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Not voting this year? Let's talk!

By Christian Davenport

The voter turnout rate in the 2008 presidential election was the highest it had been in 40 years. A whopping 131 million people cast ballots.

So what was the rate?

Ninety percent?



Not even close.

It was just over 60 percent—demonstrating once again that Americans, while happy to live in a democracy, aren’t always so keen to participate in it.

Now come the mid-terms, which historically have even lower turnout rates. We here at StoryLab wonder what this year’s turnout will be, and, more important, what people are thinking about why they should or shouldn't vote. We’re looking for people eligible to vote who instead will stay home. Has Obama's shine worn off? Has the Great Recession left you cynical? Do the candidates not inspire you?

If you're not voting, please explain why in the comments below, or tweet us @poststorylab.

Or shoot reporter Chris Davenport a line at davenportc@washpost .com explaining why you won’t be casting a ballot this time around.

By Christian Davenport  | October 18, 2010; 12:03 PM ET
Categories:  Build-A-Story  
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I voted for Obama and Dems to change the way Washington works, but not only that. I voted for him because I knew Republicans would do us wrong, as they had under Bush, and he had sensible ideas. However, he focused too much on bipartisanship - commendable, but not something he has total control over, really (2-way street) -and not on the immediate results of what we got. Worried more about passing 40% tax cuts in stimulus than infrastructure and real jobs.

He's repeatedly given Republicans political cover by saying that they have "legitimate philosophical differences", when they vote against small biz bills, infrastructure, etc. Concern should be about helping the American people, first and foremost and put politics away. Naive in belief that Republicans would help him.

He didn't hold them accountable and wasted a year of domestic debate (along with Dems) on healthcare, for example, when in the end, there was a bipartisan bill IN SPIRIT, one based on Hatch/Grassley's answer to Hillarycare, a bill watered-down and most of which won't take effect until 2014, only to see Republicans vote against it and lie about it. Good ideas in it, but creates a mandate to buy private health insurance, with no set hard cap on premiums. At the least, we could've gotten that, if no public option.

On every issue, he and Dems start from barely left of center, rather than something "liberal", but "win" - with a clunker. Awful negotiators. Moderate and centrist, in the face of morons on the right calling him extremist, socialist, and whatever other bad labels they have for him - it just isn't anywhere close.

He lets them drive the conversation on everything.

He's bent over backward so much for the other side, he joined the Drill Baby Drill crowd he'd beaten in 2008. Back then, he knew that we couldn't drill our way out of energy problems. Then, this past March, he went against that, with an inopportune oil spill coming a few weeks after. He did this in trying to POTENTIALLY get bipartisan support for an energy bill. He didn't even get the support yet, but was throwing away bargaining chips to unpatriotic Republicans who have voted as a bloc against anything that could help.

The Tea Party does not have a monopoly on anger and frustration with this administration or gov't or business, which by the way, if Obama was so anti-business, he wouldn't have been signing business tax credits and cuts into law, nor would he have rescued the Big 3 Automakers or continued helping the bank stabilize or anything else that's helped the Dow peak above 11K, again.

Only in the past couple of months has he come out and started calling Repubs out for being obstructionist and revisionist, except in some previous speeches. It's not enough.

Transparency in passing bills never came. Dropping Bush's practices altogether didn't happen. Pelosi immediately decided not to impeach Bush on so many legit issues, but look what's next. Dems have no spine and no vote from me

Posted by: fbutler1 | October 18, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

If you're not voting--great, and please stay home on Nov. 2. You're probably a disgruntled Obamatron who would never vote GOP anyway. The only reason state-run, state-controlled WaPo wants to talk to you is to see if they can lure you back into the fold. Low voter turnout is a good thing if it means the right people win.

Posted by: kbarker302 | October 18, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I probably will not vote. We need jobs and I have not heard one candidate talk about the sacred cows, the H1-Bs. They are lowering wages and taking jobs. Unless someone has the balls to address this issue we will not have jobs. So why vote for a candidate in favor of H1-Bs?

Posted by: alterego3 | October 18, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I stayed out of the 2008 elections because I believe Obama is a crypto-marxist and could not support neo-con John McCain.

Despite the record turn out in 2008 there were MILLIONS of white voters that stayed home.

We are not staying home in the 2010 mid-term elections and we are going to wash the stench of both corrupt parties out of office. We're going to do it again in 2012 so what ever election results are on Nov 6 are only temporary. Then we're going to do it again in 2014.

The press and political pundits like to think blacks or meso-american indians (latino?) are the deciders in US elections, the reality is white people are.

The number of white voters that stayed home in 2008 probably equals the total latino voting bloc. And when we show up in November all your 'minority get out the vote' programs will be overwhelmed.

Posted by: expat1 | October 19, 2010 6:57 AM | Report abuse

i've come to terms with the reality that the largest corporations run this country. our "votes" on election day are meaningless. whomever wins the popularity contest to earn the position of "elected official" gets the lottery payout from the corporations who funded their campaigns. in return these corporations get government TARP contracts, tax breaks, relaxed safety and health regulations, government subsidies, bailouts and "free trade" agreements that allow them to ship jobs oversees.
the government bends over backwards to give taxpayer money to the auto industry, the airline industry, the banks, the insurance companies. these are the richest corporations in the country. yet where are the jobs? they're in india, china, the philippines, canada, mexico.

there are two effective ways to practice democracy in the united states: become a share holder of these corporations and vote with your wallet.

will i be casting a ballot at the polls for the 2010 mid-term elections? no. will i be voting? yes, i vote everyday of my life.

Posted by: joeboo1 | October 19, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Register and go to the Polls to vote. If not in support of one party over the other, then vote against racism, bigotry, extremism, ignorance, intolerance and the general destruction of our country. You live here, you will have a voice in how you want to live. VOTE or be prepared to live under the consequences of not voicing your opinion. The midterm elections are important, as important as the presidential elections. You are voting for your choice in who will represent you and your family in Congress and in the State legislatures. VOTE...YOUR vote is important.

Posted by: adelef_2000 | October 19, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm not voting because I'm disgusted with both parties. Democrats should've focused on jobs right when they stepped into office but instead they focused on everything but. They're either corrupt, incompetent, or out of touch. Republicans deserve a lot of the blame for the economy getting to this point and they'll probably do even worse than the democrats. I bet you if republicans win congress in this cycle they'll be thrown out in two years also. So what's a voter to do? There are no good choices and if we don't throw people out for failing to do everything they can for the economy then we'll never get people who focus on it.

Winners of this election, you're on notice. The economy is shot to h*ll and probably will be for a decade or more unless you do something. Fix it or you'll be thrown out too.

Posted by: Alan5633 | October 20, 2010 1:20 AM | Report abuse

BILL MAHER: "And finally, new rule: someone has to explain to me how it is that the Democrats can't talk about their accomplishments while the Republicans actually campaign on their fk-ups. Last week President Obama had the frankest town hall meeting I've ever seen, and a woman named Velma Hart took the mike and told the president, "I'm exhausted defending you." Well, if you're like Velma and you're tired of making excuses for Obama, just imagine how tired he is of making excuses for you.

"I know. Unemployment is high but you're the one who's not working, not him. He has a job. And part of it is stopping John Boehner from throwing you off unemployment.

"Now, I'm -- I am not here to carry water for this or any administration, but the facts of the coming election are Democrats have real accomplishments to run on. Like preventing a depression and forcing insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions. Like stopping the banks from being the useless middle-man on student loans, and lowering taxes for non-rich people. Obama has passed a credit card bill of rights, he restarted stem cell research, and got our ass out of Iraq, and signed a nuclear treaty with Russia - not to mention the intangible of having a president who can pronounce "nuclear."

"Why can't the Democrats get props for what they've achieved? Oh, I know, I know. Obama is black. He's used to being denied credit.

"And there's nothing wrong with being hard on him. He is the president. It's our job to keep him honest. But when it comes to voting, when we only have two choices, you got to grow up and realize there's a big difference between a disappointing friend and a deadly enemy."

Posted by: RememberDec2008 | October 20, 2010 6:41 AM | Report abuse


1. Ordered all federal agcies to undertake a study & make recommendations for ways to cut spending.

2. Negotiated deal w/Swiss banks to permit US government to gain access to records of tax evaders.

3. Shut down offshore tax safe havens.

4. Ended some of the policies of offering tax benefits to corporations outsourcing US jobs.

5. Ended the practice of protecting credit card cos; in place of it are new consumer & small business protections from credit card industry’s predatory practices & excessive surcharges.

6. Made more loans available to small businesses through community banks.

7. Ended the previous practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug manufacturers for less expensive drugs, thus bringing Medicare expenses down & lowering prescription drug costs for senior citizens.

8. Phased out the expensive F-22 war plane & other outmoded weapons systems that weren’t even used or needed in Iraq/Afghanistan, thereby saving the country billions. The min. cost of production of ONE F-22 was $138 MILLION.

9. Signed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill.

10. Cover expenses of families of fallen soldiers so they may be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB.

11. Improved housing for military personnel & initiated a new policy to promote federal hiring of military spouses.

12. Improved conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital & other military hospitals.

13. Initiated a housing rescue plan, thereby keeping thousands upon thousands of families from losing their homes.

14. Returned money authorized for refurbishment of White House offices and private living quarters and paid for redecoration of the White House living quarters out of his own pocket.

15. Lowered federal income tax for the middle class (was at its lowest in 60 years when the Tea Party decided to protest.)

16. The USA is once again in compliance with the Geneva Convention-which not only restored our integrity & standing worldwide but also helps our soldiers.

17. Visited more countries & met w/more world leaders than any president in his first 6 months in office.

18. Ended the previous stop-loss policy that kept soldiers doing tour after tour of duty in Iraq & Afghanistan longer than their enlistment date.

19. Brought over 150,000 troops home from Iraq & is actually training (finally) nat'l security personnel in Afghanistan so that we can exit responsibly.

20. Brought high-spd broadband internet to K-12 schools.

20. Expanded the SCHIP program to cover health care to 4 million more kids.

21. Appointed Michael R. Bromwich, former Assistant US Atty & Justice Department Inspector General, to head the MMS - look him up.

22. Pulled us from an economic disaster. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act enacted when Repubs had a majority in the House & Senate. It allowed commercial banks to consolidate w/investment firms and mtg brokers AND eliminated their being required to have enough equity for risks they were taking. Thus exposing its customers ie you.

Posted by: RememberDec2008 | October 20, 2010 6:59 AM | Report abuse

22. Expanded the National Youth Service Program.

23. Ended previous policy of awarding "no-bid" contracts.

24. Signed the Omnibus Public Lands Protection Act, protecting 200 million acres of wilderness and a thousand miles of rivers.

25. Signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act and appointed two women to the Supreme Court.

26. The USA is once again in compliance with the Geneva Convention standards, which not only restores our integrity and standing, but also helps our soldiers.

27. Restarted the nuclear nonproliferation talks and building back up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols.

28. Sent envoys to Middle East and other parts of the world that had been neglected for years; re engaging in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy.

29. Announced the development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production.

30. Established a National Performance Officer charged with saving the federal government money and making federal operations more efficient.

31. Our health care costs were spiraliing out of control and 50 million people had no health care coverage. Our system was completely unsustainable, and finally - after a year of attempting to negotiate with Republicans stonewalling and pocketing money and promising the health insurance industry that they would make this Obama's "waterloo", health care reform legislation passed. It is only just kicking in due to the grandfather clause which makes the transition take five years. What does health care reform mean right now?

-- Ensures that more Americans have quality, affordable access to health care.

--Expands health care to millions of Americans who were uninsured.

--Prohibits denials of coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

--Creates a marketplace where consumers can find more options in purchasing health care coverage.

--Holds insurance companies accountable for their mark-ups and clamps down on insurance company abuses.

--Limits out-of-pocket costs so that Americans have security and peace of mind.

--As of August 2010, 1 million rebate checks had been mailed to American seniors who had reached the gap in Medicare's prescription drug coverage, often called the 'donut hole'.

--As of September 23, young adults up to age 26 have the option for being covered under their parents' plan.

--Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans program make it possible for people who may have previously been denied coverage to purchase health insurance. More information on each State's plan is available on

--Invests in preventative care. As of September 23, 2010, insurers are required to pay the full cost of recommended preventive services, without charging a deductible, co-pay or co-insurance.

Posted by: RememberDec2008 | October 20, 2010 7:23 AM | Report abuse

Let's assume the Dems keep control. We've seen what happens:

* "health care reform" becomes "health insurance company recovery act".
* financial reform is watered down to where the banks can find loopholes the next day (like pushing "professional cards" which don't have personal credit card protections).

If reps take control, they'll pass bad bills in the house. The senate will parrot them. Dems will not filibuster because the reps will shout from the rooftops (via fox) that the Dems aren't letting democracy take it's course and they won't let the winners rule.

Obama will veto most of them, but the reps will call him names and he'll capitulate on some. Crap will become law.

Either way, no-one gets confirmed to the administration or judiciary.

So what's the difference who wins?

I've voted every year since Nixon gave us 18 year olds the right to vote. I'll vote for bonds and VA amendments this year but not for Congress.

This congress has ruined the only spectator sport I still enjoyed: politics and government.

I've gone from disillusioned to disgusted in two short years.

Thanks, guys.

Posted by: filfeit | October 20, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I decided last summer as I waited for my unemployment benefits to be extended that I would not be voting for any offices above Mayor in this year's elections. I dislike officials at the federal level for not coming up with a way to extend benefits while the Senate fiddled. I dislike Maryland's Governor O'Malley since he too failed to come up with a creative way of extending benefits while waiting for Senate action. I was 2 weeks from being homeless after that 7 week break in earnings. That was enough for me. I always (and I've never missed an election in 37 years) thought those elected were able to come up with better solutions than I. What this latest crop has shown me is that they only come up with solutions that suit themselves.

I accepted a job that pays 1/3 less than my previous one, so at least this November, when the politicians again fiddle while unemployed constituents suffer I will have a roof over my head. Shame on them all.

Posted by: baltcate | October 20, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Although my direct line descendants came here almost 150 years before the American Revolution and have fought in almost every major American war, I am denied full voting rights by living in the District.

I will not be voting like most other Americans can this November, because I do not have the same rights as they do.

Posted by: HillRat | October 20, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

These long-winded rants for or against one party or candidate ought to be deleted: they're not responsive to the question posed by the article. The question isn't who you like and why; it's whether you're voting.

I'm not. I used to be the guy who took the time to research every candidate and issue, down to the school bonds, on the ballot. Two years in particular, though, changed my mind. In 2004, most of the country voted to re-elect an administration that was obviously bankrupting the nation financially and morally. I lost a lot of faith in the electorate at that point. Americans are easily persuaded people.

In 2007, I lost my job, and remained unemployed for over a year. During that time, I lost faith that ANY large institution, government or corporate, would genuinely take interest in my well-being. The only people I could count on were my family, friends and community. I made the deliberate choice to focus my energies on them, rather than researching, getting involved with, or worrying about politicians who will never know my name, or care about what happens to me or those I love.

I don't plan on voting again any time soon. I've worked as a government contractor and I've seen the vast and powerful inertia created by money and the power to spend it. No one leader or party can change the situation. As a nation, this country lacks the will to make difficult choices and the grit to persevere through the consequences of making them (or not). Wall Street and our government are driven by quarterly results. Such ephemera are not the stuff of good government.

Times are much better for me now, but I'll never stop focusing on family and friends first. These are where my investments of time and energy will show the most benefit. Every minute someone spends ranting or hand-wringing over Obama or anyone else is a minute they should be spending improving themselves or the lives of those close to them. To lose sight of that is to forget who we are.

Posted by: __M__ | October 20, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Washington Post editors--

__M__ probably makes the best points here. *Please* interview him for your piece on Americans who are refraining from voting this year.

Speaking for myself, I may vote on November 2nd if enough candidates on my ballot dare to break out of their party-enforced dogma to address problems fearlessly and realistically. However, I'm not holding my breath.

I lost my politics within the last few years. This was a little bit like losing my religion. (Formerly I was a loyal Democrat, relatively liberal.)

I came to a similar realization, namely that most pols and their allies really don't give a d@mn about people other than those who fall into easily bought or manipulated voting blocs. This reminds me of the way marketers operate, profiling different groups, dividing and conquering the market, suckering people to buy into things that they don't necessarily benefit from.

We have a dumbed-down political dialog -- if you can even call it that -- chock-full of inflammatory rhetoric, gross distortions, and insulting over-simplifications.

Like many, I identify as an independent now, and independents generally don't have many alternatives to choose from. Our political system is clearly designed to marginalize or outright shut out third-party and independent candidates and thinkers.

__M__ is right. Greed and complacency rule the day. Living a few miles from D.C., I see evidence of this all the time. The ones who sacrifice the most seem to be the powerless, the trusting, the truly vulnerable.

If I had a religion, I might pray for this country. Since I have neither a religion nor a political affiliation to anchor me, I will just hope that this country wakes up someday, that we once again dedicate ourselves to living up to our nation's promise. I am certainly not alone in this wish.

Posted by: FedUpInMoCo | October 22, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

kbarker302 said:

"If you're not voting--great, and please stay home on Nov. 2. You're probably a disgruntled Obamatron who would never vote GOP anyway."

*Probably* disgruntled? I guess you can't read.

An Obamatron? WTF is that supposed to mean? I'm not a Bushie aka idiot, who took 6 years to figure out how bad he was for the country, if that's what you're getting at.

"The only reason state-run, state-controlled WaPo wants to talk to you is to see if they can lure you back into the fold. Low voter turnout is a good thing if it means the right people win."

If you don't like socialist, "lamestream" media, why are you reading or commenting here, troll?

The "right" people.... like you would know who those are. I don't vote GOP, especially not in the past few years. Who in their right mind would do something that irresponsible? Have you looked at the GOP, lately?

Obama and the Democrats make me angry, but not as much as the faux-patriotic GOP who have voted against anything to improve this country.

Regardless of what anybody thinks about Obama's policies, reforming Wall Street, I think all Americans can agree, should be a top priority alongside promoting job growth because of what happened in 2008 (assuming you were an American in 2008). Republicans were against THE IDEA of reform, before a bill was even brought up for debate. They then decided to be part of the process, slipping in their crappy suggestions for watering down the bill - then proceeded to vote against it (with just a few GOPers breaking ranks). This is what they've done repeatedly the past 20 months.

What's the excuse there? Saving America from itself? Market crashes are a good thing? So yeah, make your "Obamatron" jokes all day. When we wind up with a crappier gov't because of idiots like you voting in a couple of years, then you can reflect on this conversation with a simple "Oh, that's what he was talking about."

Posted by: fbutler1 | October 24, 2010 1:42 AM | Report abuse

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