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A plan to get America to BE a democracy, by VOTING

AMERICANS. Here is how to get your apathetic / recalcitrant / plain bored / ignorant (look up the meaning!) relatives and friends to make a difference in the up-coming Presidential and other election(s).

The emphasis is mine.

Of course, if this plan works, it might actually encourage some apathetic Americans to exercise their right to vote -- on their own next time -- and then America might even become and BE the "great democracy".

See original article at PBS.

The Cringely Voting Plan
by Robert X. Cringely

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The trend in U.S. elections that concerns me the most is voter apathy. Fewer of us are voting each election, and young people are especially unlikely to vote. There is no dispute about this situation, and all sides are affected.

According to the Vanishing Voter Project at Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, U.S. presidential-election voter participation peaked in 1960 at 65 percent and dropped steadily to only 51 percent in 2000. The effects of this trend are insidious. Not only is it possible that we have sometimes elected officials who might not represent the choice of the entire voting-age population but the whole political system can be distorted, with greater government resources going to likely voter groups, such as the aged. There is nothing wrong with helping older people, but there is something wrong with helping them just to get their votes. So we've spent a lot of money doing studies trying to understand this trend and even more money on publicity campaigns trying to combat it. But beyond these efforts and voter promotions like those of the cable networks MTV and VH1 and beyond nagging our kids (or our parents) to vote, there wasn't much that we as individuals could do-until now. I have a plan, the Cringely Voting Plan, that aims to get every qualified adult to register to vote and every registered voter to cast a ballot.

The Cringely Voting Plan is personal, not organized, it is nonpartisan and ought to help every party equally, and it can work. The Cringely Voting Plan doesn't care why people don't vote (this voter apathy problem, by the way, is not peculiarly American; it afflicts much of the developed world). Its only goal is to get people to vote. The technique is simple: just use the energy of motivated voters to motivate apathetic voters. This presidential election in particular is characterized as much by rabidly partisan voters as it is by voter apathy. Voters either fervently support one candidate or they just don't care at all, so the trick is to use the relationships between fervent and apathetic voters to get the apathetic voters to register and vote.

The Cringely Voting Plan isn't nagging, it is bargaining. Apathetic voters either don't care who wins or they don't think it matters in their lives who wins or they just can't get out of bed to cast their votes. But they do care about their mothers or brothers or girlfriends or golfing buddies. Apathetic voters may not feel the effect of John Kerry or George Bush in their lives but they do feel the effect of Mom. So here is what we do. If you are a motivated voter, look at your friends and relatives and decide who among them are truly apathetic-the eligible voters who simply don't give a darn who wins. Choose three of these friends or relatives and approach them today. Tell them, "Instead of buying me a birthday or Christmas gift this year, I want you to promise me you'll vote for candidate X." The language of the Cringely Voting Plan is quite specific so don't go winging it by saying something like "Promise me you'll vote in this election," because that will fail. You, as the motivated voter, have to require that your apathetic buddy vote for the specific candidate of your choice in exchange for being released from some social or cultural obligation he might be more likely to perform than voting. Forget the birthday gift, vote for Kerry. Don't mow the lawn, vote for Bush. You get it. Then, as the motivated voter, it is your responsibility to make sure your three apathetic friends register (get the paperwork, help them fill it in, then mail it for them), and do everything you can to get them to the polls on Election Day.

The Cringely Voting Plan has a chance because it bolsters the efficacy of motivated voters and helps them feel better. It isn't in any way coercing the apathetic voters either, because, remember, they don't care. The gesture, while perhaps very meaningful to you, is equally meaningless to them, so don't worry about it. You may wonder, though, how I decided that each motivated voter should ask three apathetic voters to effectively give him their votes? If half of us are motivated in this election and half are apathetic, we really only need to reach out to one other person, so why three? Because they are apathetic, that's why! Some of these bozos, no matter what they say, aren't going to vote. Like seats on an airliner, we have to sell three to be sure we fill one.

Robert X. Cringely, a recovering technogeek, was the host and writer of PBS's Triumph of the Nerds, Plane Crazy, Nerds 2.0.1: A Brief History of the Internet, Digital TV: A Cringely Crash Course, Y2K: The Winter of Our Disconnect, and Electric Money. Since 1997 he has also written a weekly column, I, Cringely.


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