By Mike Talavera
People in the US don’t want to vote. New data from multiple states shows that over the past several months voter registration rates have plummeted by tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands in California and Texas, compared to the same time period in 2016.
Like every upheaval this year, the ruling class is quick to blame the coronavirus pandemic through its sounding boards for the drop in registration numbers. Monopoly press pundits point to closed government offices, shuttered by state lockdowns, as the ‘obvious’ cause for the decrease.
This ‘commonsense’ reasoning does not explain why online voter registration, available in the majority of states, has not picked up the slack, nor does it put this new low in its proper context. Even before this recent dip, the US has had one of the lowest voter turnouts in the world, with the number of eligible people who didn’t vote in the 2016 presidential election far outweighing those who voted for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
The pandemic does not explain this crisis of the US electoral system, which is part of the general crisis of US imperialism, but it does expose how ‘getting out the vote’ is a con that tricks people into validating a political system in decay.
The lockdowns have not only forced government offices to close, but have also prevented schools, public events, and other businesses from serving as places for voting advocacy groups to sign people up. In Florida, these pro-voting third-party organizations registered 14,144 people in January, whereas in April they only signed up 133.
These groups are not registering people to vote out of a love for democracy. They are literally paid by the ruling class to convince people to politically invest in the same system which oppresses them. The League of Women Voters has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors like the Ford Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, and the MacArthur Foundation. Voto Latino, which has set a goal of registering 500,000 Latino voters this year, received a $500,000 pledge from former Democratic candidate and billionaire Michael Bloomberg in March. Engage Texas, a Super PAC whose goal is to register Republican voters, has accepted donations of $1 million each from El Paso oilman Paul Foster, Houston oil tycoon Joseph C. Walter III, and Energy Transfer, the infamous Dallas-based company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The pandemic has temporarily interrupted this expensive scam, inadvertently stopping many people from being swindled into voting and illustrating to what extent the imperialist brand of democracy is bought.