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Hey, voters: It's nearly time to get with the program, by John McGauley

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Get your program here! Programs!

Remember being shouted that as you entered big-league ballgames, when we used to go to those things?

Here’s my program for the Trump/Biden matchup, as I’ve spent hours poring over the stats, so you don’t have to do that dreary work. And it won’t cost you five bucks.

It’s all based on data, I’m not interjecting my bias. I’m biased, of course; couldn’t be a columnist without being so. But that will have to wait until closer to the election.

Here we go:

Strange as it may sound, it’s the people who don’t vote that decide the outcome of our presidential elections. In 2016, 61.4 percent of the voting-age population in this country actually voted. OK, that means that more than 99 million eligible voters never bothered to show up at the polls.

Ninety-nine million Americans! That equates to about the entire population of the United States, west of the Mississippi!

Since the country is so divided this year — was there ever a bigger understatement? — I figure that the party that can get more of those 99 million people off their butts and into the polls will win.

Now, you’ve got to understand who tends to vote.

Well, it turns out that old people, regardless of their race, vote in the highest percentages. In 2016, 71 percent of these old timers shuffled their way into the polling stations and pulled levers, or filled in dots. That was not an anomaly, as statistics going back for a century show that greater percentages of old people vote in presidential elections.

According to the latest census figures, there are 49.2 million of us old codgers over 65 in the United States.

That kind of makes sense that we’d vote in higher percentages, considering we have more time on our hands and generally, when you get older, everything just seems a little more important and you want to exert some influence before you go to the Great Beyond. As an aside, this year’s candidates — Trump and Biden — are the most elderly combination of presidential candidates ever in the history of the nation.

This election will be the high-water mark for the influence of the baby boomers on American elections; after it we’ll be dying off in big numbers.

Strangely, it’s the young people who vote the least, which I can never figure out because they have the greatest stake in the future and tend to be the most vociferous in the campaigning, as well as comprising the largest group that canvasses house to house for candidates. But only 46.1 percent of those 18 to 29 bothered to vote in the last presidential election, and that percentage figure holds pretty steady for the past 12 elections.

Oh, well, so be it.

Blacks and whites tend to vote in close percentages, 59.6 percent to 65.3 percent, respectively. Surprisingly, only 47.6 percent of Hispanics voted in the 2016 election. I can’t figure out why that might be.

So, if you’re a campaign director, you’d be smart to focus additional efforts on convincing more young people, and more Hispanics, to vote for your candidate.

Now, always keep in mind that four states are the big gorillas when it comes to presidential elections — California, Texas, New York and Florida — possessing a total of 151 electoral votes. If a candidate loses all four of those states, it’s very difficult to win the election. (There are 538 total electoral votes, and the winning candidate must reach 270.)

California and New York have gone Democrat for years, and Texas Republican. I don’t see any reason to think that won’t happen this year.

That leaves Florida. It can go either way, on a razor’s edge. Trump won it in 2016 by only 1.2 percentage points of the popular vote. Politically, Florida, as in so many other aspects, is a crazy, crazy place, ergo the ubiquitous “Florida Man” stories.

The three big linemen behind these behemoth states of the electoral college are Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio, followed closely by Michigan, North Carolina and Georgia. In 2016, Trump squeaked by in all those states except Illinois, which has voted Democrat since Methuselah was a young man, and will do the same this year.

Now, let’s get down into the weeds a bit more, and talk about our own state, New Hampshire. In the 2016 presidential election, it had the narrowest margin of victory for Hillary Clinton of any of the 50 states. It came down to only a difference of 2,736 votes, representing 0.03 of the electorate. To put that in perspective, that’s about the number of registered voters in Winchester.

Now, we’ve just got a meager little four electoral votes, but in a really close election, it could matter a lot. We’re usually the only state in the Northeast that even leans Republican.

Conceivably, the election could turn on us, this stalwart state of free-thinkers and cranky independents.

And, to parse it even closer, it could depend on our own Cheshire County, which has been a liberal, Democrat stronghold for eons. The big populated counties in the state — that’s not us, by the way — are about evenly divided between the two parties.

Can you imagine that, little Cheshire County being the kingmaker?

Well, you got my program. And now you know that every vote in Cheshire County could matter big time.

John McGauley, an author and local radio talk-show host, writes from Keene. He can be contacted at

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