There’s a wonderful, free email service called “Word-a-Day.” Anu Garg picks a word every day, and gives it’s meaning, pronunciation, derivation, explanation, and example of use. In addition, there’s a thought for the day the day. In addition, Garg offers a short commentary.

You can find the archives here, or sign up here.

I bring this up because a recent commentary was about voting. It was sparked by a recent word of the day, “shermanesque.” It is derived from Civil War General William Techumseh Sherman, who was being pushed to run for president. He made the most definite refusal possible: “I will not accept if nominated, and will not serve if elected.”

However, I bring it up here because of Garg’s commentary:

Last year, as soon as my daughter, Ananya, woke up on the morning of her 18th birthday, she came running downstairs to my home office.

“How do I register to vote?” she asked.

I showed her how and she filled out the voter registration form. A few days later, the mail carrier brought an envelope with her voter registration card inside. She thought it was the best birthday gift.

When the next election rolled around a few months later, we sat at the dining table with our ballots in hand. We also pulled out the Washington State voter information booklet that came in the mail. We discussed candidates. We read their bios. We researched their positions on various issues. For some local races we didn’t find much information so we considered endorsements from other people and organizations.

Then we filled out our ballots. While most of our votes were the same, we differed on some candidates.

It took a couple of hours, but Ananya thought it was fun. In a race for Washington State Supreme Court justice, in which a judge was running unopposed, she filled in the name of a write-in candidate: her dog, Flower.

How can we engage more people in politics and elections? I have two suggestions:

1. On their 18th birthday, present students with their voter registration cards in their schools. No need to register. Schools already have their dates of birth and other relevant information.

2. Make the election day a national holiday. Not everyone can afford to take time off from work to go cast a ballot. Even better, make the voting by mail as we have it here in Washington state. No polling booths. No standing in lines. We receive our ballot in the mail a few weeks before the election date and we fill it in at our convenience and mail it back by the election day.

Since 1990, “Rock the Vote” has also worked to get young people interested in voting.

Let’s Make History
We Matter – Every day, nearly 12,000 Americans turn 18. Millennials are over 80 million strong and growing, and we’re the largest and most diverse generation in our country’s history. As the largest living generation, we have the power to define our future – that’s why we Rock the Vote! Rock the Vote is the largest nonprofit and nonpartisan organization in the United States driving youth to the polls. Together, we can ensure that our voices are heard and that on Election Day, we shape our country’s history.

Of course, it’s an uphill battle. The legislative movement in recent years has been toward tightening voter requirements. But offers six ways to encourage voting. [Edited for space]

1. Same-day registration at the polls. States that allow same-day registration increase the probability that young people will. . .vote by 14% during presidential elections and 4% during midterms. . .the Motor Voter law [added] 12 million new young [voters].

2. Keep polling places open longer. In states where polls are open for more than 12 hours, 5% more people vote, according to a study by professors at the University of California Berkeley. And. . . 7.4% more likely to vote if they got a reminder.

3. Expand early voting. Allowing people to vote in the days preceding Election Day can also boost voting. While it’s not quite as effective as keeping polling places open early and late, it can have a significant-enough impact to decide elections.

4. Vote by mail. Oregon has proven the system works. For years it was the only state in the nation that allowed people to cast ballots by mail. That increased youth voter turnout by a whopping 40% in the state while maintaining the integrity of the vote.

5. Online voting. We can do almost everything else on our smartphones. Why not voting? Some argue we should take the logic behind mail-in voting one step further and allow people to vote online.

6. Make elections interesting! Low turnout isn’t only a problem this year. Presidential elections usually bring more people to the polls than midterms, but only 53.7% of eligible voters bothered to turn out during the 2012 election. It’s even worse during midterms, with a measly 37% showing up in 2010.

OK, but what can you, as an individual do to encourage friends to vote? WikiAnswers has ten suggestions. [Edited for space]

1. Create a sense of obligation. When you want to persuade someone to do something, one of the best ways you can accomplish this task is to make that person feel obligated to you.

2. Make an argument for popularity. . .people are much more likely to participate in something if they feel like they’re the only ones not doing it.

3. Make the use it or lose it argument. People are much more likely to be interested in things they can’t have.

4. Be a likeable and relatable voice of reason. People are much more likely to acquiesce to requests from people they like and feel a connection with,

5. Ask the person to vote. One of the most effective ways there is of getting people to vote is by simply asking them to.

6. Tell the person that you must vote to have your voice counted. . .A vote isn’t just a piece of paper: it’s a person’s way of weighing in on who should be running the country.

7. Explain that voting shapes the future of a country. To make this as clear as possible, use an example that showcases two very different political candidates.

8. Offer reasons to vote. . .if you have some nice things to say about the candidates, you’ll make them seem more likeable, more human, and more relatable.

9. Explain that the person’s vote does make a difference. A major argument against voting is that it makes no difference. [Cite examples of close elections in history.]

10. Drive the person to the polls. [Even people who have transportation need motivation. If you drive them to the polls, what excuse do they have to avoid their civic duty?]


  1. Frankly, the youth are lazy when it comes to informing themselves on how to register to vote and how to then follow through and actually vote.

    The thought of online voting makes me cringe. Online anything becomes too easy and too meaningless. For this generation it’d be like voting in yet another online poll. The write-ins would consist of “Boaty McBoatface” and it would be a joke.

    Same day registration seems ok on the surface, yet I envision campaigns filling buses and offering people a few bucks to come register and vote. A cottage industry will be born, it’s a bad idea.

    I think early voting should be limited to 7 days before election day. This way all pertinent information is known before ballots start being cast. This would help stem lines in busy areas perhaps, but wouldn’t be the full month or month and a half early voting some areas have now.

    Keeping polling places open longer is actually a good idea, especially states which open 7am to 7pm. Closing that early in the evening can be detrimental to commuters in many areas. If they can’t stay open all day due to lack of staff or resources, then open twice, say from 7am to noon. Then from 3pm to 9pm perhaps.

    Voting should be efficient and secure, and it’s OK to make someone get off the couch to do it. We should encourage people to be civic minded and engage, not merely encourage mindless voting.

  2. I don’t like the idea of handing 18 year olds their voter registration. Like anything worth doing, voting needs to be done by the individual. Giving something to someone without them having to put any effort into it is like giving someone who doesn’t want to work a WELFARE check, it isn’t appreciated.

    The best tactic I have often used at my union shop is this. On occasion coworkers will complain about the officials of the local union hall. I ask these people if they voted against the person they are complaining about. Often they will say that they didn’t vote at all. To these people I say then you have the least right to complain. Even if you voted and your candidate lost, at least you let your voice be heard. If you didn’t bother to vote, YOU DON’T HAVE A LEG TO STAND ON.

    The best way to get someone to vote in my opinion is to SHAME them into voting.!!!

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