Every primary election, the voter turnout gets lower and lower and everybody says how awful and whatever can we do about it, then we all forget about it until the next abysmal time. The turnout here was about 13 percent if you factor out the registrations considered inactive, about 11 percent if you don't. That's typical. They did try something in Richmond this time around, letting voters have a choice of where to cast their ballots instead of confining them to a precinct machine, and having the polls open for a whole week instead of just on Tuesday. But you'd have to call the experiment only a modest success:
Just 16 percent of the city's 27,290 registered voters went to the polls Tuesday in the first use of the voting center concept in the state. But that turnout was up from the 11 percent mark in 2003 when the last comparable municipal primary was held.
I think the "vote anywhere" plan is still a good one, even if it doesn't greatly increase turnout. At least it takes away invonvenience as an excuse for people who don't bother to vote. We've all been deploring this for too long. Isn't it about time for the parties to admit that the current structure and practices aren't working and something needs to be radically changed? We can't keep having our public officials chosen by fewer and fewer people. Or is it in the best interest of the parties to keep the turnout low and power concentrated in the hands of the few who are really committed?
Maybe we ought to redesign the voting machines so they are also slot machines. People get to play, say, five times when they vote. That should get turnout up to around 70 percent, and it would be another big moneymaker for the state.