68

I keep getting letters and postcards urging me to vote. It's not specifying why or for whom, just says "vote!"

I keep asking myself - why are they (who?) interested in people going to vote? Why are they spending millions of dollars on these campaigns, what are they standing to gain?

I'm going to vote, so that's not a question. Just trying to understand these groups who want people to vote.

Even if some people don't vote, wouldn't the interests of the nation be properly (statistically) represented by the people who do get out and vote?

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  • 17
    I added the [united-states] tag, due the the "interests of the nation" in your question and that your location is in the United States (as is mine). Otherwise, this closely related question: Does it really make a difference when more people vote?, might be considered a duplicate.
    – Rick Smith
    Oct 19 '20 at 2:19
  • 2
    Does the ink happen to be red, or blue, as an attempt to guide your choice subconsciously? Oct 20 '20 at 14:57
  • @andrew Morton do you truly believe people can be swayed to vote for a different candidate by the color of the ink on a spam letter? Oct 20 '20 at 16:36
  • 5
    The truth is that the number of people whose mind can be changed in the US is very small. Therefore there's little purpose in trying to sell your candidate. What you do is you encourage the people who you are pretty sure will for vote for you to vote. Oct 21 '20 at 1:19
  • 1
    Many comments deleted. Please don't use comments to debate the question matter. If you would like to answer, please post a real answer. If you would like to discuss, please use the chat function. Please try to limit these comments to suggesting improvements to the question.
    – JJJ
    Oct 26 '20 at 21:14

14 Answers 14

112

There are two possible interpretations here, the cynical and the optimistic.

Note that I am not naming any specific parties and for the purposes of this answer am not taking any side.

The cynical: After looking at the demographics as they apply to you particularly, they've calculated a high chance that if you were to vote you would vote for them, therefore they're trying to encourage you -- and as many others in a similar demographic as they can -- to vote.

After all, who wins the election ultimately depends on how many people actually went out and voted for a particular candidate, not just on how many people sided with them or agreed with their position.

The idealistic: The whole point of living in a representative democracy (or a republic if you're going to insist on semantics) is that the government reflects and represents the will of the people as best it can. Which means that the more people vote, the better the system works. And if you honestly believe that you're in the right, and that the majority of people will side with you, encouraging absolutely everyone to vote is no more than the right thing to do.

I personally prefer to live in a world where the idealistic answer is correct. So go out and vote.

EDIT Jontia put it better than I did in their answer.

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    Simply "would not vote without encouragement" can be a demographic that favors one party over the other. Oct 20 '20 at 7:10
  • 6
    @Shadur I used to live in a society where the idealistic assumptions prevailed. The cynical one is better, stay assured.
    – fraxinus
    Oct 20 '20 at 8:14
  • 2
    I can come firm the cynical one living in Texas in 2020. I see these ads and they’re always geared towards minorities, who tend to poll Democrat and tend to not vote as much in a red state. Oct 20 '20 at 16:26
  • 3
    @gen-ℤreadytoperish It's brilliant that there's even "red" and "blue" states. What a wonderful way to get the opposing party's supporters to stay home :D
    – Luaan
    Oct 21 '20 at 6:50
  • 1
    @AdamBarnes Several countries have compulsory voting. Only a few voters actually make protest or invalid votes, and they're hardly a waste of time, just a small fraction of all the votes to be counted. Oct 21 '20 at 11:26
91

A democracy derives its legitimacy from voters. When elections are won by tiny margins, but huge numbers of people don't vote then there is a problem.

US turnout is below 60% for presidential elections and has been since the 1960s. If even 1/10th of non voters showed up, they could be decisive in many states. While some organisations trying to drive election turnout are trying to win the elections for their side, organisations that declare themselves to be officially non-partisan such as ACLU also run these drives.

Get out the Vote groups

Low voter turn out is considered a problem in many countries. Particularly if that low turn out is driven by demographics. UK

And it's also an attempt to oppose voter suppression tactics, such as those documented in Netflix's The Great Hack.

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    @Shadur I've started writing this at least 3 times today, and still don't think it's really there. It's quite difficult to articulate clearly, I think the dupe I read after posting probably still does a much better job.
    – Jontia
    Oct 19 '20 at 13:35
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    I think this has not addressed what the OP is really asking: "Even if some people don't vote, wouldn't the interests of the nation be properly (statistically) represented by the people who do get out and vote?" You say if "huge numbers of people don't vote then there is a problem", but you didn't say what that problem would be. Statiscally, OP is correct. Whether 60% or 80% of the population vote, the outcome will likely be the same unless the demographic of that extra 20% is different somehow, in which case the question still stands: why do these groups want more voting generally?
    – JBentley
    Oct 19 '20 at 14:47
  • 2
    Also, much of this answer doesn't address the "why" part at all but simply states that it is a problem or gives examples without explaining the motivation (ACLU / "low voter turn out is considered a problem").
    – JBentley
    Oct 19 '20 at 14:52
  • 18
    @JBentley: "unless the demographic of that extra 20% is different somehow," - It certainly is. See for example the Census Bureau's data on the 2018 midterms compared to 2014. The 18-29 vote jumped by a larger percentage than any other age group, despite having the lowest initial turnout. Now contrast the outcomes of the 2014 and 2018 midterms.
    – Kevin
    Oct 19 '20 at 15:47
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    @JBentley they are a different demog. Reasons for not voting may include: less socio-political motivation/civic mindedness; less awareness of voting ramifications (suggesting less education or lower education standards); both youth and age; facing greater obstacles in registering or just plain lazy/can't be bothered. I don't know if these disparate groups would vote consistently one way or another, but they are definitely different Reductio ad absurdum: asking a single random in the street who should win vs 100% turnout will provide the same result?
    – mcalex
    Oct 20 '20 at 3:04
50

Even if some people don't vote, wouldn't the interests of the nation be properly (statistically) represented by the people who do get out and vote?

This might be true if the actual voters are a representative sample of the population as a whole. But in practice, this is not generally the case. In the US, voting demographics are typically quite skewed in many ways.

  • White people vote more than African-Americans and Hispanics
  • Older people vote more than younger people
  • The more education you received, the more likely you are to vote

Source: United States Elections Project

These demographic skews are correlated with party affiliation: the older, white demographic tends to be Republican, while the highly educated demographic favors Democrats.

The goal of these "get out the vote" campaigns is to increase turnout among the lower-represented groups. Although the postcard doesn't identify party affiliation, Democrats are most likely behind it, because polls have shown that a majority of Americans favor their policies (e.g. 55% like Obamacare and 75% wish to keep abortion legal), but voter turnout has typically been skewed towards Republicans. And Republican strategy has been to reduce turnout, because it favors them; see Is there evidence that the Republican Party leadership wants fewer people to vote?.

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    Even putting aside polling, which has always been a bit iffy, even just the results of the last 20 years of voting show the democratic lean- the last two Republican Presidents lost the popular vote, and only scraped by with very close electoral college victories.
    – bendl
    Oct 20 '20 at 14:42
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    Wow, could this answer ever use some sources cited on a lot of its ending paragraph statements.
    – Kyralessa
    Oct 21 '20 at 17:56
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    Since the GOP strategy is to reduce voting, it seems obvious that they wouldn't be behind campaigns to increase voting, so it must be Democrats.
    – Barmar
    Oct 21 '20 at 18:48
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    @Kyralessa Added some links
    – Barmar
    Oct 22 '20 at 5:08
  • 2
    @Kyralessa Indeed, there's lots of nuance. But the Republican agenda is to completely overturn Roe, not make minor tweaks that would be more consistent with those details. In any case, this is just one example of how the GOP agenda is out of step with the public concensus.
    – Barmar
    Oct 22 '20 at 15:06
21

I wrote 40 such letters myself as a volunteer with Vote Forward. I can speak to my own motives: if you want to see Vote Forward's reasoning, their web page has a good explanation. Here's my take:

  1. Democracy works better if people vote.

  2. I think that my preferred political views are better for people in general than the other party's, and that if everyone voted, my views would prevail. But people who share my opinion vote, on average, less often than those that don't. So GOTV efforts seem likely to help my cause.

Vote Forward targeted demographics that vote less frequently (young voters and non-white voters) and also targeted people who are registered Democrats but seldom vote, according to publicly available records. (I say "targeted" because the drive ended Saturday October 17 with the mailing of 16 million letters.)

The letters were nonpartisan because that has been shown to be more effective and less offensive by actual experiments: you get a higher turnout among people who receive nonpartisan letters. So Vote Forward's instructions were very specific that we should not mention candidates, parties, or specific issues.

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    I wonder why someone would go through the effort of registering with a party but not through the effort of voting.
    – gerrit
    Oct 20 '20 at 7:25
  • 1
    @gerrit - that's simple. Registering is easy (you get a driver's license, you can register). Voting atcually requires effort (even mail voting).
    – user4012
    Oct 20 '20 at 12:33
  • 1
    @gerrit I've never lived in a state where you have to register with a party (which still sounds horrible and dumb to me) but you could have registered ages ago but slowly lost motivation to vote Oct 20 '20 at 23:27
  • @Mary Kuhner It's very interesting about non-partisan mailings generating a better turnout among targeted voters. Oct 22 '20 at 2:40
  • 1
    @SimoKivistö - it still requires extra effort, even so. Where I live the lines are always short and polling places within 5 min drive from literally everyone. And still very low % of people votes. As the old saying goes, you can lead the horse to water but can't make it drink.
    – user4012
    Oct 22 '20 at 6:19
16

Even if some people don't vote, wouldn't the interests of the nation be properly (statistically) represented by the people who do get out and vote?

No. Harvard has (free!) Five Studies on the Causes and Consequences of Voter Turnout. The first one is a study of Australia before and after compulsory voting was implemented. The election results were significantly different (in terms of overall seats won by different parties) before and after compulsory voting, indicating that the original voting population was not representative of the whole population.

They go on to do pretty much what it says in the title--examine the causes and consequences of voter turnout, including examining how effective different get-out-the-vote campaigns are.

The paper, from which these studies were taken, considers new methods to examine voter participation (Study #2) and efforts to get-out-the-vote (Study #5). The studies confirm some previous work; however, these methods may provide new insight for those examining those particular areas.


Study #2
Regular Voters, Marginal Voters, and the Electoral Effects of Higher Turnout

Abstract How do marginal voters differ from regular voters? I develop a method for comparing the partisan preferences of regular voters to those marginal voters whose turnout decisions are influenced by exogenous factors and apply it to three sources of variation in turnout – weather and the timing of gubernatorial and congressional elections. In each setting, marginal voters are more supportive of the Democratic Party than regular voters, and the substantive size of this divide can be huge – ranging from 5 to 47 percentage points. The findings suggest that electoral reforms and other factors that may expand or contract the electorate can have important electoral consequences. Moreover, the findings suggest that election results do not always reflect the preferences of the citizenry, because those marginal citizens who stay home have systematically different preferences than those who participate.1

From the conclusion (p. 61):

Every test in this paper points in the same direction. Regardless of the setting or the particular sample of marginal voters, regular voters are not representative of the larger pool of possible voters. Citizens on the margins are systematically more supportive of the Democratic Party than regular voters, and this gap can have significant electoral consequences. For example, the party of many states’ governors would be different if their elections were held in different years when a different subset of citizens turns out. Even if the introduction of marginal voters in the electorate does not change discrete electoral outcomes, the new composition of voters may still influence the platforms of candidates and the distribution of public services. Currently, American elections fail to reflect the preferences of all citizens because those on the margins are systematically different from those regularly participating. The repeated testing of preference gaps between marginal and regular voters may improve our understanding of this phenomenon and identify solutions for the mitigation of this participatory inequality. [Emboldening added.]

This conclusion suggests that the "interests of the nation" (the people as a whole) is not represented by those who vote.


Study #5
Increasing Inequality: The Effect of GOTV Mobilization on the Composition of the Electorate

Abstract
Numerous get-out-the-vote (GOTV) interventions are successful in raising voter turnout. However, these increases may not be evenly distributed across the electorate and may actually increase the differences between voters and non-voters. This phenomenon is particularly notable given the many GOTV strategies that explicitly aim to reduce inequalities in representation. By analyzing individual level-data, we reassess previous GOTV experiments to determine which interventions mobilize under-represented versus well-represented citizens. We develop a generalized and exportable test which indicates whether a particular intervention reduces or exacerbates disparities in political participation and apply it to 26 previous experimental interventions. Despite raising mean levels of voter turnout, more than two-thirds of the interventions in our sample widened disparities in participation. On average, voter mobilization strategies tend to increase the participation gap, thereby exacerbating representational inequality. We conclude by discussing substantive implications for political representation and methodological implications for experimenters.1

Analysis of the effect of get-out-the-vote experiments and voter participation

The above figure (p. 146) presents the results of selected experimental interventions, thus is not conclusive for all GOTV campaigns. "Propensity" (x-axis) is scaled for standard deviation, where the values are from -2 (less likely to vote) through +2 (more likely to vote). The y-axis indicates the effect (increase in voter participation) for the various experiments.

The blue lines show a reduction in the voter participation gap.

Only two interventions in our analysis demonstrate statistically significant evidence that the participation gap was reduced. What might explain the difference in these two cases? One intriguing similarity between the two experiments with negative interaction effects is that they both targeted citizens in communities with large African American populations. One explicitly targeted African Americans (Middleton and Green 2008) and the other was set in the largely African American city of Detroit (Gerber, Green, and Nickerson 2003). (p.179)

The red lines (more typical of GOTV campaigns) show an increase in the voter participation gap; thus those who are not as well represented in government, become even less so. This does not mean there will be no change in government from the GOTV campaign, only that there is no assurance that such a change will increase representation for those who don't participate as voters.

From the conclusion (p. 152):

The findings of this paper also raise an ethical concern for experimenters and practitioners because experimental interventions and mobilization efforts are often conducted with the assumption that raising average participation levels can only be good for democracy. However, the evidence in this paper – that voter mobilization tends to exacerbate existing inequalities in the electorate – necessitates a more nuanced perspective. Despite good intentions, current GOTV efforts are not the solution to persistent inequalities in the political process. On the contrary, these efforts may contribute to the problem by making the electorate more polarized and less representative of the greater population.


1 Fowler, Anthony George. 2013. Five Studies on the Causes and Consequences of Voter Turnout. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.

0
10

Question:

Why am I being asked to vote?

Short Answer

Welcome to the 21st century! There is an old proverb from the late 1990's, if you don't know what product they are pitching; you are the product.

If you are interested to learn more, I would recommend Netflix documentary
The Social Dilemma! directed by Jeff Orlowski. It handles this topic very well and specifically discusses the 2016 and 2020 elections.


Detailed Answer

Historically presidents didn't campaign for votes. It was considered unseemly. The first President to campaign for himself was in 1840, William Henry Harrison. Vestiges of this remain in American politics where Presidents will sometimes tell their constituents to vote; even if you vote for my opposition, it's important that you vote. I would argue there is a more cynical interpretation of getting 21st century, generic non partisan messages to vote. I would argue that the folks sending you those messages today know exactly how you are going to vote.

Thus a generic get out the vote message is in reality a message to vote for the Donald, or Joe. Thus it's actually, like many messages you recieve are actually sophisticated custom tailored manipulations.

There is no privacy online. If you use any of the popular web browsers like Chrome, Edge, Firefox etc...If you use free services such as ( google search, google mail, facebook, stack exchange, twitter, youtube, Weechat, etc etc etc ) you are pretty much an open book. You are tracked, categorized, inventoried and monetized. They know everything about you. They know how you have voted, your income, your address, the charities you support, how you inform yourself, what pitch you would find most persuasive, what conspiracy theories you subscribe too, and how to poke you to do this or that. You and your proclivities have been modeled, and sold to Acme Republican or Democratic turn out the vote machine. In the 21st century when you receive a generic get out the vote message, it's really like every google search, facebook alert, or unsolicited news story; it's a highly customized way to manipulate you. That's why the free services companies are worth hundreds of Billions, Trillions of dollars. Because what they do works.

How do you think a Duke educated NBA superstar Kyrie Irving was convinced the earth was flat? Customized online manipulation, it's here and it really works. As we saw last election, it gets especially aggressive in the U.S. during Presidential elections, with mainstream, subtle get out the vote efforts put on by both Democrats and Republicans as well as the more shocking fringe groups.

The beautiful thing is the most of the public never has a clue they are being manipulated. It's not a conspiracy theory – it's business as usual in the 21st century and it's going to get much much worse.

9

One of the main features of authoritarianism is that the government's strength is only dependent on a small amount of people. The smaller the amount of people the government relies on to keep its power, the better, because they are more susceptible to influence such as bribery.

Take, for example, the case of Bell, California, which voted to become a charter city in a 2005 election. The turnout was fewer than 400 votes (of which half are suspected to be dubiously obtained), even though the city's population numbered in the tens of thousands. Becoming a charter city removed the limit on city officials' salaries; in 2010, the corruption was exposed, with officials being paid hundreds of thousands every year.

By voting, you help make the democratic system more representative and less susceptible to unfair influence.

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    I'd like to point out on the point of Bell, California, on the subject of "Fake" votes, I haven't seen any evidence in my quick search that the ballots were actually fake. Harvested, almost certainly, but at the present moment in politics, I think pretty great care should be taken on the subject of fake ballots. More than likely as I see it, those people did intend to vote for the measure they voted for.
    – bendl
    Oct 20 '20 at 14:53
  • 1
    @bendl many countries (most) has a requirements on voter turnout for such an referendum for the result to be accredited. 400 votes from a group of 5000 ? That is with those rules basically not eligible and so would be unimplementable or a target of litigation. Oct 20 '20 at 20:44
  • @bendl Hm, alright. I'll remove that part
    – yeah22
    Oct 21 '20 at 2:20
  • @StefanSkoglund as far as I'm aware no such law exists in the States...
    – bendl
    Oct 21 '20 at 19:23
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    @bendl OK -- I've replaced "fake" with "dubiously obtained".
    – yeah22
    Oct 22 '20 at 16:23
8

A complement to the nice answers already here:

If everybody votes, people discontent with the government tend to try to effect change using the vote, and, if they fail, will be convinced to some extent that they had a fair shot and lost because most disagree with them.

If nobody votes, people discontent with the government will be more open to effecting change using other means, like breaking laws, or even violently overthrowing the government. The more numerous the non-voting population, the larger this danger.

6

Although there are many good answers already, I feel that one point is still missing.

There have been some speech/threat/rumours/... (pick yours) to not recognise the result of the vote. Having a large turnout would reduce the validity of such claims (ok, there could still be discussions on cheating, and so on, but even that would be reduced).

For a 30% voters turnout a 51-49 result split would be the result of a 0.6% of the voting population advantage for the winning side. That is very little. Especially in regards of the 70% who did not vote. There is then the question of legitimacy. But it also facilitates frauds or amplify the statistics errors. See, for 1000 potential voters, you only need 6 fake votes.

Now, for 70% voters turnout, the same 51-49 split, would be the result of 1.4% of the voters population in excess for one side. It still remain quite little (such a split can never be too large), but it is already more than twice more than the previous case. It reduces the risks of statistical uncertainties, complicate potential frauds, and thus increases the legitimacy of the result.

Even apart from specific targeting, partisan motivations and the like, the more people turn to vote, the more we can actually trust the result.

4

What is the "interests of the nation"?

There is a distinction between "nation" and "country", where nation may refer to people and country to geographical area, though nation is sometimes used to refer to both. The "interests" depend on the people and the geographic and political scope covered.

It is axiomatic that the interests of

  • the United States is defined by its Constitution,

  • each state by its constitution,

  • each person by their beliefs, wants and needs, for themselves and their family.

It is also important to note that the role of the states is the "common good", including that of both the geographic area and the people. A few states at the time of adoption of the U.S. Constitution, and since, use "Commonwealth" as part of their names.

A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically it has sometimes been synonymous with "republic". The noun "commonwealth", meaning "public welfare general good or advantage", dates from the 15th century. Wikipedia

Note that the term, "general welfare", as used in the Constitution, both in the Preamble and in Article I, Section 8, applies to the states and not to the people. This is because the words were written 80 years before the people became citizens of the United States by virtue of Amendment XIV.

It follows that the United States was not a commonwealth, as was understood at the time of the adoption of the Constitution; though both politicians and voters fail to understand that salient point.

Interests and vote counts

If one accepts the interests of the United States is defined by its Constitution, then the lowest turnout of voters, who understand the limits of the Constitution, is in the "interests of the nation".

If one accepts that the interests of each state is defined by its constitution and that the role of states is the common good of its people, then the largest turnout that assures that the views of the people are adequately represented is in the interests of both the state and the people.

Why am I being asked to vote?

It is thought to be in your interest that your views be given by your vote.

It is said, in various forms, that those who do not vote deserve the government they get; and alternately, those who vote deserve the government they get.

“...they say if you don't vote, you get the government you deserve, and if you do, you never get the results you expected.” — E.A. Bucchianeri

“The government you elect is the government you deserve.” — Jefferson

Disclaimer: I have both been a voter and a non-voter and know that I never got the government I deserved.

[W]ouldn't the interests of the nation be properly (statistically) represented by the people who do get out and vote?

In my fifty years of experience, no; because voters tend to vote for personalities who make promises, not national interests as set forth in the Constitution.

4

Let's look at the fictitious jungle country of Wellsland.

Wellsland has a total population of 5000. This population consists of two ethnicities, the Morlock and the Eloi. There are 1000 Morlock, and 4000 Eloi.

There's also two political parties in Wellsland, the Meaties and the Fruities. The parties don't have equal support among the Morlock and the Eloi. Three quarters of the Morlock support the Meaties, and the remaining quarter supports the Fruities. Among the Eloi, the relation is reversed. Only one quarter of Eloi support the Meaties, but three quarters support the Fruities. In a sense, you could say that the Fruities are the party representing the ethnic majority (the Eloi), while the Meaties represent the ethnic minority (the Morlock).

But that's not the only difference between Morlock and Eloi. Regardless of their political leaning, the Morlock are likely to vote in elections than the Eloi. Consequently, voter turnout among the Morlock amounts to 80 percent, while only 10 percent of the Eloi participate in the elections.

So, comes Election Day in Wellsland. Most of the 1000 Morlock cast their vote, and only a few stay at home. As a result, there are 800 Morlock votes in total. Among the Eloi, the proportion of voters is much smaller, so even though there are four times as many Eloi as there are Morlock, the final vote count includes only 400 Eloi votes.

Consequently, the election results in a victory for the Meaties, the minority party. They received three quarters of the 800 Morlock votes (600 votes), and one quarter of the 400 Eloi votes (100 votes) for a total of 700 votes. The Fruities obtained one quarter of the 800 Morlock votes (200 votes), and three quarters of the 400 Eloi votes (300 votes), for a total of 500 votes. The following graph illustrates the clear Meaties victory:

Last Wellsland election results

If there had been a perfect voter turnout so that every Morlock and every Eloi had voted, the election result would have been very different: if every single member of the two groups had voted in proportion to their respective political leanings, the Fruities would have clearly won the election. They would have received 3250 votes in total (250 from the Morlock and 3000 from the Eloi), while the Meaties would have received only 1750 votes (750 from the Morlock and 1000 from the Eloi).

Potential Wellsland election result with perfect voter turnout

What this shows is that the two parties do not benefit equally from increasing the voter turnout.

For the Meaties, the status quo is the ideal situation. Even though they represent the Morlock minority, they still won the election. For them, there is no incentive to bring more voters to the ballot box. On the contrary, a very smart Meaties strategist might conceive a media campaign that aims to decrease the Eloi turnout even more. Perhaps the campaign sends out the message that clearly the election doesn't matter for the Eloi anyways because their interests clearly aren't represented by the political parties in the first place. If this campaign is successful, the political dominance of the Meaties will solidify even more.

But if the Fruities manage to increase the voter turnout, especially among the Eloi, it becomes more and more easy for them to win the election. It wouldn't even hurt the Fruities if the voter turnout increased also among the Morlock for as long as the increase is larger among the Eloi. The fact that the probability to vote is already high among the Morlock would work in favor of the Fruities – even if every single Morlock voted, the Fruities would need to raise voter turnout among the Eloi only above 25 percent in order to win the election, which sounds like the easier goal.

Consequently, the Fruities might decide to counter the Meaties media campaign (which misrepresents the political reality in order to keep the Eloi voters away from the ballot box) by a postcard campaign. They might plan to send a postcard with "Vote!" printed on it to every citizen of Wellsland. As the proportion of Morlock who vote is already close to the potential maximum of 100 percent, the calculation of the Fruities strategists is that the success rate of their postcards will be higher among the Eloi. Deciding to send the postcards only to the Eloi would increase the chance of success even more, because it's this group in particular that the Fruities want to bring to the ballot box in larger numbers.

So, let's use this Wellsland example to answer your questions:

I keep asking myself - why are they (who?) interested in people going to vote?

It's probably the Fruities who are interested in more people going to vote. They are interested in this because as they represent the ethnic majority (the Eloi), they think it's not really fair if the Meaties win the election just because the Meaties managed to mobilize the minority Morlock better than the Fruities managed to mobilize the majority Eloi.

Why are they spending millions of dollars on these campaigns, what are they standing to gain?

If their campaign was a perfect success so that every citizen of Wellsland voted, the Fruities would win in a landslide. As the Fruities are in a sense the voice of the majority, that voting result would represent the political preferences of the overall population better than the current result in which the voice of the majority is not well-represented.

Even if some people don't vote, wouldn't the interests of the nation be properly (statistically) represented by the people who do get out and vote?

A fair, unrigged election with non-compulsatory voting will indeed represent the interests of the people who got out and voted. The last Wellsland election result does represent the interests of the Morlock and Eloi who voted. More Morlock than Eloi voted, and as Morlock are generally Meaties-leaning, this resulted in the Meaties victory.

However, with increasing voter turnout, the result of an election will increasingly represent the interests of the total population and not only of the people who voted. If every citizen of Wellsland voted, the Fruities would win the election, because there are many more Eloi than Morlock, and most Eloi lean towards Fruities policies.

3

There are three types of people eligible to vote.

  1. Loyal beyond grave
    Such voters go to elections under any circumstance and vote for their party. Populists target people to become like these, as their supporters, of course. Militant trumpists fall there etc.
  2. Active voters
    Critical in their thinking they support more the branch or direction of politics than a single party (in multiple-party systems). In the system of two hegemons (Democrats vs. Republicans) they can switch sides when party goes too far.
  3. Nihilists.
    They do nothing. Every activity is useless. But they do babble that the government sucks at the very same time...

Populists need to stuff as large part of the electorate as possible to two groups: #1 for their supporters and #3 for the others, Because the nihilists are the boosters.

Lets take a pictures from last presidential elections in CZ in 2018. The results were 51.36% for the winner, 48.63% for the loser. Quite close win. But if we read the numbers correctly we can see that only 34.2% people voted for the winner, 32.39% voted for the loser and 33.4% people didn't give a s*t about it.

Another figure: Brexit. 51.89% for leave against 48.11 for stay. The actual numbers were 37.47% for leave, 34.74% for stay and 27.79% didn't give a s*t.

This way the nihilists open up the doors for "easy profit" of the groups that wouldn't have the chance to win. In the elections above the nihilist electorate could turn the elections upside down (and CZ wouldn't have a grumpy drunk as a president).

The "Vote!" calls you are getting wants you to cast a vote no matter what you are about to vote for. If you go to elections you will reduce the unallocated power of the nihilists to be abused. You just get cards; one czech businessman offered a 50l KEG of his beer to any high-school class who promises that most of the students will go to elections. (You know, CZ is the vice-capital of the beer-consumption, after Germany.) People here can vote after reaching 18 years of age. Same limit is for smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages. And applying for car/truck/motorbike driving licenses...

The one spending for such cards just want as many people to actually vote so the elections are more representative and less prone to amplification of noise. Imagine it like a sound. Imagine a phone connected to a powerful stereo. Set the phone to low volume and set the stereo to max. Then set the phone to max volume and adjust the stereo to similar output. Compare the noise and overall quality.

There is quite high chance the activist is against Trump. It may be expected that the silent majority is more against-Trump than pro-Trump. It is expected the Trump supporters are mostly #1 group of militant supporters blind and deaf to any argument against their God and very few from the #2 group. So there is expected to be a little benefit for Trump, unlike for Biden.

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  • 1
    Republicans may be loyal to the grave, but wouldn’t only Democrats be loyal beyond the grave? Oct 21 '20 at 2:56
  • @AndrewGrimm Whose grave?
    – Crowley
    Oct 22 '20 at 11:01
  • 1
    Republicans allege that Democrats fraudulently vote using the identities of people who've recently died but haven't been removed from the voting roll. Oct 22 '20 at 11:09
  • 1
    Republicans, more precisely Trumpists, are trying to undermine the results by any means if the election will turn out wrong. Trump is preparing for this all the time.
    – Crowley
    Oct 22 '20 at 15:41
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Both factions are convinced that the majority of right-minded people agree with them, if only they could be persuaded to turn out and vote! It's just that those pesky misguided fools who support the other lot seem to know their way to the polling station rather better! If MORE people voted WE'D win easily!

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While there ARE a number of different reasons given in the answers already, most of the organizations that are spending the money and time (often volunteers' time, but still -- time that will not be available for other tasks) to get you to vote believe that you will vote for their preferred candidate(s). As is often the case: if you want to know what is happening, "follow the money". Who is paying for the flyers/letters/phone calls to encourage you to vote? Most often, it is a particular candidate or party, or one of their proxies. They may honestly believe that their candidate is best for the country/state/city, but still... they are after your vote.

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