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As Long as We Remember...

September 18, 2013


Patrick W. Allen

No one works harder during an election cycle than organized political parties at making excuses for low voter turnout.


The most used and worn out excuses are:

·       The weather was not in our favor.

·       It was an off-year election cycle.

·       It was a mid-term election cycle.

·       It wasn’t a presidential election year.

·       The candidates were not that exciting.

·       There were no issues to motivate the voters.


Organized political party spokespersons have been using these excuses for years. Why not just say, “The dog ate my homework?”


Following the 2013 Frederick mayoral and aldermanic primary elections, the chairperson for one of the locally established organized political parties was quoted when asked about the low voter turnout by saying she didn’t know why people didn’t vote. “It was a beautiful day,” she said.


That’s just about the most ignorant statement made by any one person since Dubya said, “Bring it on.”


In a stunning show of political leadership, the utterance of this profound analysis by someone in the chairman’s position demonstrates an extraordinary disconnect from reality.


Is it possible that instead of ginning up their bases to get out and vote, local politico elite are satisfied with simply drinking the gin?


Voting is a constitutional right, with equal weight and importance to constitutional rights for free speech and the right to bear arms. Why aren’t voters as eager to get off the couch, make their way to a polling station and cast their ballot as they are to rally in the streets regarding the first and second amendments?


Well, that’s an easy one to answer…the local organized political party apparatus has failed its obligation and duty to the electorate.


Voters have been educated (brainwashed, manipulated) to believe that only presidential election cycles require our undivided attention and participation…something to look forward to…something to mark on our calendars and adjust our schedules for.


This is born out by data which reveals that it’s not a presidential election cycle excuse as the most used and repeated reason for low voter turnout. #headdesk


Leaning on excuses as a saving grace is not a unique phenomenon isolated only to Frederick County. It is an unfortunate reality which exists across the state and nation. Rather than constructing, promoting and sustaining a culture of excitement, engagement and eagerness to vote whenever the opportunity arises, local political party bosses have instead perpetuated a culture of low expectation resulting in a repeatable low voter turnout.


To demonstrate the lack of interest that organized political party members have in their own leadership apparatus, look at social media as a barometer. The following table reflects recent data for Frederick County.


Political Party

Eligible Voters[1]

Facebook LIKES[2]

%  ( LIKES to Eligible )











Less than 1%






















Has it occurred to local Republican and Democratic Party leaders to reflect on this information and ask themselves why these numbers are so low as to apparently render each central committee irrelevant to 99% of its party?


Based on the above data, the overwhelming majority of rank-and-file registered voters has spoken with their mouse clicks and view their own organized political party apparatus as persona non grata. A review of each Frederick-based Facebook page leads to the following substantiated assertions:


·       Each Facebook page publishes party-centric talking point posters and links…recycle and regurgitate.


·       Using the guise of “party unity rules” each Facebook page censors diverse discussion and debate from its followers. This is the most worrisome aspect of how each local political party positions itself within the community. Each party espouses the “big tent” paradigm, but strenuously censors original thought, debate and discussion of controversial issues.


It’s no wonder that voters are murmuring about and moving toward identifying themselves as unaffiliated or independent. With good reason and logic they are concluding that they would be better off as unaffiliated, than underserved.


Giving unaffiliated voters recognition and a seat at the voting table would force organized political parties to more fully engage in the candidate selection process and force organized political party members to more fully engage in the selection of their party leaders.


Organized political party committees, regardless of party affiliation, typically hold their memberships on these committees by virtue of electoral vote. And, for this reason alone, have an obligation to the electorate, albeit moral, to construct, nurture and sustain a culture of voter participation...not promote voter apathy by their incompetence and negligence to duty.


So, why aren't more registered voters flocking to the unaffiliated category? Well, if Frederick and other jurisdictions held open primary elections they most likely would. Currently, unaffiliated voters have the privilege to vote, but not the right. They only ask for and deserve the primary election opportunity to pick one from Column A or one from Column B rather than being disenfranchised from the voting process altogether. Or worse, limited to the often poor general election cycle choices served up by organized political parties.


The concept and framework of open primaries and an unaffiliated voter block scares the hell out of the organized political parties, insofar as it represents their diminished control, if they had any, over the electorate.


Conclusion: A culture has to be created to change voter apathy from "why bother" to "it's no bother." But, this can only be done by people who have the backbone and political will to make it happen. “We’ve been doing it this way for a long time” is no longer acceptable. The status quo of congratulatory back-slapping one another behind closed doors is no longer acceptable. Existing (hiding) in vacuums of self-importance and achievement is no longer acceptable.


[1]  Maryland State Board of Elections: 2012 General Election Cycle Data

[2] Facebook: Frederick Democratic and Republican FB pages: September 16, 2013


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