The Gristle

Vote

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

VOTE: Election meddling. Ballot tampering. District gerrymandering. Census shenanigans. Voter roll purging.

If the last 18 months of prominent national news stories have demonstrated anything, it’s that voting matters. Otherwise, why spend so much money and energy trying to subvert, diminish or redirect votes and election outcomes, unless voting and elections matter?

Every group of power and influence in the United States recognizes this and expends great energy on this—except the one group most targeted by all the mischief. And the target group is, ironically, also the most powerful and influential of them all: Millennials.

“Millennials” is a shorthand way of describing an age group that is now the largest voting bloc in the United States. In 2016, Millennial and Gen X voters outnumbered Boomers and older voters, 69.6 million to 67.9 million. The vulnerable weakness of Millennials is they do not fully recognize this. As a cohort, they don’t vote; or they vote infrequently and haphazardly. They are the likeliest group to drop out of elections.

A poll from the Public Religion Research Institute conducted in June showed only 28 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 say they are “absolutely certain” they’ll vote in the midterms, compared to 74 percent of seniors. If they voted with the same passion as their parents, the electoral effect of this strongly multi-ethnic, multi-cultural age group would be titanic.

When they do vote, this age group votes strongly progressive, even if they are registered as “independent.” Democrats have as great as a 35-point advantage with young women voters in the 2018 U.S. House midterm elections, according to recent surveys.

For Republicans and conservative-leaning political groups the strategy is clear—discourage or choke off this volatile young voting group, drive them from the polls by any means. For Democrats and progressive-leaning groups—Get Out The Vote.

In their brief months of power last session, Democrats in the Washington State Legislature passed a couple of very canny bills to expand the franchise of democratic involvement (and their own chances in future elections), dubbed the “Access to Democracy” package. Automatic voter registration dramatically simplifies the registration process, signing up citizens to vote when they interact with a state agency, unless they opt out. When a resident renews her driver’s license, for example, she is also registered to vote. The package also allows automatic pre-registration for older teenagers, ensuring they can vote the day they turn 18.

Their final gift? Free postage on ballots returned by mail, removing one additional barrier to participating in elections.

Evidence suggests an energetic primary can also drive heightened interest and involvement in election outcomes into the fall, and certainly there’s never been a more engaging primary than the current one. Suzan DelBene is challenged by four men in the inland 1st Congressional District; while Rick Larsen has drawn five challengers attacking from all ends of the political spectrum in the coastal 2nd CD. In legislative races, eight candidates are running for three state positions to represent Whatcom and Skagit counties in Olympia.

Of these latter races, perhaps the most fascinating is unfolding in the historically somnambulant 40th Legislative District, where four Democrats of enormous appeal square off to fill the seat of retiring Anacortes Democrat Rep. Kris Lytton.

The aggressive math of the state’s rickety Top-Two primary suggests this excitement will settle into a more predictable trough into the fall, as it is unlikely more than one of these Ds will squeak through the primary. That candidate will then square off against the surviving Republican in a tiresome and static, polarized debate that will almost assuredly end in a 35-point victory for the Democrat. Top-Two is a hash that allows a candidate with only marginal partisan support to continue on while candidates with greater overall appeal are eliminated.

Something analogous is likely to happen in the 42nd District, with Republicans so confident in their easy victory that their candidates did not even bother to show up for a recent political debate sponsored by the Whatcom League of Women Voters.

Perhaps a more energetic system of voting could increase participation overall.

“A sharp increase in partisan rigidity in Americans’ voting patterns has led to less competitive state and national elections and more predictable outcomes based on which party is in the majority,” say proponents of FairVote Washington, a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms. “Fewer legislators fear losing in general elections, and fewer still can win in the other party’s ‘turf.’ Third parties and independents are shut out almost entirely.”

Their solution, introduced to the Legislature last year, is ranked choice voting (RCV). Rather than checking a box for just one candidate, voters rank all candidates in order of preference. If a candidate earns a majority of the votes, he or she wins. If not, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated, and his or her ballots get redistributed to whomever those voters ranked second. If another round is needed, the process continues, eliminating the candidate with the next fewest votes, until one candidate has a majority.

Ranked choice voting would certainly inject more lasting dynamism into races like the 40th LD, where Democrats could substantially move the needle on public issues well into the fall.

Ranked choice voting favors no party, and in that capacity may appeal to that mercurial cohort of young, independent voters. If the strategy of Democrats is to increase voter participation in the confidence that those voters will lean toward a more progressive agenda, Democrats should champion RCV.

Meanwhile, vote.

FCC Advent
Past Columns
Paradigms in Collision

November 28, 2018

Leftover Turkey

November 21, 2018

The Divisions Between Us

November 14, 2018

The Map is the Territory

November 7, 2018

Climate Kids

October 31, 2018

What The Market Won’t Bear

October 24, 2018

As Above, So Below

October 17, 2018

As Below, So Above

October 10, 2018

A Civil Disagreement

October 3, 2018

Zombie Pipeline

September 26, 2018

Too Little, Too Late

September 19, 2018

Open Secret Disclosed

September 12, 2018

Consent of the Governed

September 5, 2018

Let the People Decide

August 29, 2018

3-in-1 Oil

August 22, 2018

A Deeper Dive

August 15, 2018

Blue Wave Stalls Offshore

August 8, 2018

Mountains of Our Efforts

August 1, 2018

Events
Today
The Giving Tree

10:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Cook It and Book It

3:30pm|Lynden Library

Bellingham Mysterians

4:00pm|Village Books

Women's Snowshoeing Basics

6:00pm|REI

All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Bellingham Reads

6:30pm|Bellingham Public Library

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Books on Tap

7:00pm|North Fork Brewery

Comedy Open Mic

7:30pm|Shakedown

Amahl and the Night Visitors

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

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Tomorrow
The Giving Tree

10:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Amahl and the Night Visitors

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Coat Drive

9:00am|Community Food Co-op

Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Lynden Front Streeters

2:00pm|Village Books

Hiking and Beer

5:00pm|Growlers Keep

The LIghts of Christmas

5:00pm|Warm Beach Camp

Histories & Mysteries Book Club

6:30pm|Everson Library

Creekside Open Mic

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

Carols and Old Songs with Evan Ingalls

7:00pm|BAAY Theatre

The Mark Taylor Quartet

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Intro to Improv

7:00pm|Improv Playworks

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Thursday
The Giving Tree

10:00am|Village Books

Coat Drive

9:00am|Community Food Co-op

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

The LIghts of Christmas

5:00pm|Warm Beach Camp

Birding Adventures

9:00am|Skagit Valley

Valley Crafters Holiday Bazaar

10:00am|Deming Presbyterian Church

Winter Wear Drive

10:00am|Community Food Co-op

Literacy Council Seeks Volunteers

10:00am

English Country Dancing

1:30pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Poetry Writing Group

5:30pm|Village Books

Jazz Jam

5:30pm|Illuminati Brewing

White Elephant Incognito Dinner

6:00pm|Ciao Thyme

Ballet Bellingham presents The Nutcracker

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Journey's Christmas

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Noel Noir

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Naughty List, A Holiday Cabaret

9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »

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