If Apathy Counted as Votes Nobody Would Have Won the 2016 Election


U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton waves at a rally in Commerce City, Colorado August 3, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

I found this map on Reddit this morning, and I can’t stop looking at it.

It was created by Philip Kearney, who describes himself as an amateur cartographer, and it’s pretty self explanatory. It supposes an election map which counts non-votes from eligible American voters as a vote for “none of the above.” Based on that calculus, “none of the above” would have won the 2016 election in a landslide.

You could take this as a commentary on the 2016 election specifically, I suppose. With two deeply flawed candidates squaring off in a race to the bottom of electoral politics it really was a depressing spectacle. But there’s a larger point to be made here.

The foundation of our system of government is public participation, yet the public doesn’t participate that much. While the 2016 election may have been depressing, the participation level wasn’t that unusual from a historical point of view.

I made this graph showing national voter turnout in Presidential election years going back to 1828 (my source):

For all the self importance of American politicians, not to mentioned the puffed up egos of we pundits who make a living writing and talking about politics, the truth is far fewer Americans are tuned in than we might like to think.