Comments about technological history, system fractures, and human resilience from James R. Chiles, the author of Inviting Disaster: Lessons from the Edge of Technology (HarperBusiness 2001; paperback 2002) and The God Machine: From Boomerangs to Black Hawks, the Story of the Helicopter (Random House, 2007, paperback 2008)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Voter turnout: Boosting participation the American way

Problem: American voter turnout is abysmal, trailing most Western democracies. (Photo: Nick Cote for NYT).



And it's worse in off-year elections. So ... How about a competition between states in two categories, measured by success in voter turnout in the 2018 off-year federal election?

Such a contest taps into one of many neglected lessons from the mobilization to win World War 2: Namely, the record-breaking achievement of building and launching a Liberty ship in less than five days, due in part to Henry Kaiser's use of athletic-style competitions between shipyards.



Categories: One would be the highest turnout of eligible adults. The other category would be states showing the best improvement compared to the most recent off-year election, 2014 in this case.

Prizes: All states that signed up to compete would, at the outset, agree to support the two winners in pushing for them to be “first primary state” and “first caucus state” in an upcoming presidential election. If primary planning is already too far along to dislodge Iowa and New Hampshire in 2020, the two winners would wait until the 2024 election cycle.

Which of the two winners is promoted for the first primary, and which the first caucus? Perhaps a coin toss between the two winners would decide that. In any case they're certain to have a battle on their hands with Iowa and New Hampshire.

Who'd enter? States (and perhaps US territories!) that'd like a chance to receive -- just once -- the special attention that goes to “first primary” and “first caucus” states.

Let me know what you think!

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