Here are 3 big reasons millions of Americans don't feel like voting.

Gerrymandering. The primary voting system. The U.S. Electoral College.

These are just some of the problem areas with our system of choosing and electing those who represent us in each branch of government.

So ... what's wrong? Let's examine these three systems.

1. Gerrymandering is what happens when districts are divided up to favor one political party over another.

Also known as "redistricting," gerrymandering is when the incumbents who are in power after an election get to draw the boundary lines to make up districts of voters that benefit their own party. It's super hard to explain.


Frequently, it's used to concentrate ethnic, political, or religious blocks of people into defined districts. This then could mean that the districts around them become more dense with supporters of the incumbents or party in power.

Here's a very simple graphic to illustrate the concept — and how easy it is to make changes in districts that favor those who wish to stay in power:

Image by Steven Nass/Wikimedia Commons.

But it can also disenfranchise people in those districts. For example, let's say a district is 60% African-American, 20% Latino/Hispanic, and 20% Caucasian.

As you can see from the graphic, re-drawing the lines can mean voters lose out on the chance to have a representative and fair election in their "new" districts. They can be redrawn in ways that "spread out" the influence of those voters across other districts, so 60/40 split can be flipped to a 40/60 split, as you see in the graphic on the far right above.

Another pretty dramatic example, from Travis county in Austin, Texas:

Image by P. Henry/Wikimedia Commons.

In this case, the districts were redrawn to include counties that have historically much more conservative (Republican) bases, which watered down the votes from the city of Austin, known to be much more progressive/Democrat.

2. The primary system we use to choose candidates is also severely flawed.

What happens when a tiny fraction of possible voters get to choose who is actually running for office?

That's what inevitably happens in most state and federal elections across the country. If you're a registered Republican, you get to vote in the primaries for that party. Democrat? Same. But what if you're among the more than 40% of voters who are independent?

In many states, you have to actually register as a member of a party in order to vote in the primary.

If registering as a member of a party you don't necessarily agree with on many issues rubs you the wrong way, join the club. Millennials are increasingly opting out of our two-party system. It's something to consider when thinking about the pool of voters who choose our two dominant party candidates in presidential elections, for instance.

3. The Electoral College is something that is a holdover from when this country was still very young (1787, to be exact.)

Perhaps it's time to reconsider using it?

Popular vote by political party, 1788-2012. Image by ChrisnHouston/Wikimedia Commons.

Remember when the 2000 election was decided by the Electoral College and not by popular vote?

(You DO remember that, right? The Electoral College is what decided that election after the Florida recount. And recount. And recount.)

In that election, Al Gore received 540,000 more votes than George W. Bush in the popular vote. However, Bush won 271 electoral votes, and Gore, 266. Bush was, of course, declared the winner. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Electoral College basically means that representatives from each state are elected and pledge to cast their votes for president in a "winner take all" manner; that is, they pledge their votes for the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in that state.

The number of members of the Electoral College is dependent on the number of House and Senate reps in each state; currently, if you include the District of Columbia, there are 538 total electors. The winner of the presidential race has to end up with a majority of those votes from electors in each state in order to be declared winner.

Some say this basically means the popular vote isn't what it's supposed to be: one person, one vote.

Others say that by eliminating the Electoral College and going to straight popular vote, candidates will ignore smaller "swing" states and focus on population centers.

These are the problems, but are there any solutions? Maybe!

Some folks are working to change some of these problems. For example, some want to change our primary system so the top two vote-getters in the primary, regardless of party, are the two who are on the final ballot. It's called an "open primaries" system, and it's already being used in at least a few states and most municipal elections.

Here's a video from FairVote, and they're working toward that and a bunch more ways to change things for the better. (Plus, it's headed by none other than the bassist for Nirvana (!), Krist Novoselic.) Check it out:

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Open Primaries

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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