Why America Stopped Voting

Author: Mark Kornbluth

Over dinner one evening, I was lamenting to a friend the lack of voter participation in America. He is very politically astute and well read and immediately suggested that I read “Why America Stopped Voting” by Mark Kornbluth. I hopped on Amazon as soon as I got home and started reading the book upon delivery.

I found the book to be very interesting and informative, but not for the reasons originally advertised. My inner Ponce DeLeon was searching for the answers as to why Americans do not vote, particularly the drop off post 1960. Instead, I was transported through a time warp to the late 1890’s and early years of the twentieth century. Accordingly, “Why America Stopped Voting” is a fascinating view of history, but not a timely analysis of today’s disillusionment.

Apparently, during the waning years of the nineteenth century, Americans voted in astounding numbers. Turnout was usually above 90% and this was reflective of eligible voters, not just registered voters. Among other things, there were very few distractions, such as malls and television, there was a residual of patriotism from the Civil War and, most surprisingly, the Democrats and Republicans were in control of the election apparatus.

Around that time, there was a wave of progressive election “fixes” that, while improving the purity of electoral process, partially explains the drop off in voting. The Australian Ballot was introduced and control of elections was directed to seemingly neutral managers. The parties also began to lose control of patronage, which translated to electoral disinterest once jobs were no longer tied to votes.

My comments above are obviously very general observations about a book that is very detailed and scientific in its analysis. To that end, I think it will appeal to political historians and anyone who enjoys learning the intricacies of critical periods in our country’s development. But, if you are looking for answers to the political problems of the 21st century, you will have to look elsewhere.

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