Explaining U.S. Election Bias – Reversion to the Mean?

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People in other countries, and even many Americans don’t really understand that much of the turmoil in the election process might be generated intentionally to keep voter turnout down.

It would be difficult to explain many of the things that happen any other way.

The two major parties in the U.S. have for decades done virtually everything they could within the law (and sometimes outside of it) to make certain voter turnout was kept at a manageable level. With most actual voters belonging to those two parties there was no room for the truly independent.

When viewed from that standpoint it becomes much easier to explain the seeming unbelievable actions and self-inflicted wounds we see this year in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

explaining us election bias.
Explaining US election bias.

Election Chaos

From the Trump campaign, lies about plagiarism and fumbling denials and explanations to outgoing Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairperson who dragged her heels on the way out, the conventions were chaotic.

The DNC head kept vacillating for two days about whether she would or would not speak at the convention when it should have been obvious to anyone that it would be a disaster – so much so that she was booed down and even heard catcalls when she tried to speak to her own state’s delegates.

But when viewed as yet another way to keep voter turnout low, all the dumb-looking mistakes and missteps take on an entirely new meaning.

Just look at the facts in favor of the view that this is simply reversion to the mean.

This year the two parties have nominated the two least trusted candidates in history.

In many polls, voters consider Hillary less trustworthy than Donald T., but only slightly.

Fifty-two percent consider Mr. Trump dishonest, while fifty-six percent see Sec. Clinton as dishonest.

Sanders Campaign Doomed

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand had the lowest dishonesty rating (twenty-four percent) of any major candidate this year.

So, why didn’t he get the nomination? Recent email releases (thought to be hacked and released by the Russian government which Trump supports) show a plot against Sanders within the DNC.

But would he have won a general election? Party members will vote for anyone nominated and Sen. Sanders has the support of millions of independents who might not otherwise even vote which is why all the national polls showed him up to 20 points ahead of Donald Trump. So the Democrats have nominated the person least trusted and who is virtually tied with Trump.

So what is happening?

It is a combination of things.

First, each party works all the legal and even questionable tricks to keep down the vote from members of the other party.

That means that each of the two parties is blocking voters from the other, reducing the vote total. Next, independents may well not bother voting if they see both major party candidates as equally undesirable as they are this year based on how many people view both as almost equally dishonest.

Then there is the general reduction of the number of actual voters because decades ago the rich and powerful decided the best way to guarantee election results was to convince most people voting was a waste of time.

They put forward mediocre candidates on both sides, blocked third parties, and even then the ones elected don’t do what they promise.

So, why would people bother to vote?

Obama was THE exception that proves the point because almost everything he wanted was blocked. Even health care was a half measure at best and didn’t harm the insurance companies or drug companies (or it wouldn’t have passed.)

Bernie Sanders had zero chance from the start and now both sides are working hard to show his supporters they were wasting time all along and voting at all would be a waste.

A Look at the Anti-Voter Campaign

You could dismiss this as just an anti-party rant but not if you look at the facts as outlined below.

In 1876 81% of eligible voters in the U.S. voted in the presidential election.

That was the peak. Raw numbers have obviously increased with the eligible population but percentages have dropped.

There have been ups and downs. Notably, the last surge began in 1996, but it still averages about 53% of the eligible voters.

In addition to showing people their vote is worthless, there are also many procedural barriers in place and plenty of room for intimidation and fraud:

Widespread gerrymandering – setting voting districts to improve one political party’s chances since the party in power sets the district boundaries.

Poll tax (a charge to vote, significant to very poor people.)

Photo ID requirements (requires travel and documentation which costs poor people.)

Literacy tests (a.k.a. Jim Crow Laws targeting black voters in the former C.S.A.)

Complex ballots (sometimes it is difficult to tell if you have made a valid ballot selection)

Closed primaries (only party members can vote in some state primaries blocking independents. This is how they stymied the Sanders Campaign.)

Poll workers in many instances must be a member of one of the two major parties.

In 36 states the top election official is a member of the Governor’s party.

5.3 million U.S. citizens can’t vote because they have a felony record. (Yes, they still have to pay taxes.) Most advanced countries actually let prisoners vote (unless convicted of election fraud) and the others let them vote once released.

Computer fraud – in 2008 93,000 voters in Georgia were purged from the voting lists due to computer mismatch of their records.

Long lines – Canada spends nearly $10/voter to make certain voting is quick and easy. U.S. States spend about ⅓ as much, again discouraging many voters unwilling to wait hours in line.

And more.

The Electoral College Mess Anyone Might Win

The Electoral College (the people who ACTUALLY choose the president) was intended by the founders (according to The Federalist Papers) to be independent. But today you get chosen to be part of it based on party loyalty, a final fail-safe way to block any third party candidate.

Many Americans actually believe they are voting for the candidate while they are actually voting for a state party hack.

Also many don’t realize that if the Electoral College vote is tied the President is picked by The House of Representatives and therefore by the party in control of The House.

The Vice President is picked by The Senate and therefore by the party in control of The Senate.

The U.S. voter turnout percentage ranks 33rd in developed countries according to Pew Research.