistic, but by September I can’t help myself.  I’m like the kid who never quits believing she’ll get a pony next Christmas.

So, when a poll was released last week showing Democrats could possibly win three of the six state races, I was saying “just three?” while much of the nation was saying “Idaho?”  (With our low population and one-party history, Idaho politics usually gets attention only when things get weird; e.g., five versions of the Republican primary gubernatorial debate last spring have gotten a combined one million views on youtube.com.)

Although an incumbent Senator dropping nine points in the polls after his sole debate performance hadn’t cause ripples, a contested race for Idaho governor did.  Especially after the Republican National Committee moved not just once, but twice, to inject money into Idaho’s gubernatorial race.

This isn’t business-as-usual; the national parties seldom inject dollars into Idaho campaigns unless there’s a Congressional seat without an incumbent.

The three races that are close are Governor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Secretary of State.  Clearly, many Idahoans are getting informed and weighing their vote.

Does that mean that more voters will caste ballots this year?

Voter turnout drops without a presidential race.  Turnout of registered voters in Canyon County was 80% in 2012, but only 60% in 2010—or about 56% and 42% of potential voters.

Yet, state officials have a lot to say about your schools, your courts, your roads, even about when and how you vote.

Nationally, Senate races dominate the news.  Thirty-three of the Senate seats before the voters this year were last up for election in 2008, a presidential election year with heavy Democratic turnout.  A lot of first-term Democratic senators are facing the voters for the first time since the Tea Party sprang into being and the Republicans captured the House of Representatives.  Three additional seats are up because of mid-term vacancies.

Only nine seats are considered contested; seven are currently held by Democrats.  The loss of just three seats could give Republicans control of the Senate.  New polls are released daily indicating vote differences smaller than the margin of error.

Will citizens of these states show up to vote?  There’s a lot at stake.  Will the Affordable Care Act be repealed?  Will social security be revised or ravaged?  Will more conservatives be added to the courts?  Will immigration be reformed?

Idaho has a Senate seat up for election and a challenger of merit, Do we understand the difference our combined votes could make?

Get informed.  Vote.  Vote for your future, your kids, and your country.