The biggest thing I’ve learned from processing elections results is…

if you want to send a message, VOTE.

There is a ridiculously high percentage of people who collect a ballot and do not vote for certain races. This is what we call “under votes”, where the number of votes cast for a particular race is smaller (under) than the number of total ballots cast.

This phenomenon was highlighted shortly after the 2016 presidential election, like this article from Wapo noting that 1.7 million people collected a ballot and did not vote for president in key states.

Perhaps these people were Dems uncomfortable voting for Clinton. Or maybe Repubs uncomfortable voting for Trump. Or perhaps moderates uncomfortable voting for either. Maybe they wanted to vote third party but weren’t sure of their options. Here’s the thing though, we’ll literally never know because they didn’t vote.

You might be thinking, “but Megan, they did vote! Just not for that race!”

Here’s the thing though: if you don’t vote for a race, any race, we can’t tell why you didn’t vote. There’s even an expectation with less popular races that the voting percentage will drop off; if 30% of people who collected ballots don’t vote on any given race, we can’t know that you chose to not vote out of protest, or if it was because you didn’t know enough to make an informed choice.

I also didn’t pull that 30% number out of thin air- for some state representative races, I have seen the under vote percentage to be that high, especially when there is only one candidate on the ballot. Further, the write-in percentage is NEVER as high as the under vote percentage. Take for example, the State Rep race for Norfolk 7th in MA. Bill Driscoll, Jr. was the only candidate on the ballot. He won 74.4% of ballots cast in his district. 25% of ballots cast in his district were blank; 0.58% of ballots cast had a write in candidate.

Now, I’ve actually met Bill (I managed the campaign of one of his competitors in the primary) and he’s a nice dude. He’s also not an incumbent, so there’s little reason to expect that there would be a simmering anger in his constituency, because he hadn’t done anything yet.

Imagine though that there’s a candidate somewhere in America Town USA with similar stats. However, this candidate is an incumbent, who has done exactly nothing for his constituency, or something actively against what the people in his district want. There’s a large number of people in his community who are frustrated with his [in]actions. Say this came out after the filing deadline, so there’s no candidate running against this bad candidate, and no one started a coordinated write in campaign.

On voting day, his constituents are faced with 3 choices: vote for the Bad Dude, write in someone, or vote for no one. If they write in a candidate, chances are that person will not win, as there was not a coordinated effort to elect someone else. However, I argue that a write in percentage of 25% and an under vote percentage of 0.58% would send a message so shockingly loud that it would not be able to be ignored by the Bad Dude or his staff, as it is so unusual to experience something quote like it. It would kick his butt into gear, or at least  make him pay more attention to his constituency.

All in all, my point is, it is not enough to simply collect a ballot and vote for a handful of races. You must educate yourself, and you must vote in all races. Make vote attrition and under votes a thing of the past!


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