Early voting is in full swing. I always try to vote early because I can show up at a time convenient to my schedule and there is usually no waiting. But this year is different. For the first time ever, early voting was as busy as a typical Election Day crowd.
When I drove to the public library on the afternoon of the second day of early voting I couldn’t find a parking space. The line wrapped around the building. I gave up and went home. The next day I showed up at 7:30 am and was happy to find a parking space next door. Then I stood in a line that snaked around the library parking lot waiting for the 8 am opening.
Voters ranged in age from 18 to 80. Several neighbors in the line told me that they were willing to wait all day for their chance to vote. When word spread of a first time voter, everyone in line cheered them on. I finally voted around 9:10 am. It was absolutely amazing.
This year we will probably see record-breaking voter turnouts in every state. The good news is that people are motivated to have a say in the outcome of the election. The bad news is that they are motived because our society is so polarized that many people see this election as an existential threat to their existence. (If my candidate doesn’t win, the world will end!)
I suspect that is how voters felt in the past when there was a major political realignment of voters. Major political realignments happen when demographic changes or political grievances motivate normally uninterested voters.
The 1876 presidential election was so contentious, it still reverberates. Samuel J. Tilden received 185 electoral votes, Rutherford B. Hayes received 165 votes, and 20 electoral votes from Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina were disputed. In a thoroughly disreputable political deal, Hayes was declared the winner in exchange for an end to Reconstruction in the south.
The south repudiated the Republican Party which had imposed Reconstruction and created the Jim Crow laws that suppressed black voters until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which included the Voting Rights Act. The 1964 law moved the entire south back to the Republican Party until this year.
This year demographic changes are reshaping the electoral landscape. A tenth of the eligible voters are from Generation Z (18 – 23 years old) and a third of all voters are non-white, mostly Hispanic. The Baby Boomers are a shrinking voter bloc. Although it is too soon to call, the early voting turnout may be a harbinger of a major political realignment.
About Norma Shirk
My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy. To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).
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