The morning after the midterm elections, one of the best places to go for hope that the 114th Congress might actually get something done was a think tank not far from the Capitol called the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Founded in 2007 by four former Senate majority leaders and its director, Jason Grumet, the BPC gave itself the mission of trying to figure out how to make government work in a time when hyperpartisanship seemed to be bringing Washington to an almost complete stop.
Before dawn on Saturday morning, the Supreme Court issued a terse, unsigned ruling that, in effect, endorsed Texas’s voter-ID law, the most restrictive such law in the nation.
On October 9, in a 147-page opinion that followed a two-week trial on the facts, the Federal District Court in Corpus Christi had struck down the law, known as Senate Bill 14, as patently discriminatory, the equivalent of a poll tax. A week later that court’s injunction was overturned by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Appeals Court for the Fifth Circuit. It was this stay of the injunction — in effect a decision to let the voter-ID law go into effect — that the Supreme Court left in place in on Saturday with its 57-word decision. The decision did not articulate the Court’s reasoning, but a blistering dissent made clear that its basis was not Senate Bill 14, but rather the confusion that a change so close to the election might create.
How is it possible that, given overwhelming public concern about the direction of the country, we could be facing historically low turnout in the midterm elections on Nov. 4?
The question isn’t new. As trust in government has swung up and down in the past half century, turnout for midterm races, as in presidential years, has varied relatively little, each staying within a 10-point range. Studies of nonvoters have found many reasons, but one of the big ones is that people know a single vote rarely if ever determines the outcome of an election.