Voting and Political Participation Assignment

Do we have a problem with voter turnout?

The answer depends on your perspective.

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Certainly, it’s a shame that not every eligible voter participates in the process. Consider what our predecessors had to do for you to have the right to vote. Not bothering to exercise that right is – at best – disrespectful to the memory of those who gave their lives so that you could have this privilege.

On the other hand, if you’ve ever been involved in any organization – a church, a civic club, a school organization, you know that there is a small, core group of people that ends up making all the decisions. It’s just human nature. Why should a government organization be any different?

Should we make people vote, like they do in Australia (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ruth-marcus-a-case-for-compulsory-voting/2014/11/04/9b486afe-6463-11e4-836c-83bc4f26eb67_story.html)? Should we pay people to vote (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/04/03/should-we-pay-citizens-to-vote/), as Yale Law School Professor Stephen Carter suggests?

Do we really have a problem at all?

Go to the Harris County Clerk’s website, www.harrisvotes.com

Click on “Election Archives” under “Election Results,” and notice that there are “Cumulative” and “Canvass” reports for the most recent (March 3, 2020) Republican and Democratic Primary Elections. The cumulative report tells what happened in Harris County as a whole in each primary. The Canvas report give individual results for each voting precinct – which is a specific neighborhood.

Write a 2 – 5 page essay about voter turnout in the two March 2020 primary elections in Harris County, and in your voting precinct. If you don’t know your voting precinct, look on your voter registration card, or click HERE
(Links to an external site.)

(https://www.hctax.net/voter/streetguide) and enter your street address. If you don’t live in Harris County, use a friend’s address. Make sure you give specific turnout numbers and percentages for each primary the county as a whole, and for your precinct. Discuss what you found. How does your neighborhood compare to the county in terms of turnout in each primary? Is your neighborhood more Democratic or more Republican than the county as a whole? Why do you think that is? Finally, do you think we should do anything as a society to increase voter turnout, and – if so, what?

Hint: a voting precinct is like a neighborhood. It’s unlikely to have more than a couple thousand people. If you’re trying to tell me how tens of thousands of people voted in your precinct, you’re doing it wrong.

Submit in Word. Cite your sources.

Additional Resources

What does my voting precinct look like? Get the number first, but then go here and use the pull-down menu to look at a map of your voting precinct: https://www.hctax.net/Voter/VoterMaps

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