Voter education is at an all time low and despite spending billions on an election cycle, voters aren’t getting any smarter or wiser.
This became painfully clear as I went door-to-door on Saturday working for the presidents campaign and collecting signatures for my future Dayton City Commission race.
When asking about the Senate race, which in the scheme of things is probably as important as the presidential, the survey form had the names Brown and Mandel. In the congressional, they were only asking Dem or Rep, leaving out Neuhardt and Turner’s names.
Although it wasn’t on the walk sheet, voters are just as lost when it comes to issues, polling places, rules and regs. A woman said to me that she can’t vote because she had a felony- a common misunderstanding in Ohio. You can’t vote while serving time for a felony- but after you’re done, you’re back to voting status. Another was so glad to find out she was registered here, having moved from Middletown, but hadn’t received any notification and didn’t know where her polling place was. Last time we went to the polls, it was vote no on issue 2, and now, it’s vote yes on issue 2- I saw two teachers vehicles in my kids school parking lot- one with a bumper sticker each way- of course, one was two years old. Confusion rules.
Never mind same name candidates. We’ve got a county commissioner named Dan Foley and we’ve got Foley signs up all over the county- it’s not the same Foley.
I even heard people saying they wouldn’t make up their minds until they saw the “voters guide”- ostensibly, the one produced by the league of Women’s voters and distributed by the newspaper (which fewer and fewer people get). On the flip side, I heard on NPR that the Post Office wasn’t going to go broke this month, only thanks to the huge influx of campaign cash being spent on direct mail.
So why is there so much resistance to changing the system? Obviously, this isn’t the best way to run campaigns or elections (unless you own a media outlet and are getting fat and happy from campaign spending). The single thing I’ve heard from most of the people was that they can’t wait for this to be over, to which I’m in total agreement.
Instead of counting on tv ads, billboards and mailings- why can’t we create a complete voters guide giving each candidate equal space- mailed to every voter- and not with a request form for an absentee ballot or directions to a polling place, but with a paper ballot that they can mail in at their convenience? It’s been this way in Oregon for years. With this much focus on early voting and the like- we know that paper ballots work by mail.
Soundbite :30 second tv spots, billboards, radio spots aren’t made to inform the voter- they’re made to persuade the voter and more often than not end up being a mudslinging mess. If this is the best we can do, we’re bound to keep getting the results we’ve had.
American’s deserve better elections. It’s time to rethink the way we educate the voter and ask for their participation in a process that needs massive improvement. It’s time to take the confusion out of the process and work to make sure that we’ve got the best educated and informed electorate possible.
I’m pretty sure it can be done for a lot less than $6 billion dollars too.