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

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:

Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves
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It can be expensive to have a pet. It's possible to spend between $250 to $700 a year on food for a dog and around $120-$500 on food for a cat. But of course, most of us don't think twice about the expense: having a pet is worth it because of the company animals provide.

But for some, this expense is hard to keep up, no matter how much you adore your fur baby. And that's why Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves decided to help.

Kenneth had seen a man scraping together change in a store to buy pet food, so he offered to buy the man some extra pet food. Still, later that night he couldn't stop thinking about the experience — he worried the man wasn't just struggling to pay for pet food, but food for himself, too.

So he went home and told his wife — and immediately, they both knew they needed to do something. So, in December 2020, they converted a farm stand into a take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can Pet Food pantry.

"A lot of people would have watched that man count out change to buy pet food. Some may have helped him out like my husband did," Jill says. "A few may have thought about it afterward. But, only someone like Kenny would turn that experience into what we have today."

"If it weren't for his generous spirit and his penchant for a plan, the pantry would never have been born," she adds.

A man with sunglasses hands a box of cat food to a woman smiling Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

At first, the couple started the pet food pantry with a couple hundred dollars of pet food they bought themselves. And to make sure people knew about the pantry, they set up a Facebook page for the pantry, then went to other Facebook groups, such as a "Buy Nothing group," and shared what they were doing.

"When we started, we weren't even sure people would use us," Jill says. "At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays."

But, thanks to their page and word of mouth, news spread about what they were doing, and the donations of more pet food started flooding in, too. Before long, they were coming home to stacks of food — and within a couple of months, the pantry was full.

Yellow post-it note with handwritten note that reads: "Hi, I read your story on Facebook. Here is a small donation to help. I have a 3-year-old yellow lab who I adore. I hope this helps someone in need. Merry Christmas. Meredith" Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"The pounds of food we have gone through is well, well, well into the thousands," Jill says. "The orders from our Amazon Wish List alone include several hundred pounds of dry food, a couple of hundred cases of canned food, and thousands of treats and toys. But, that does not even take into account the hundreds of drop-offs, online orders, and monetary donations we have received."

They also got many 'Thank you notes' from the people they helped.

"I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies," one note read. "My husband and I recently lost our jobs, and my husband [will] hopefully [find] a new one. We are just waiting for a call."

Another read: "I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven't worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy."

Jill says that she thinks the fact that the pet pantry is a farm stand helps people feel better.

A woman holding a small black dog and looking at the camera is greeted by Jill Gonsalves Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched," she says. "So, it's been important to us to maintain that integrity."

Jill and Kenneth aren't sure how many people they've helped so far, but they know that their pet food pantry is doing what they hoped it would. "The pet owners who visit us, much like donations, come in ebbs and flows," Jill says. "We have some regulars who have been with us since the beginning. We also have some people that come a few times, and we never see again."

"Our hope is that they used us while they were in a tough spot, but they don't need us anymore. In a funny way, the greatest thing would be if no one needed us anymore."


Today, the Acushnet Pet Pantry is still going strong, but its stock is running low. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook page for updates and to find ways to donate.

Demonstrators hold up signs at the Rally for Abortion Justice in Columbus, Ohio

The U.S. Supreme Court's swing to the right under the Trump presidency puts abortion rights in peril throughout the United States. The Court's decision not to act on a Texas law that bans abortions after about six weeks has opened the floodgates for other states to restrict freedoms.

The Texas law deputizes its citizens to report those who've had an abortion after the fetus has a heartbeat or anyone who assisted in the process. Reporters whose information leads to a successful conviction can be awarded up to $10,000 by the state.

The law is astonishing in a state that claims to value freedom. What's more authoritarian than paying your citizens to snitch on each other for their personal health decisions?

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