In addition to the law practice, I do a lot of political consulting. With two weeks to go, it is safe to say I am doing more consulting than counseling. I have been actively involved in campaigns since the early nineties. In that time, I’ve learned what I think are some basic campaign truths. One of those truths is this: if someone is not registered to vote, there is probably a reason.
Inertia is a powerful thing in politics as it is in life. If someone is thirty years old and has never registered to vote, or has registered, but not actually voted, that person will probably not go vote now. This is not to say that all non-voters will behave that way. It has been, in the past, safe to say that a large majority of the non-voters will behave that way. A person not involved tends to stay not involved.
Skeptical would be the most appropriate word to describe my view. I hear that the Republicans and Democrats have registered an astronomical amount of new voters. A large portion of those voters are people who could have previous registered, but never did. I do not believe that the largest portion of these new voters will actually participate in the process. In fact, I am fairly confident they will not.
By all accounts, 2004, will be a unique political season. There will be a surge in voters going to the polls. Turnout will be higher than in most years. Notwithstanding that fluctuation, it is hard for me to believe that someone who has never been involved will all of a sudden get involved. It is hard for me to believe that someone who has never stood in (on, for you yankees) line to vote will want to stand in a long line to cast a ballot on November 2, 2004.
Yes, this year will see a number of first time voters vote. Yes, the Republican and Democrats will push, cajole, and drive a large group of new voters to the polls. Yes, some people who did not vote in 2002, or 2000, will vote year. No, I do not think we will see first time voters turn out in the numbers the Republicans and Democrats hope for. A person not involved tends to stay not involved.