Editor's Notes

I noticed the other day that NBC News is promoting a live town hall it will have with Joe Biden from Miami on Monday. The network says the event will be conducted in front of a socially distanced audience “made up of undecided Florida voters.”

When I read the words “undecided voters,” my first reaction was: Seriously? In this presidential election?

As we sit here now less than a month from the Nov. 3 election. I know there are all sorts of reasons why some voters support incumbent President Donald Trump and why others favor former Vice President Joe Biden. Those reasons will not — please pardon my language after Tuesday night — be debated here.

With less than a month to go before the election, it’s hard to figure how a voter could still be undecided. But in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 11% of eligible voters in the United States said they don’t know whether they will vote for Trump or Biden.

Crazy as that sounds, there’s an even bigger issue — one that’s even harder to comprehend than undecideds.

Just about half of all Americans of voting age likely won’t vote at all.

According to a study released earlier this year by the Knight Foundation, that’s nothing new. Barely more than half of the potential voters cast a ballot in the average presidential election. 

The study surveyed 12,000 people who are either not registered to vote or had voted only once in the last six national elections. It found that non-voters say they don’t vote for many reasons, “including not liking the candidates and feeling their vote doesn’t matter.”

Non-voters are also divided pretty evenly along party lines.

“If non-voters all turned out in 2020, non-voter candidate preferences show they would add nearly equal shares to Democratic and Republican candidates (33 percent versus 30 percent, respectively), while 18 percent said they would vote for a third party,” according to the study.

The American Presidency Project at UC-Santa Barbara reports that just 55.67 percent of the voting-age population cast a ballot in 2016’s presidential election between Trump and Hillary Clinton. That was actually a few more than who voted in the 2012 election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney (54.87 percent.)

The last time voter turnout cracked the 60 percent level was in 1968, when Richard Nixon edged out Hubert Humphrey. 

If you watched the trainwreck that masqueraded as a presidential debate last Tuesday, it might be easy to want to say “a pox on both their houses” and join the non-voting half of the country.

That would be the wrong choice. 

Undecideds will likely make up their minds and vote. It’s non-voters who need to get in the game.

Oct. 19, is the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania before the Nov. 3 general election. It’s incredibly easy to register online at register.votesPA.com.

You can also register to vote by mail or at certain government agency locations, such as a PennDOT Photo License and Driver’s License Center.

If you have any questions, you can call 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772).

Take it to the bank. This is not an election you want to sit out.

Email comments to dlyons@dailyitem.com.

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