This article orginally appeared in the September 8, 1908, issue.
The New Voter
This is the trying season for the first voter. Every self-respecting newspaper of either party thinks it a duty now to deliver to him a few appropriate words of warning and exhortation. In phrases which bring back only too vividly the baccalaureate addresses of an earlier season, he is reminded of the great responsibility that is his when he enters the polling-booth. Rival managers try to organize him into clubs, his morning mail begins to be filled with badly printed speeches under the caption, “Part of Congressional Record–Free,” while the American Protective Tariff League, taking personal charge of him at once, tries gently to lead him beside the still waters of Dingleyism. The ingenuous young man naturally begins to regard himself as a prominent citizen.
½: ½ 1/4: ¼ 3/4: ¾
So he is, in fact. His vote determines not only the remote, but the immediate, future of the country. In practically every election since the era of good feeling, the men who never cast a Presidential vote before have held the balance of power. It is computed from actuarial tables that approximately one-sixth of the national electorate is renewed in each four-year period between Presidential elections. When so many factors are liable to affect the total vote, the conclusions on this basis are necessarily rough but it may he assumed that approximately 16 per cent. of the voters who choose between Parker and Roosevelt this fall did not have the chance to vote for McKinley or Bryan, while about 5 per cent. have never before voted at all.
The way to realize the importance of this 5 per cent. is to look at the proportion of voters who must be won over in each of the States necessary for a Democratic victory. Taking the total vote of 1900 in the States carried by McKinley as a basis, a change of 1 ½ per cent. would carry Utah for the Democrats, 2 ½ per cent. would carry Indiana and Nebraska, 3 per cent. Maryland, 3½ per cent. Kansas and Ohio, and 4 ½ per cent. Illinois. Added to the votes of the State carried by Bryan in 1900, this makes on the new apportionment, 259 electoral votes, or 20 more than is necessary to elect. Changed political conditions make Kansas and Ohio, at least, far more strongly Republican at present than these percentages would indicate, but a change of 4½ per cent: would add Delaware to the list, and 5 per cent. would carry New York and West Virginia, making 308 electoral votes. Thus in no State which is fighting-ground this year, except Wisconsin, does the per centage of votes which the Democrats need to win over exceed the probable percentage of voters who have come of age since the last election, though about half of the latter are presumably of Democratic antecedents and will merely fill the gaps in that party’s ranks.