When good people do bad things by not voting


It may be time to revisit the eternal question Why good people do bad things in the context of voting behavior, specifically NOT voting even when their own self-interest is at stake.

Ballot-boxOn Tuesday, Kentucky held an election for governor. According to the Secretary of State’s web site, Unofficial Election Results, there are 3,201,852 registered voters in Kentucky, but only 982,259 bothered to vote, for a shockingly low 30.68% voter turnout, which is even lower than the low 46.37% voter turnout in last year’s midterm election with a marquee race between  Senator Mitch McConnell and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes that received so much national attention.

Kentucky voters elected  far-right Republican Matt Bevin governor over Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway.  From GOP ‘con man’ to newly elected governor:

A year ago, the right-wing candidate, who’s never served a day in public office, launched a primary fight against incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Republicans quickly labeled Bevin a “con man” who lies “pathologically.” The first-time candidate was exposed a man who lied about his educational background, and who even struggled in the private sector — his business needed a taxpayer bailout.

At one point, he even delivered a speech at a cockfighting gathering and then lied about that, too.

In September, the Republican Governors Association scaled back its investments in the Kentucky race, and as recently as mid-October, Bevin’s own internal polling showed him trailing.

Complicating matters, the GOP candidate “created a nightmare for Kentucky’s political reporters” by lying – about a wide variety of issues – on an almost habitual basis, and then creating an “enemies list” of journalists who challenged the accuracy of his falsehoods.

And yet, voters in Kentucky yesterday overlooked all of this and handed Bevin a relatively easy victory.

What happens now is likely to have a major impact on many of his constituents’ lives. One of the central tenets of Bevin’s odd platform has been scrapping Medicaid expansion, which would have the effect of taking away health care benefits from many low-income families statewide. And because outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear (D) used executive orders to create much of the state’s health network, the new right-wing governor-elect will have the power to undermine the health security of a significant chunk of Kentucky’s population rather quickly.

The question is simple: will he? This sets the stage for the the first real test of whether far-right officials are prepared to hurt their own constituents, on purpose, to advance a partisan goal.

Bevin was elected by a fractional share of a minority of voters that does not even constitute a plurality of the voters in Kentucky. One cannot claim a voter mandate under such circumstances, but Bevin will.

Under two-term Gov. Steve Beshear (D), Kentucky has been one of the best-run states in the nation. Governor Beshear had the courage to stand up and give his state “ObamaCare” under the Kentucky state run health insurance exchange known as Kynect. Governor Beshear also expanded Medicaid in his state under “ObamaCare.” Kentucky is notable for being one of the states with the poorest health in the nation. Health and poverty in Kentucky – The Courier-Journal.

Kentucky’s Kynect state run health insurance exchange is one of the most successful in the country, and is a model for other states.  Ky’s Medicaid Expansion: 40000 Jobs, $30B Economic Impact;

Kentucky’s decision to expand the Medicaid program is paying enormous dividends in terms of jobs, economic growth, and improved health for the more than 375,000 Kentuckians who signed up last year – and according to a new study, those benefits will continue to accrue.

Medicaid expansion will add 40,000 jobs and $30 billion to the state’s economy through 2021, according to a new study Deloitte Consulting LLC and the University of Louisville’s Urban Studies Institute released today. Expansion will also generate a net positive impact of nearly $820 million to state and local government budgets.

The report concludes that the estimated costs of expansion in the current and upcoming biennial budget would be more than offset by savings and new revenues generated from economic activity resulting from new health care spending. Conversely, choosing not to expand would have been expensive as well, incurring $100 million in costs.

Improved health impacts are significant: Deloitte reported that as expected, Kentuckians who qualified for Medicaid expansion brought a pent-up demand for preventive services to medical providers and sought health care at a 55 percent higher rate than a comparative group of some existing Medicaid enrollees, particularly for treatment of chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and depression. Plus, health care providers in every corner of the state have been paid an additional $1.16 billion in 2014 thanks to expansion.

“For all the naysayers who claimed that expanding Medicaid was a budget-busting boondoggle, take a look at the facts. It’s working, and it’s literally paying off. The state is saving money, hospitals are earning more, and our people are getting healthier,” said Governor Steve Beshear. “The facts are overwhelming. We would have lost money in the state budget and lost opportunities for job growth, not to mention allowed our people to suffer continued poor health, if we had allowed this opportunity to pass.”

All of this progress and success is now at risk because more than two-thirds of Kentucky’s registered voters could not be bothered to vote in Tuesday’s election.  (There is also a large number of eligible to vote who are not even registered to vote). It is fair to assume that a large number of Kentuckian’s who have benefited from the Kynect state run health care program — many receiving health care for the first time in years or ever — failed to vote on Tuesday, even when their own self interest in doing so was clearly at stake in this race.

I have pointed out before that poverty is the most effective form of voter suppression. It breeds apathy, indifference or despair and the sense that “my vote doesn’t count.” Even when their vote could have preserved the health care they are now receiving for the first time in years or ever, Kentuckians failed to turn out to vote to protect their own self interest.

You have often heard the question posed “Why do people vote against their own self interest?” But the more fundamental question is why the non-voter does not vote at all to protect their own self interest.

Bad things happen when good people fail to vote. Democracies die from indifference and neglect.

UPDATE: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress explains, 400,000 People Could Lose Their Health Care Because No One Turned Out To Vote. An estimated 400,000 Kentuckians will lose their health care if Bevin follows through on his statement.


  1. It is all fine and dandy to complain about candidates, right wing button pushing, and voter apathy, but the big issue is that negative ads are designed to suppress voter turnout. And they work. Until we find a solution for that voters will continue to feel that it doesn’t matter who they vote for.

    • Nonetheless, in the City of Tucson, with a low voter turnout we won all of our city council elections. The bonds were doomed because there were too many of them, asking for too much, in an off Presidential year.

  2. probably another fred duval. while we like what president obama has done most white people don’t. putting someone in jail for not issuing a marriage license we like. most white voters don’t like. mrs. clinton calling for more gun control forgetting the 1994 election as jim webb pointed out. ask yourself this question if it were put to a vote which would the american people vote to get rid of guns are gun control advocates. as a lefty myself I know how far the voters will tolerate leftists. 61% of white voters vote republican. even the majority of white women vote republican. the minorities are the democrats future wither white democratic elitists like it or not bernie sanders supporters! ( I am sanders supporter too but I understand the problem in doing so ).

  3. I heard an NPR story yesterday about a group in Texas that is trying to encourage the homeless to vote. Texas requires an official ID– just like Arizona. The reporter said that 600,000 eligible voters in Texas can’t vote because they don’t have an official ID.

    To increase voting and make elections FAIR, all of the voter suppression laws should be repealed, we should have automatic voter registration on the 18th birthday, voting laws should be uniform nationwide, and we should get dark money out of politics.

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