news commentary
July 2, 2004


Why Diane Didn't Vote
by Rhiannon Ross

In the late 1970s, Diane was a popular cheerleader in a small Midwest high school. She secured her waist-length, blonde hair in a ponytail so she could perform triple back flips for the wrestling team.

She was also on the Honor Roll. Never serious about a career, she considered going away to college and majoring in political science. And she dreamed of marrying well and having three children.

Today, at age 44, Diane is the widowed mother of two children, ages 7 and 10. Her high school diploma limits her opportunities to obtain a well paying job and her deceased husband's Social Security check doesn't begin to cover all of her living expenses. She receives food stamps, subsidized after-school care, and Medicaid coverage for her children. She has no medical insurance for herself.

"We're poor," she says.

For a while, Diane was a contract assembly line worker in a non-union manufacturing plant in Wichita, KS. She earned about $7.50 an hour. However, increased layoffs at Boeing and Cessna created a pool of more qualified production workers. Jobless and penniless, she moved back to her hometown in southwest Missouri, where she now works as a secretary in a small, family-owned business.

Diane is among the tired, poor, alienated masses yearning for a vacationŠsans kids. Time off is usually spent collapsed in front of the television, watching reality programs such as The Bachelor.

She also represents a key demographic the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is desperate to reach: She is one of the millions of women who didn't vote in the 2000 presidential election.

In 2001, the DNC launched the Women's Vote Center (WVC), ( "dedicated to educating, engaging and mobilizing women voters across the nation to help elect more Democrats to office at all levels of government."

One of the WVC goals is to identify trends in women's voting patterns or, in other words, learn why Diane ‹ and women like her ‹ didn't vote.

So, why didn't Diane vote?

"My vote didn't count," she says. "The president is chosen by the electoral colleges."

As a Kansas resident, in a Republican state, Diane's progressive vote would position her as a minority.

But why didn't Diane exercise her right to vote ‹ in the very least out of respect for the suffragists? Her reason for not doing so was based upon a working mother's time frame: She didn't wish to stand in a voting line after having worked a tedious 8-hour shift. Besides, she reasoned, she had to pick up her children from the after-school program.

And while federal election law mandates employers give their employees time off to vote, Diane says pressure was placed upon workers by floor supervisors to, instead, vote during off-hours.

"You just didn't do it," she explains. "If you did, they'd only find other reasons to get rid of you later on."

Besides, she adds, her vote didn't count anyway.

But now that Diane lives in Missouri, a swing state, her vote does count. Like a raindrop in floodwaters, she potentially can make a difference in the outcome of the 2004 presidential election. And her current employer will grant her time off to go to the polls.

So, will Diane vote?

She sighs.

"I don't know. The parties are pretty much the same. They don't really care about poor people. They just say they do to get elected."

Rhiannon Ross can be contacted at or


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