Peter Gemma: The Impact of Non-Voters

Peter Gemma at The American Thinker:

Dr. Billy Graham has observed that, “bad politicians are elected by good people who don’t vote.”

In Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District special election last week, 57 percent of registered voters stayed home. The race repeatedly made national news because it was possible that a Democrat could be elected to that seat for the first time since 1979. In an advertising blitz for the candidates, outside groups poured over $14 million into the contest, and the Democrat, Jon Ossoff, spent a record-breaking $8.3 million on his campaign.

All that, and just 43 percent of the voters were motivated enough to cast a ballot – non-voters won in a landslide. In fact, non-voters always win.

In 2012, despite a photo-finish presidential election, hot button issues at stake, and an estimated $6 billion spent on campaigning, voter turnout dropped from 57 percent of eligible citizens voting in 2008 to an estimated 55 percent in 2012. Only 63 percent of eligible voters are even registered. And a side note: off-year elections statistics are worse: just 36 percent of the voting-eligible population cast ballots in 2014 – the lowest in 70 years. Since 2002, the average voter participation in off-year elections has hovered at 39 percent.

As a percentage of all eligible voters, Hillary Clinton received 28 percent (65,845,063 votes) compared to Donald Trump’s 27 percent (62,980,160 votes). If “Did Not Vote” was a political party, they would have won in a walk: 44 percent of all voters (102,731,399) stayed home.


Only eight states and Washington D.C. had high enough voter turnout where one of the candidates on the ballot won more votes than people who did not bother to vote: Iowa and Wisconsin for Trump, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire and D.C. for Clinton. Non-voters swept up the rest of the country.

Surveys by Northwestern University’s Non-Voters in America reveal that in terms of ideology, 15 percent of non-voters are liberal, 27 percent moderate, and 21 percent self-identified as conservative. Using that equation, about 44 million non-voters considered themselves moderates or conservatives in 2012. Liberal Barak Obama scored five million more votes than the middle-of-the-road candidate Mitt Romney.

In the 2016 New Hampshire U.S. Senate contest, the Democrat nominee bested the Republican incumbent by fewer than 1,000 votes (.14 percent), but more than 135,000 voters stayed home. For the first time since 1988, Pennsylvania voted for a Republican presidential candidate despite a Democratic voter registration advantage of nearly a million people. Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by a 0.70 percent margin (44,292 votes), however about ten million (10,000,000) registered voters did not show up on Election Day. Incumbent Republican Senator Pat Toomey eked out a win by just 100,000 votes in the same election.

Northwestern University’s Non-Voters in America project classifies non-voters into several groups including “too busy” and “pessimists;” 27 percent of non-voters were “pessimists” who were turned off by their limited choices and did not vote. According to a Non-Voters in America study, “Pessimists earned their label because, compared with other non-voters, they are more likely to think the country is on the wrong track and are more likely to dislike both the political candidates and the government more generally.”

Non-Voters in America also found that “active faithfuls,” self-identified evangelicals, make up about 11 percent of the non-voting public. They are the most mistrustful of government and have a very low opinion of politicians. Non-Voters in America’s study concluded that, “politically, they lean conservative … and are very knowledgeable about how government and politics work. They are also high news consumers.” If the non-voting “active faithfuls” were targeted in the Bible belt state of Georgia, the results would likely have been much different.

One of the founding tenets of the United States is that the government derives its authority from the consent of the governed. So why the chasm between tens of millions of non-voters and political campaigns? Simple: when voters are presented with impotent and insipid candidates over and over again, they feel disenfranchised, cynical, and apathetic. Non-voters clobber candidates left and right.

According to a December 2016 Pew Research Center report on non-voters, about 26 percent said they “didn’t like any of the candidates.” However, inspirational candidates with innovative platforms – think Ross Perot, Ron Paul, and Bernie Sanders – always excite the electorate. Better candidates mean more voters.

One more factor: according to an ABC News/Washington Post survey, 48 percent of respondents said they would prefer a third-party candidate to run. An Associated Press/University of Chicago poll revealed that 71 percent of millennials want an alternative to the Republican and Democrat nominees. More choices mean more voters.

Michigan State political scientist Corwin Smidt has observed, “We’ve seen a huge increase in technology and the ability to turn out the vote. In terms of a cost-benefit analysis, the parties and candidates see that it’s much easier to turn out people who agree with them than it is to change someone’s mind.”

Question: are conservative candidates raising the bridge to capture likely prospects among non-voters or trying to lower the river looking for converts?

8 thoughts on “Peter Gemma: The Impact of Non-Voters

  1. Steve Scheetz

    Apathy…. Obviously the vast majority of voters in the United States have the feeling that their vote is MEANINGLESS, and given the ballot access laws across the nation, it is difficult to argue with them! In the 8th Congressional District of PA, one must go door to door in order to achieve the 3000 minimum requirement.. (which is most certainly going to be challenged, so one must submit at least 4500 signatures in the district in order to keep the challenge from coming. The number of volunteer hours required for my district in order to just achieve ballot access is staggering, although, paid petitioners could be used, but in order to make it worth it for a paid petitioner, I would have to pay $5-6 per signature, plus expenses and lodging.

    So that is for ballot access for an alternative candidate who will be up against 10’s of millions (based on this past election cycle, nearly $21 million was spend on the 8th district)

    Tens of millions did not buy a whole lot of message… In fact, most people had no idea what each candidate stood for or against. In the mean time, how is any other candidate supposed to break in in order to demonstrate some alternative ideas?

    We are up against a huge machine, and many people simply stop playing. SO, when we have this American Thinker magazine asking about the conservative candidates raising the bridge or lowering the river, MAYBE said writer should re-read the data he quoted and then look at the fact that pretty much all politicians in DC act the same way once they arrive there. It is not about doing what is right, it is about doing what is right for THEMSELVES.

    Maybe government is doomed to fail due to human nature.. maybe there are not enough regulations in the world to govern the corruption in DC.

    My thought is that WE the people need to be responsible for the solution. Many have heard me speak to this already, and I will be speaking about it even more moving forward as I work on a project to do EXACTLY that… I am working toward one policy win ahead of 2020. The people have the power, it is time we shook the foundation of the establishment!


    Steve Scheetz

  2. Jill Pyeatt

    We expected rampant fraud/ballot stuffing in CA, so it was hard to be enthusiastic about voting. We all knew Hillary would win.

  3. Stephen Kent Gray

    It’s people’s right not to vote. People choose not to vote because they don’t want to vote. I don’t agree with abstaining from voting, but don’t think of it as bad automatically.

    Compulsory voting are laws which require voters to register to vote, to attend a polling place on voting day (or some permitted alternative method of voting) and to vote in elections. If an eligible voter fails to attend a polling place, or lodge a postal vote, he or she may be subject to a penalty such as fines or community service. As of August 2013, 22 countries, including 12 Latin American countries, have compulsory voting laws, and 11 of these 22 countries enforce these laws in practice.

    I don’t think America should be added to the list of countries with this.

    As of August 2013, 22 countries were recorded as having compulsory voting.[1] Of these, only 10 countries (additionally one Swiss canton and one Indian state) enforce it. Of the 30 member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 10 had forms of compulsory voting.[30]

    These are the countries and sub-national entities that enforce compulsory voting:

    Argentina – Introduced in 1912. Compulsory for citizens between 18 and 70 years old, non-compulsory for those older than 70 and between 16 and 18. (However, in primaries, citizens under 70 may refuse to vote, if they formally express their decision to the electoral authorities, at least 48 hours before the election. This is valid only for the subsequent primary, and needs to be repeated each time the voter wishes not to participate.)
    Australia – Introduced in 1924. Compulsory for federal and state elections for citizens aged 18 and above. The requirement is for the person to enroll, attend a polling station and have their name marked off the electoral roll as attending, receive a ballot paper and take it to an individual voting booth, mark it, fold the ballot paper and place it in the ballot box. The act does not explicitly state that a choice must be made, it only states that the ballot paper be ‘marked’. According to the act how a person marks the paper is completely up to the individual. In some states, local council elections are also compulsory. At the 2010 Tasmanian state election, with a turnout of 335,353 voters, about 6,000 people were fined $26 for not voting, and about 2,000 paid the fine. A postal vote is available for those for whom it is difficult to attend a polling station. Early, or pre-poll, voting at an early voting centre is also available for those who might find it difficult to get to a polling station on election day.
    Belgium – Introduced in 1894. Every citizen from age 18 has to present themselves in a polling station, legal sanctions still exist, but only the sanctions for absent appointed polling station staff have been enforced by prosecutors since 2003.
    Brazil – Compulsory for literate citizens between 18 and 70 years old. Non-compulsory for Brazilians aged 16–17 or over 70 or illiterate citizens of any age. A justification form for not voting can be filled at election centers and post offices.
    Cyprus – Introduced in 1960.
    Ecuador – Introduced in 1936. Compulsory for citizens between 18 and 65 years old; non-compulsory for citizens aged 16–18, illiterate people, and those older than 65.
    Indian state Gujarat passed a bill by legislative assembly in 2009 and later again in 2011 with some modifications, which was approved by the Governor of Gujarat in November 2014, making voting compulsory in local civic body elections and a punishment for not voting. The Government of Gujarat chose not to notify the law or enforce it initially, citing legal implications and difficulty in enforcement. But later in June 2015, the government decided to notify and enforce the law.
    Luxembourg – Compulsory for national citizens between the age of 18 and 75, non-compulsory for national citizens older than 75 and for residents with foreign nationality (for the latter in local elections only).
    North Korea – Everyone over age 17 is required to vote. However, only one candidate appears on the ballot. Voting is designed to track who is and isn’t in the country. Dissenting votes are possible but lead to repercussions for voters.
    Nauru – Introduced in 1965.
    Peru – Introduced in 1933. Compulsory for citizens between 18 and 70 years old, non-compulsory for those older than 70.
    Singapore – Compulsory for citizens above 21 years old as of the date of the last electoral roll revision. For example, the 2015 election has the cut-off date on 1 July 2015.
    Uruguay – Introduced in 1934, but not put into practice until 1970.
    Schaffhausen canton in Switzerland. Compulsory voting has never existed at the national level in Switzerland. It has been introduced in several cantons starting in the late 19th century but by 1974, it has been abolished everywhere except in Schaffhausen.

    Not enforced
    Countries that have compulsory voting by law but do not enforce it:

    Bolivia – Introduced in 1952.
    Bulgaria – Introduced in 2016.
    Costa Rica
    Democratic Republic of the Congo
    Dominican Republic – Compulsory from the age of 18.
    Lebanon – Men only
    Paraguay – Compulsory for citizens between 18 and 75 years old, non-compulsory for those older than 75.
    Turkey – The ?22 fine in law is generally not enforced.

    America shouldn’t become North Korea!

  4. D. Frank Robinson

    Since monopoly ballots are censorship, it is not surprising that people who believe coercion is the key to social conformity and a more perfect serfdom, conscripting voters is consistent with those beliefs.

  5. paulie Post author

    I didn’t interpret Peter’s article as calling for mandatory voting. Was there something I missed?

  6. Non Comply Guy

    “One of the founding tenets of the United States is that the government derives its authority from the consent of the governed. So why the chasm between tens of millions of non-voters and political campaigns? ”

    I stopped consenting the same year Edward Snowden showed the U.S. government along with the media and corporations conspired against our civil rights. I stopped playing their games. Quit voting. Google voluntaryism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *