Ignore: The Verb That Kills Democracy

What we ignore can destroy us

We ignore the truth at our peril.

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Saturday’s front page article in The Oregonian tells of how Newberg’s school district prefers to ignore their students. Jaimie Ding reports in her article: They’ve felt discouraged, ignored, and disregarded. It all centers around students desire to express emblems of support around issues such as Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ. She writes:

After weeks of relentless scrutiny and tense divisions in Newberg, many students say they feel abandoned and ignored. And more than one family is considering leaving the small city in east Yamhill County.

The Newberg School Board on Tuesday voted 4-3 to approve a policy banning the displays just hours after district educators rallied in opposition to the move. The board’s four conservative members also rejected board member Rebecca Piros’ suggestion that that Superintendent Joe Morelock appoint a panel of students, teachers, parents and Newberg residents to assess the policy and propose changes over the next six weeks.

The ban – which has drawn fierce criticism and national attention – mirrors a wider trend of school boards becoming flash points for culture wars throughout Oregon and much of the nation.

Ignoring each other is common and foolish

This blog is not about favoring one school policy perspective over another. Rather, it is to highlight how damaging it is when we ignore each other. When we do, respect is lost, understanding disappears, and reaching any kind of consensus – central to democracy – is out of reach.

We ignore often. On a personal level, one doesn’t have to go far to note instances wherein an individual is ignored. Perhaps it’s a female at a company meeting. A child needing attention from a group (parents?) of adults. The homeless among us. The list is long and discouraging.

It’s so much easier to put our hands over our ears and sing loudly, “La la la la!” It drowns out the needs and desires and, yes, solutions others may offer. The non-ignored, can easily go on in a cone of safety.

Ignoring others is not democracy!

Ignoring each other brings consequences

After two and half centuries exercising this claim to democracy, you’d think “We the people” would understand the basic concept of an inclusive democracy better. What happens when we don’t? Here’s a partial list of consequences:

  • We miss positive opportunities.
  • We fail to build, improve, understand.
  • Many disengage.
  • Many get angry.
  • Many raise their voices.
  • Some turn to violence.
  • We destroy our society.

But we are not a democracy – not really. We say we are but, since we refuse to recognize our failing, we don’t even strive to steer ourselves toward a more inclusive democracy. Exclusionism becomes what we preserve, protect and hold dear.

Look at how we elect our president. The concept is that all citizens cast their ballots and the candidate who wins the majority of electoral votes wins. Let’s break this down to get a glimpse of reality.

First, taking a rather conservative estimate, about 40% of the eligible citizens don’t even bother to register to vote. Then, in a high-turnout election, only about 70% of registered voters bother to vote. That means that around 42% of eligible voters participate in the election. Since we toss aside about half of those ballots before they ever reach the electoral college due to our Winner-Takes-All (WTA) approach, our participating number hovers around 21%. Given that recent elections are won by thin margins, only about 11% of the eligible voters elect a president. Can we truly call that democracy?

The rest of the nation, around 89%, are ignored. What are the consequences? Same as the list above!

EVV does not ignore voters

Equal Voice Voting (EVV) removes the WTA problem and makes All Votes Matter! No vote is ignored! You could vote for Santa Clause and the voting result needle will move accordingly. If you live in a red state and are a Democrat, your vote will not be ignored. If you live in a blue state and are a Republican, your vote will not be ignored. If you vote for a candidate from any other political party, your vote will note be ignored.

Further, if we truly wanted a more democratic presidential election, there is a strong possibility that that 40% of disengaged voters may reconsider. Perhaps election turnout could improve by, say, 10% or 20% or more.

As we watch the nation ignore students in classrooms and each other in the streets, let’s reconsider our democracy. We need to calm down. We need to listen to each other. We need to find respect that leads to better governing. It might even lead to a better democracy.

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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team