The MA Special Election and the Crisis of Democracy: Nearly One Out of Every Two Eligible Voters Opts Not to Vote

Media accounts of the special election in Massachusetts have uniformly stressed the high incidence of voter turnout in the race. Voice of America reports:
City and state officials in the northeastern state of Massachusetts are reporting heavy voter turnout in a key special election to replace the late Senator Edward Kennedy.
Similarly, the Boston Globe reported that "frustration with status quo fuels emotions and turnout." They write:

The Brown voters outnumbered the many Democrats, who, facing the loss of a seat their party had held for decades, also flocked to the polls, transforming what many had expected would be a sleepy election day into an unusual scene, with lines at some precincts and the sort of numbers seen when voters turn out for regularly scheduled national elections.

“All the polling places are busy,’’ said Kathy Deree, an assistant town clerk in Weymouth. “They’re all asking for more ballots. This is the busiest election since the president’s.’’ More than 2.2 million voters, out of 4.1 million eligible, cast ballots in the three-way election between Brown, Coakley, and independent Joseph L. Kennedy. [Emphasis added.]

Despite the national attention focused on the race and the hyperbolic nature of the propaganda campaigns waged by Republicans and Democrats alike, only 53% of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot. In other words, there were more eligible voters who did not vote than voted for either Brown or Coakley; and Brown's "miracle upset" was achieved with the explicit support of under 30% of eligible voters. And this is considered "heavy" or "high"! The special election in Massachusetts provides further evidence in favor of the proposition that the Democratic-Republican duopoly system of government represents a crisis of democracy.

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