I spent a couple hours on Sunday standing in the shade on lower King Street in Charleston looking like this.
I spoke with 54 people, only two who said they did not vote (and then provided very good rationalizations for not doing so). Sixteen men, the rest women (Hmmmm. Is it that women are more likely to speak with a guy in a suit wearing a sandwich board? Or do more women vote?)
It was an interesting experiment in a couple of ways. First, just trying to engage people in a conversation. I was again reminded that so many people go through life keeping their eyes forward and trying to ignore anything out of the usual. I understand. I did that for a few decades too. I finally took to asking people who I caught looking at the sign "Do you Vote? Tell me why." Two women walked right up to me and wanted to tell me their answers, without me even making eye contact. At least a couple more were curious why I was asking. I overheard a few people walk by and read the sign out loud to their group of friends. One said, "Good question. Why DO I vote?" I also noticed that a crowd always draws more of a crowd - if two people were speaking with me, a few more would gather and listen and want to talk to me next.
The second way it was interesting was in the responses I got.
"I vote because it gives me the right to bitch about things"
"I want to be part of the process"
"Our only voice is our vote"
"It's how we are part of our community"
"It's our duty"
"It's our responsibility"
"It's the only way we can make a difference"
"People died to give me the right to vote"
I didn't let anyone off that easily. I'd press and ask "what do you hope your vote will accomplish?"
"Often I'm not voting FOR a candidate, but against other candidates"
"I want someone in there with my values"
"I want my guy to win"
To which I'd ask "what do you want your guy to do when he wins?" And at that point most people would hesitate for a few seconds and think it over, and respond with something that boiled down to "make things better". I noticed people with kids were quicker to come to this answer than anyone else - "make a better future for our kids". A few young people went into details about what their concerns are for the future. A few old people in their 80s told me their first votes were for JFK, but agreed that life today is not at all the world they'd envisioned way back then. "We thought it would be much better than what we're seeing with this election." Almost everyone expressed their concerns about Donald Trump.
Only a minority of people asked why I was doing this. I ended up handing out a couple dozen calling cards and got a half-dozen new Facebook friends out of it. About half of the people I spoke with were locals, the rest from as far away as Turkey. But I realized that at our core, when pushed to think about it, whether we consider ourselves conservative or liberal, republican or democrat, we all care about the future more than the present (at least these relatively affluent people walking down King street do). And we all care about what that future is going to be like for our kids and grandkids.