Record Voter Turnout – But We Can Do Even Better

Phew. The midterm elections are over! You voted, right? Yes? Great.

For those who did not join the record-breaking throngs that either cast an early ballot or turned out on election day – you missed out. Voting is one of America’s greatest civil rights and it, gloriously, brings us all together – old, young, people of all races, classes and creeds. In a world where so many human beings have absolutely no control over who runs their country we regularly get the chance to make our voices heard.

Everyone should be heartened by the energetic turnout. No matter how divisive we may be public participation in the voting process has swelled – some 114 million of us voted in the midterms – and  that’s a good thing. That said, there is still much to be done before we can honestly brag about our all-inclusive system.

For one thing, millions of citizens are not allowed to vote simply because they once served time in prison.  That number can be traced to our get-tough-on-crime era that resulted in the U.S. incarcerating a larger share of its population than any other country in the world.  We’ve spent so many decades locking up people — many sentenced to long prison sentences for non-violent or three-strikes-and-you’re-out crimes – that we have effectively disenfranchised more than 6.2 million Americans.

There are a mish-mash of various state responses to ex-offenders who seek to have a say in our political system.  Some states allow those with felony records to vote immediately after their release. Other states make ex-cons wait until their parole and/or probation period is over.  A few states take into consideration the type of crime committed and may require the former prisoner to undertake the long process of seeking a gubernatorial pardon before they can vote. The states of Kentucky, Iowa and Florida enacted laws that banned convicted felons from voting — for the rest of their life.

Is it fair to continue to punish citizens even after they’ve paid their debt to society? How can former prisoners assimilate back into their neighborhoods, feel a part of their communities, if they are denied this most basic right?  How can we hope for first-class behavior from them if we continuously treat them as second-class citizens?

I’m glad to report that things began to change with this election. Voters in Florida overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment restoring nearly 1.5 million ex-felons to the voter rolls, though those convicted of murder or felony sex offenses are still prohibited. This is seen as a positive first step toward insuring all law-abiding citizens have a voice in Florida politics. The amendment is especially welcomed in the black community where the latest studies showed nearly 18% of the potential black voting pool was excluded from the system because so many of them had a prison record.

If we really want to reach for the goal of full voter participation how about states adopting some uniform guidelines?

Avoid the Lines! Get Your Vote Counted Early

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures only 37 states and the District of Columbia allow early voting, either in-person or by mail. Yet that is among the easiest and most efficient way to cast a ballot. Why don’t all states offer that?  The NCSL also reports that in 20 states a citizen requesting an absentee ballot must provide an official excuse, such as a physical disability or overseas military assignment. This might deter citizens from trying to vote and does anyone even check out those excuses? I say, if an American wants to vote states should help not hinder that desire.

Polls in some states close as early as 6pm which seems highly unhelpful for parents juggling children’s hectic schedules or those struggling to leave work to get to the polls. I suggest every state keep voting booths open until at least 8pm.

Many states require citizens to register to vote weeks before Election Day so  procrastinators are out of luck.  But 11 states – soon to be 16 – allow same day voter registration.  Its easy to see that as an election nears enthusiasm can build. States should take advantage of that eagerness and design a same-day process to sign up everyone who wants to vote.

Look, we live in a time of great political alienation. According to a Fox News Voter Analysis poll 81% of Americans do not trust the government.  An ABC News survey found 51% of voters believe the government did not do enough to protect the midterm elections from foreign interference.  What better way to restore faith in the system than to have each state fully embrace its population and encourage rather than discourage voting.

Next Election Let’s Have Enough of These To Go Around!

And, on a personal note could all states please make sure there is a hefty supply of those I VOTED stickers next election? My polling place had run out of them by 10:30am and I missed my opportunity to display my good citizenship all day.  Good citizenship can be infectious.



  1. Diane Dimond on November 13, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Facebook Friend Elizabeth Blackburn writes:

    … And after they vote, let’s count all the votes.

  2. Diane Dimond on November 13, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    British and Facebook Friend Patrick Younge writes:

    We still use pencil and paper here, x marks the spot. /// Postal votes have to be received before polling day. Campaign expense limited to $35000 per candidate and no attack ads

    • Diane Dimond on November 13, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      Diane Dimond replies to Patrick Young:

      Oh how I wish our politicians were limited in what they can spend! 35k would be wonderful – then we wouldn’t be plagued by the never ending blast of robo-calls at dinner time and elex ads on TV all day/night!

  3. Diane Dimond on November 13, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    Facebook Friend Patti Petow writes:

    Very good story, Diane. I was so happy that released prisoners in FL can now vote.

    • Diane Dimond on November 13, 2018 at 12:43 pm

      Facebook Friend Jim Reynolds :

      If you’ve done your time paying your debt to society and pay your taxes, why shouldnt you be allowed to vote?

      • Diane Dimond on November 13, 2018 at 12:43 pm

        Patti Petow replies to Jim Reynolds:

        Exactly my thought.

  4. Diane Dimond on November 13, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    Facebook Friend Mark Holloway writes:

    As long as only citizens vote,.

  5. Diane Dimond on November 13, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    Facebook Friend Pat Kelley Wittorf writes:

    Why not let felons, who have completed their sentences, vote? I mean, you don’t even have to be ALIVE in some states/precincts to vote. 🙂

  6. Diane Dimond on November 13, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    Facebook Friend Stephanie McGowin writes:

    If, you commit murder or rape. Who are not eligible for voting in Florida.

    • Diane Dimond on November 13, 2018 at 12:46 pm

      Diane Dimond replies to Stephanie McGowin:

      That’s right. As the column says: in the state of Florida if you have committed certain sex crimes or murder you are excluded from the ballot box – – forever at this point

  7. Diane Dimond on November 19, 2018 at 10:01 am

    Twitter Pal Sunrise Sunset@SunriseSunset7 writes

    You commit a felony, found guilty, you lose rights, VOTING IS ONE OF THEM and that is the way it should be! They have too many rights in prison as it is.Has to be something to discourage people from committing felonies!

  8. Diane Dimond on November 19, 2018 at 10:02 am

    Twitter Pal Chris Hull@Chrisahull writes

    Excellent article on voting! I concur on ex-cons and early voting, simplify the process in voting and counting votes!!! Great read, Diane, i appreciate you and your perspectives!!

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