By Natalie F. Jones
KANSAS CITY – Ronald Washington remembers a time when there were more jobs in his community. He says the streets need to be cleaned up and parks built.
When elected officials start addressing the concerns of citizens, he’ll participate in the political system.
Until then, he will be a nonvoter.
Washington, 30, lives in Kansas City, Mo., but grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, and lived in Germany and Texas for a few years before moving back to the Missouri side of the city. He recently started a new job at a plant that makes mufflers for Ford, and before that he worked at an air brake company.
Washington has never voted in an election. He is not registered to vote, and doesn’t see how his vote can make an impact.
“It really doesn’t make a difference to me. Because it’s always the same old stuff. Nothing ever changes,” he said.
A survey by the Medill School of Journalism found six types of nonvoters. Washington most resembles the “Too Busy” category, which make up 20 percent of nonvoters – he works full time, many of his family and friends vote, and he believes government can play a role in helping society. But he has never participated.
Growing up, his father voted and told him it was important to vote, but the message didn’t sink in for Washington. His fiancé also votes, but they don’t discuss politics.
Washington is frustrated by the problems and lack of progress in his community.
“It’s really not all [President Barack] Obama’s fault,” he said. “You’ve got your governors, your mayors, people who could do stuff also; clean up the streets, maybe like put some parks out here. Kids don’t have anywhere to play.”
Washington wants evidence that the system works before he participates.
“If they start doing things like that, I’ll probably go vote.”
But there was one issue that got Washington’s attention in the 2012 election, and almost got him out to the polls. Proposition B on the Missouri ballot would have raised cigarette taxes from 17 cents a pack to 90 cents a pack, and put the money raised toward a health and education fund. Washington is a smoker, and was against the initiative.
“I wanted to go vote for that, but I didn’t,” he said. “I was paying attention to that because they had it on all the stores – ‘cigarettes is going up, vote, vote vote’ – but I’m pretty sure they got enough voters. There’s a lot of smokers in Missouri, they didn’t need me.”
The proposition was defeated by a slim margin – 51 percent to 49 percent.
If he had voted for president, he said he probably would have voted for Obama. But he doesn’t believe politicians really care about him and the issues he and his family face.
“They just want my vote, but after that, you know, like I said, they don’t do what they say,” he said. “So that’s why I don’t vote.”