Pollsters have a habit of polling registered voters, as those the are ones that can vote in an election. That makes some sense, assuming you ignore Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Washington DC, which actually allow same-day voter registration. That is right. There are some states that go out their way to encourage all citizens to vote!
But, I will accept the idea of using registered voters as a fair basis for predicting election. And, that has been the norm in polling. However, Nate Silver noted this week that CNN has started polling a smaller group, called likely voters. It seems this year, in particular, there is some frustration among parts of electorate with the choices available. The result is that some voters will stay home and they feel the next two months will not motivate them to go to the polls. Of course, if that is their choice, then so be it. This is not Australia, where you are fined for not voting.
However, there is a fourth category that is new this year: Registered, but Unable, to Vote. Pennsylvania, in particular, will be leading the nation in this camp. People who are registered to vote, have always voted in the past, want to vote, but now lack some critical documentation that makes their registration null and void for all practical purposes.
I would love it the media would hammer it home by stating “In a recent poll of voters, who have been approved by the state, we found ….”.
I look forward to Nate Silver looking into the question of voter suppression laws in some detail. For the first time in US history, we could have a substantial number of citizens who are willing, but not able, to vote, which doesn’t sound democracy to me. And, it is certainly not Australia.