40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent. You read that right: More people didn’t vote at all than those who voted for either major party candidate. A healthy democracy requires a healthy electorate, and with the Florida primary looming on Aug. 28 and an important midterm election coming in November, voters need to turn out or a minority of the electorate will call the shots.
The Pew Research Center has released a major study of the demographics of voters and non-voters (https://pewrsr.ch/2MEK82Z). It compared poll responses of its American Trends Panel, a nationally representative group of randomly selected U.S. adults, with actual voter records and other data to establish firmly who voted, who didn’t and the nature of their politics.
The more educated are likelier to vote, as are those who are better off financially. Whites are likelier to vote than non-whites. But the most stunning number was the lack of turnout among voters ages 18 to 29. That age group made up only 13 percent of voters who cast ballots in 2016, while those 65 and older made up 27 percent. Yet, the number of 18- to 29-year-olds is roughly the same as the number of people 65 and older. Let’s hope the activism of the Parkland students and young people like them changes those numbers for the better this year.
The 2016 presidential election certainly made clear that elections have consequences for all Americans, not just for those who choose to vote. And yet a strong plurality of eligible voters stayed home that year and, in so doing, let barely a quarter of eligible voters pick the president who will have long-term impact on the makeup of the Supreme Court, civil rights and America’s standing in the world. The Pew survey showed that the vast majority of Trump voters still have "very warm" feelings toward him.
A record number of women are seeking seats in Congress this year, choices between the political parties’ candidates are clear, and the control of the U.S. House, a U.S. Senate seat and the governor all hang in the balance. Voters will also decide on 13 amendments to the Florida Constitution. This is an important year for all who are eligible to vote, particularly younger voters, to make themselves heard. Voting by mail or voting early can ease the burden on those who find polling places inconvenient to reach or the hours too restrictive. Floridians should not let a minority of the electorate decide their future.