Democratic Debate: Talk of Turnout and the Franchise

The Story:

Seven candidates for the nomination of the Democratic Party for President of the United States met in Manchester, New Hampshire on Friday, February 7. One of the distinguishing features of this debate over the preceding such events was the discussion of voter turnout: something that started as a strategy question but later in the evening became a policy and moral issue.

The Beginning:

Early in this debate host George Stephanopoulos asked Senator Bernie Sanders why the voter turnout numbers for the Iowa caucus the previous Monday had been lower than in 2016. Democratic strategy in general, and Sanders’ strategy in particular, depends on large turnout, on making voters out of people who do not habitually vote. So: is it ominous that the direction in Iowa was in the opposite direction?

The Thing to Know:

The theme of that early question recurred, and in time it morphed into a nest of issues: gerrymandering, automatic registration, and the end of the practice (in some states) of ‘purging’ the voting roles for various reasons. On each of these points, the debaters were agreed: they consistently believe that good things will come, not just to their party but to the nation, from an expanded franchise.

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