On a good national election about 60% of registered voters vote. About 35% of American citizens aren’t even registered to vote. Thus in reality on a good national election only about 45% of all American citizens vote and on a bad national election about 35% of all American citizens vote to elect our political leaders. It’s even much lower for local and state elections. What does this say about our country which prides itself for being one of the greatest democracies (actually we are a republic) in the world yet less than half its citizens actually votes? Our political decision makers are being elected by significantly less than half the population.
How representative can they be of the population? The basic premise of our government is that elected officials be representative of the population from which they are elected. This requires that more than half the population elect them. The fewer that take part in this elective process the more questionable it is that they represent their constituents. There are also some minority groups which have a much lower percentage of voters than the general voting population who are grossly underrepresented.
The problem is that there are large segments of our population which either don’t care about the government or do not feel that their vote counts or for other reasons cannot or do not vote. This is problematic because many elections, including presidential elections, have been won or lost by very narrow margins, some less than one percent. Had many of these non-voters voted many election might have turned out very differently.
The same goes for issues that come up for vote in the legislature. Legislators keep tabs on emails, letters, and other correspondences sent by their constituents on issues. They judge how strongly their constituents feel about a particular issue by the number and tone of these correspondences. It is extremely important to communicate your sentiments on legislative issues to your legislators. You’d be surprised at how few correspondences they receive compared to the number of constituents in their districts so each correspondence has the power to influence them. Here is where your opinion counts more than voting. It’s quite easy. Find out who your representative is on the internet (by zip code) then find their website. They all have a Contact menu on their website you can use to send them your message. Messages don’t have to be long but clearly state your opinion on an issue.
However voters need to do some homework on whom or what they want to vote for and against. The media will have information that you should pay attention to as will as literature you will receive in the mail and email and of course by searching on the internet. It is every citizen’s responsibility to keep informed about candidates and issues. Freedom comes at a price. One of those prices is being informed and involved. There is really no excuse for apathy other than illiteracy.
Our government is dysfunctional because not enough American citizens care enough to be involved in voting or getting in touch with their legislators. Most people don’t even know who represents them in their district at any level of local, regional, state, or federal government. Our population is apathetic so congress and state and other governments are only reflecting this general apathy by being dysfunctional. Most citizens complain but do little or nothing to change the situation. If 65% of our population, in other words all registered voters, voted informatively and contacted their representatives about their concerns then we would have a far different and much more functional government that is far less influenced by special interest money.
So the bottom line is that we the people, as a nation, are largely apathetic so our country is simply reflecting that apathy with dysfunctionality. We get what we put in. Little in, little out. No gain without some pain. It is primarily our fault that our government doesn’t do what we want due to our general apathy. We deserve the dysfunctional government we have because most of us don’t give a damn to get involved.
Government doesn’t simply mysteriously work. We the people must make it work. Freedom of expression has little value if we do not express ourselves through the ballot box and by communicating with our legislators and local and regional governments. Democracy doesn’t work if citizens are not involved in electing representatives that represent them and letting them know how they feel about how they are doing or not doing. The whole system depends upon we the people being responsible and involved citizens. Otherwise things fall apart as they apparently have with government closures and impending debt ceiling crises.
We don’t have a broken system, we have a broken body of elected representatives who are separate from the people they are supposed to represents. Special interests now run our government due to public apathy. It’s that simple. It is mostly our fault. So let’s get more involved!