Reacting to a Kettering Foundation report that voting-age Americans are staying away in droves because they are sick of negative campaigning, cynical about the candidates and entrenched incumbents who seldom lose, and alienated by a system they feel powerless to change, the League of Women Voters is launching a nationwide campaign to bring tired, angry citizens back to the polls.
Since this is not a question of apathy, but of anger, it calls out for education and reform.So the league hopes to rejuvenate voters in time for the 1992 presidential elections by sponsoring debates, town meetings, advertising campaigns, educational programs, report cards on campaigns and voter registration drives in malls, video stores, record shops and high schools.
The league is also supporting campaign finance reform, "motor-voter" legislation that would automatically register people to vote when they get a driver's license and signed agreements between candidates not to engage in negative campaigning.
In the 1988 presidential election, only 49.8 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, compared to 52.8 percent four years earlier. Both represent a dismal showing and serve as credible evidence to support the rejuvenation process planned by the league.
All of the efforts by the League of Women Voters are to be applauded and may ultimately improve voter participation, but it would be unrealistic to expect a dramatic change overnight.
What really brings out the voters are sharply defined issues, a sense of something serious at stake and an emotional response to the campaign. Unfortunately, what the American public usually gets are campaigns that last too long, say too little of substance, and don't seem to make a great deal of difference.