Millions of Americans chose not to support the electoral process

WASHINGTON, DC-- President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney failed to convince an estimated 94 million eligible Americans to cast ballots this month, making none-of-the-above the actual and easy winner.

The unofficial tally currently shows Obama with 61 million votes and Romney with 58 million votes. After election officials finish processing hundreds of thousands of absentee and provisional ballots, Obama's final tally could reach 64 million.

But no U.S. president in the last century has come remotely close to winning as many votes as there are people who refuse to participate in the democratic process.

"Democracy is in trouble," said Curtis Gans, director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate that tracks voter turnout rates.

"I really worry when people talk about this issue because they talk about quick fixes with things like early voting," Gans said. "But we really need to tackle the big problems like voter education, to rekindle some trust in government."

A growing number of thoughtful Americans are posting and publishing arguments on why they chose not to support the electoral process.

"There is a lot of faith in the institution of voting that, I think, may not be warranted," said Michael Magdzik, 21, a political science student at Yale University who last month published in the local newspaper an essay titled "Why I Don't Vote."

Magdzik is unhappy with the Electoral College, the process created by the Constitution's Founding Fathers to establish electors who confirm the results of presidential elections. The impact of this system creates battleground states that determine an election's outcome while rendering most other areas moot.

But he's also driven by the logic of mathematics.

"In the aggregate, voting matters," Magdzik said. "But for any one individual, one vote rarely matters. It just doesn't matter in a statistical sense."

Butler Shaffer, a law professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, has published an essay titled "The Voting Ritual" which calls balloting a "politicoholic addiction" intended "to conspire with a multitude of others to despoil you of your liberties or property."

"I haven't voted in 48 years now," Shaffer said this week while taking a break from grading papers. "I also don't molest school children or do any business in brothels."

He makes the statistical argument that it doesn't pay to be one of millions. "It is part of the ritual held out to make us think that we are in control of things. But we really aren't."

Shaffer's major concern is a personal decision not to participate in the blunt force of politics. Why force his will on others just because he is part of a majority?

"What are we doing when we vote? Using that force, the violence that is implicit in the arrangement," he said.

Meanwhile, the First Amendment still guarantees his right to argue publicly.

"My students say, 'If you don't vote, you can't complain.' But I always can complain. Just listen to me," Shaffer said.

The U.S. Census Bureau, in an analysis of the 2008 presidential elections, found that women are significantly more likely to register to vote and to actually vote than are men.

Non-Hispanic whites are more likely to participate in voting than are people of racial and ethnic minorities. About 86 percent of people with advanced college degrees have registered to vote, compared to only 50 percent of people who did not earn a high school diploma.

"The people who don't vote are generally poor, less educated, younger and more residentially mobile," said Gans. "But what's really going on is that civic education is on the decline. So often, we've made government into a villain."

(Reach Scripps Howard News Service reporter Thomas Hargrove at hargrovet@shns.com)

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