We don’t normally think of elections as dispute resolution mechanisms, but that’s what they are.
This year, the election campaigns reflect a deep conflict, with stark differences between Democrats and Republicans about perceptions of the past and present and visions for the future. The election will provide some resolution of this conflict, possibly producing long-lasting consequences. Of course, elections don’t produce complete or permanent resolutions, but sometimes they lead to significant changes.
It’s common to say that the “next election” is the most important election in history (up til that point). Sometimes, that has been true in the past. It’s certainly true now.
The voter participation rate in the US has been pitiful. According to Ballotpedia, in national elections since 2002, the turnout in presidential election years has been around 60% and the turnout in midterm elections generally has been about 40%. Most Western democracies have higher rates than the US, with some in the 70s. Low participation rates undermine the legitimacy of the elections.
Unfortunately, our system generally doesn’t make it easy to vote. In addition, there have been increased voter suppression efforts in recent years, and this year the coronavirus crisis creates additional problems.
The non-profit, non-partisan group Vote.org is trying to make it easier for people to register and vote. Its website enables visitors to confirm if they are registered, help unregistered citizens to register, request an absentee ballot, identify polling places, and get election reminders.
As citizens and dispute resolution experts, we should encourage fellow citizens to participate in this critically-important dispute resolution process.
Please circulate this information to your friends and family – and encourage them to circulate it as well.
Vote.org plans to help five million “low-propensity voters” vote this fall. Consider making a tax-deductible contribution to help with this effort.