This month's local and state elections brought the usual dismal news about voter turnout: Fewer than 1 in 4 New Yorkers went to the polls. In New Jersey, less than 40 percent did. Virginia had its highest turnout in 20 years and still didn’t clear 50 percent. Even in presidential elections, 4 in 10 voters stay home.
Low turnout rates are partly a reflection of human nature: Voting requires us to suspend logic, since one ballot rarely decides an election, and believe in the power of collective action. That belief is being tested by an increasingly individualistic society, where we are more isolated from our neighbors and less connected to civic organizations. But it’s now also being tested by a most unlikely foe: voting-rights advocates.