First things first



President, Calloway County Retired Teachers Association

“First things First” is Habit #3 in Stephen Covey’s book (along with Roger and Merrill), 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It means being clear about your priorities and acting on them.

The new Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has put together legislation to restore democratic principles for our election process.

First Things First.

Restoring Voting rights will be a priority beginning January 3, and into the 116th Congress. Let’s hope that Republicans and Democrats act quickly.

Voting rights have been under attack since Jim Crow laws before the turn of the last century. In the South, unconstitutional laws were passed to suppress the poor and minority voters by using poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses.

Currently, weapons of voter suppression have been used to achieve a Republican goal of undermining Democratic, opposition voters: women, African Americans, Latinos, immigrants, and other minorities. Deliberately difficult registration procedures, reduction in early and absentee voting, and polling places with long lines have, in effect, disenfranchised multitudes of voters.

For example, in Georgia, it is alleged there were long waits at polling places that lacked provisional ballots, 70 percent of rejected “exact match” registrants were African Americans who account for one-third of the population in large counties that lean Democratic. Democrat Stacey Abrams, an African American woman, lost in a close race.

Georgia’s Secretary of State, Republican Brian Kemp, was also running for governor while serving as the state's top election official. At one point 53,000 voter registrations were on hold in a county that was predominately African American.  

In Florida, broken machines, rejected ballots, long lines, and uncounted votes spell Election 2000 déjà vu. The sitting governor of Florida, Rick Scott, was running for the Senate, and had influence over the Florida election process. He and the Republican legislature allowed an antiquated system to remain in place which has been corrupted at least since the 2000 fiasco.

But perhaps the most disturbing characteristic of U.S. Elections is voter turnout. Calloway County celebrated at a 45 percent turnout rate and Kentucky at 58 percent in 2016.

We have normalized low voter turnout. 

In a recent Pew Research Study, the U.S. ranks 26th out of 32 industrialized nations in voter turnout. The study also revealed that “disinterest in politics” and feeling that their “vote will not count” were the two main reasons given for voter apathy.

In “United States of Apathy”, geographer Jim Herries and cartographer Phillip Kearney, constructed an election map based on eligible voters (18 years of age and a citizen) and actual voters. They assigned “Nobody” to those who did not vote, then Trump voters, and Clinton voters.

Nationally, when all totals were calculated “Nobody” would have received 445 electoral votes, Clinton 72 electoral votes, and Trump 21 electoral votes in 2016. 

In 2016 in Kentucky, there was 3,313,800 eligible voters, 1,924,149 (58%) total voted:

  • 1,389,651 (42 percent) abstained and voted for “Nobody”,
  • 1,202,971 (36 percent) voted for Trump, and
  • 628,854 (19%) voted for Clinton.

So, based on this model “Nobody” won Kentucky!

In 2016 in Calloway County, there was 29,890 eligible voters, 16,039 (53.6 percent) total voted:

  • 13,851(46.3 percent) abstained and voted for “Nobody”,
  • 10,367 (34 percent) voted for Trump, and
  • 4,749 (16 percent) voted for Clinton.

Again, “Nobody” won - “Commonwealth / County of Apathy”?

Calloway’s turnout was only 42.5 percent this November! My bet is “Nobody” won a multitude of races.

How can we motivate citizens to vote?

This is the Constitutional crisis nobody is talking about.

Automatic Voter registration? Standardize, fund, and inspect all county mechanisms for voting? Nonpartisan commissions to redraw Election maps after each 10-year Census?

Three changes to provide incentives to vote:

1)       State and national holidays for Voting and Instant run-off voting (IRV) in which the voter ranks 1st, 2nd, and 3rd preferences for office;

2)      A tax credit for your vote at all levels; and

3)      Should we require citizens to vote, like payment of taxes?

To provide Equality of Condition and Opportunity in the voting process, in this 3,142-county election set-up of Hodge-podge election regulations, we need to provide a standardized national “time and place” for the registration, mechanized casting of votes with a paper trail, and instant, verifiable counting of ballots.

We can take our democratic principles back.

First Things First.