Those of you who know me know that I'm usually not a big proponent of voting in our two-party system, but like millions of other Americans, 2004 has begun for me with an increased sense of urgency and fear for our future. With the primaries already well on their way, November seems just days away and you can already smell the sense of panic in the air. Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's predicted lead was all but extinguished by Mass. Senator John Kerry's initial win at the Iowa caucuses on January 19 (I believe the governor's wife endorsing Kerry had a lot to do with it), which has snowballed into wins in New Hampshire, Missouri, North Dakota, Arizona, Delaware, New Mexico, Washington and Michigan. So far, Dean (my personal fav') hasn't won one and North Carolina Senator John Edwards' win in his home state made him the only Democrat besides Kerry with a confirmed win. What this says to me is that Democratic voters are scared shitless of losing to Bush in the fall and are not willing to back a candidate that more of their fellow Democrats aren't willing to back themselves. It's sad that this Democratic primary and, thus, the presidential election, isn't going to be about issues and policies, but about ensuring that we don't have to go through 4 more years of George W. doing what he's been doing up there: pissing us (and other countries) off and pissing away our futures. However, I do see the need for the Democrats to choose a strong candidate, one with mass appeal and one that we can be sure will at least give W a good run for his money... his $131 million, which is over 3 times Dean's funding and over 4.5 times as much as Kerry has. At this point, it seems like Kerry is going to take the Democratic nomination without breaking a sweat (although Edwards could give him some trouble in the South), but that doesn't mean that he's going to win the Presidential election. Even with his strong primary record, Kerry's biggest concern should be voter turnout during Novembers election.
Now, we all remember the drama of the 2000 election; how "close" it was and how there's still lingering doubt and suspicion about how we got ourselves this preemptive-war-starting, tax-cutting, stem-cell-research-quashing, environmental-law-repealing President in the first place. What isn't clear is why that really had to turn out like that. In the 2000 election, there were 204-206 million people in the voting age population (VAP), but, "according to 1994 estimates, approximately 13 million persons over the age of 18 were not U.S. citizens. Non citizens make up the largest group of ineligible voting age persons. In contrast, the next largest group, institutionalized felons, who are prohibited by State law from voting in all but 4 States, numbered only about 1.2 million at the end of 1996." (source: Federal Elections Commission) From the VAP, 63 million were registered Democrats, 47 million were registered Republicans, 32 million were registered as "independent" or with another party, and 62 million were not registered. 156.4 million (76%) were actually registered to vote, but only 105.5 million actually voted; that's only 67.5% of those registered and 51.3% of the VAP. I couldn't find any statistics on 2000 voter registration and turnout by age, but in 1998, there were 22,993,000 persons 18-24 in the VAP, only 43.6% of which were registered and only 18.5% of which actually voted, comprising just 5.1% of the total US vote. I realize that wasn't a Presidential election year, but that's still sad. Not surprisingly, the most active age-groups were the 45-64 group (75.4% were registered, 56.5% voted) and the 65+ (77.5% were registered, 61.3% voted). It is true that there are now more 65+'s than ever; 35 million as of 2000, compared to just 3.1 million in 1900, with projected growth of 74% between 1990 and 2020. As of the 2000 census, the median age of Americans is 35.3, the highest it's ever been. That may not seem very high, but when you factor out all the people under 18...
This year, there are an estimated 72 million registered Democrats and 55 million registered Republicans. According to the 2000 census, there are now 209 million persons of voting age in the US, with just over 27.1 million 18-24's. From the way I see it, there are more registered Democrats now and more young voters than in the past, so there is a real chance to push Bush out of the White House if Democrats and especially young voters get their shit together better this year than in the past. 18-24's represent 9.6% of this nation, just 2.8% less than the most active voting population, and we deserve to have our say just as much as they do, if not more so because it's our futures on the line here. I still do feel a little defeated by the election process, especially since I live in California, who will almost surely elect whichever Democratic candidate gets the nomination... but, this year, I'm not only going to vote, but I'm going to do what I can to make sure others vote as well. Perhaps it's because I'm getting older or perhaps it's because of law school that I feel so motivated this year, but I think it's more about how frustrated and pissed off I've been the last 4 years.
You can register to vote online on the California Secretary of State's website, but not until after the March 2, 2004 California Primary. To vote in the CA primary, you can mail this National Voter Registration Form before February 17, 2004. Remember: If you are registered with a political party, you can only vote for that party's candidates in the CA primary. If you "decline to state" and are not affiliated you can only request only one ballot and vote for:
*All American Independent Party candidates
*All Democratic Party candidates, except county central committee candidates
*All Republican Party candidates, except Presidential candidates and county central committee candidates