Low-wage workers less likely to vote
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Low-wage workers less likely to vote

Date: October 2, 2006
By: Rachel Higginbotham
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The workers who will be most affected by a minimum wage increase may be the least likely to vote this November. John Petrocik, a professor of political science at MU, said that the less a worker makes, the less likely it is that he or she is registered to vote.

Petrocik said that income isn't the only determinant in voter registration. "It actually varies more with education more than income," he said.

According to a national election survey released by the University of Michigan in 2005,

The numbers are similar when in comes to annual income.

The numbers are related because, according to a U.S. Department of Labor report relased in May, a majority of hourly-wage workers do not have a college education.

Petrocik said this isn't a new trend. "This is just a stone-hard fact that's been true for as long as this country's been around," he said. "It's true in most countries, unless you have compulsory voting, that there's class bias in voting."

Petrocik attributed this to a lack of interest in elections among less-educated people. "Most uneducated people just don't feel like they have a stake in elections," he said.

But with Proposition B on the ballot in November, low-wage workers have a greater stake than ever. If passed, the proposition would raise the minimum wage in Missouri from $5.15 an hour to $6.50.

Representatives from Give Missourians a Raise, the coalition that got Proposition B on the ballot, said that they're not surprised by the trend, either, and they're already working to register more low-wage workers.

"One of the challenges before us is making sure we get the word out in those [low-income] communities that the minimum wage is on the ballot this year, and that they have the opportunity to vote fore it," said Sara Howard, a spokesperson for Give Missourians a Raise. "The belief is that a lot more people will turn out to vote if they know they can vote to raise the minimum wage."

Howard said that canvassing groups like Missouri ProVote and ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) are already working in low-income neighborhoods throughout Missouri.

Selisa Washington, a spokesperson for ACORN said that the St. Louis office had signed up registered 90,000 voters from low-income neighborhoods. But it's one thing to register to vote. It's another to go to the polls on election day. That's why, Washington said, ACORN is hosting events throughout election season to get out the vote--including a Proposition B bar-be-que.

However, a consultant for the Missouri Republican Party said that, while Democrats are using Proposition B as a rallying point this year, he doesn't expect the issue to have much of an affect on voter turnout.

"I am not aware of any organized Republican effort one way or the other on the minimum wage issue," said John Hancock. "We think that the turnout this year will be driven by the U.S. Senate race. We're not concerned on turnout because of any of the ballot issues."

Whether the efforts of canvassing groups will be a benefit to Democrats this year has yet to be seen. Regardless, ACORN expects to knock on 180,000 doors by election day.