The Non-voters (1-11-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (January 11, 1941)

By Dr. Joseph Fort Newton

Here is a strange fact, hard to understand. It would be incredible, if we did not know it to be a fact. It is appalling to think about. What to do about it is hard to figure out.

In the national election of 1936, there were 72,943,624 eligible voters in our country. Of that number, 45,812,155 voted, leaving roughly 27,000,000 who did not take the trouble to vote.

In the recent election, it is said that there were 80,000,000 people eligible to vote. Only a little more than 50,000,000 voted, leaving at least 29,000,000 who failed to vote.

Yet that election involved issues which may affect the structure of our state, and the lives of our people for generations. What can be the meaning of this strange indifference to the ballot?

Every night involves a duty. For ages, men fought, suffered, dreamed and prayed for the right to have a voice in their own affairs. And millions of people do not care for the privilege!

Who are these people, one wonders? What are they interested in, if anything? Do they not realize that their own welfare is deeply involved in the issues of great national campaigns?

An enlightened self-interest, it would seem, if nothing else, ought to prod them to take a few hours and have some part in such vital decisions. But no; they do not care what or who is voted up or down.

Are they cynics who have lost faith in their country, if they ever had any? Do they not know that we cannot keep our way of life, unless we keep the faith and spirit which created it?

If everybody failed to vote, as they do, our republic would cease to exist. Do they care whether it exists or not? What can be done to wake people up, before it is too late, who are inert or asleep?