I served as an election judge this past Tuesday in our state’s primary. I’ve served as an election judge in four election cycles now. Prior to my work as a judge, I remember thinking, “How hard can that be? All they do is tell people to sign a piece of paper and then hand them a ballot.” However, the work is much more complicated than it appears. There are several systems in place to encourage the integrity and accuracy of the vote. Utilizing these systems requires great attention to detail as well as the humility to ask fellow judges for help in determining the correct procedure for the inevitable oddball situations that come in the door.
One of the bits of information we are given to do our work is not only a list of the names of all the eligible voters in that precinct, but also how many that number is. Using that information, the judging team I work on likes to play a little game as we get started on election morning. We all make guesses (no bets!) as to what our precinct voter turnout will be. Relevant factors include whether there were any hotly contested races, the day’s weather, the general attitude among the populace about society’s state of affairs, and the biggest factor in this case is that it was a primary, not the general election.
Did you know that in a general election, the voter turnout across the United States has been just under 60% recently?1 On the one hand you might think that 60% sounds rather healthy. I look at that differently. To me it looks like roughly 33% of the population doesn’t care enough to vote. (I’m offering a very generous 7% for those who have very legitimate reasons for not being able to vote.) That 33% doesn’t seem to care enough to exercise their voice in what is arguably still the greatest exercise of individual freedom in the world. One-third of the population doesn’t value that blessing. That’s sad. Very sad.
Here in Minnesota, we are consistently among the leading states in voter turnout with more than 75%. That’s a lot better than 60%, but let me share an interesting twist on things with you. For the primary in Minnesota, we had a turnout of less than 10%. Indeed, in the precinct where I served as a judge, the turnout was 9.1%.
Less than 1 in 10 people participated in voicing their opinion regarding who they think will best represent their views and values in November. In other words, more than 90% of the population is letting the other 10% make the decision for them.
Sure, the voter turnout in November will jump back to the traditional 75% or more here in Minnesota, but whether it’s 90% or 25% that don’t vote, it still strikes me as…well…un-American to not vote!
I think I feel that way because there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that the people who are hurt the most by what happens in St. Paul (Minnesota’s capital) or in Washington, D.C, and the people who complain the loudest, are the same people who didn’t take the time to vote!
Here’s the point I want to make, and here is the application to leadership:
If you don’t like something in your organization do something about it. Don’t just complain at the water-cooler, or in an email to your colleagues (or worse yet, in social media). In American society, the most basic action we can take to encourage change is to vote.
In organizational culture and politics, the most basic action you can take to encourage change is to ask questions to learn more about the problem, then start talking to stakeholders about solutions.
Don’t be a non-voter. Non-voters forfeit their voice.
You have a voice. Use it effectively.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.
Photo “i voted” by Rob Williams. Available at Flickr.com
1: An excellent Web site dedicated to election research is the “United States Election Project.”