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10 Public Figures Who Choose Not to Vote

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We’re not telling you not to vote. We’re just saying that these 10 people won’t be (or didn’t).

1. Nate Silver

When “Poblano” began publishing his 2008 presidential election predictions and analyses on Daily Kos in 2007, people paid attention. Then “Poblano” moved to his own blog, FiveThirtyEight.com, where he later revealed he was really Nate Silver, the guy behind PECOTA, a system that predicts Major League Baseball players’ performances. After Silver accurately predicted the results of 49 of 50 states’ 2008 election results (and all 35 Senate races), FiveThirtyEight moved to The New York Times. But none of the eyes on Silver this week will catch him at the polls: he has not voted since he moved to the Times and doesn’t intend to this year, though he told Charlie Rose that if he did, “it would be kind of a Gary Johnson versus Mitt Romney decision.”

2. Jim Lehrer


When Lehrer moderated the first presidential debate this year (you may remember it as the “Big Bird” debate), Politico dubbed him “the most trusted moderator in America.” Lehrer had moderated debates 11 times before, and according to “MacNeil/Lehrer Report” cohost Robert MacNeil, “He stays so far out of the political swamps that he doesn’t even vote.”

3, 4 and 5. Generals David Petraeus, George C. Marshall and William Tecumseh Sherman

Though he is registered as a Republican, General Petraeus stopped voting in 2002, when he became a two-star general “to avoid being pulled in one direction or another, to be in a sense used by one side or the other.” His voter abstinence follows a long military trend of non-voting generals, which includes both Marshall and Sherman. General Marshall famously disagreed with President Truman's plan to recognize the state of Israel, saying, “If I were to vote in the election, I would vote against you.”

6. Leonard Downie, Jr.

Len Downie worked in the Washington Post newsroom for 44 years, first as an intern in 1964. By 1991, he was the paper’s Executive Editor, overseeing coverage for every election from 1984 through 2008. In 2004, Downie revealed that he’d stopped voting years ago, "when I became the ultimate gatekeeper for what is published in the newspaper. I wanted to keep a completely open mind about everything we covered and not make a decision, even in my own mind or the privacy of the voting booth, about who should be president or mayor, for example.”

7. President Zachary Taylor


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Before “Old Rough and Ready” was elected president in 1848, he had never voted. This can partly be explained by Taylor’s constant relocation as a soldier; he never established residency and never registered to vote. But our 12th president also reportedly claimed that he would never want to vote against a potential commander-in-chief—even when his name was on the ballot.

8. Jake Tapper

ABC New White House correspondent Jake Tapper, like Nate Silver and Len Downie, doesn't exercise his right to vote in order to maintain a sense of fairness in his coverage. On “This Week with Christiane Amanpour” this September, Tapper said, “I don't vote in races I cover. After I became a reporter, I found that, after I voted absentee ballot on a race I covered, it felt like I'd made an investment, and it was an uncomfortable feeling.”

9. Lew Rockwell

Unlike those who choose not to vote out of a sense of journalistic duty, libertarian commentator Lew Rockwell doesn’t vote for a number of reasons, including “The whole system is corrupt,” “It’s a pain in the neck,” and “Your vote doesn’t count,” which strongly echo the sentiments of many nonvoters. Rockwell's site is home to a number of articles on why rocking the non-vote is a citizen's best option.

10. Keith Olbermann


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In a 2008 visit to The View, Keith Olbermann revealed that he doesn’t vote. Later, Olbermann explained to Portfolio that the reasoning behind his “very idiosyncratic” ballot-casting abstinence makes sense: “I don’t want anything, even that tiny bit of symbolic connection, to stand in between me and my responsibility to be analytical and critical." Unlike Downie, who is widely respected for his impartial coverage, liberal Olbermann’s anti-vote stance didn’t garner much esteem.

So: Who's voting and who isn't, and why?

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politics
The Secret Procedure for the Queen's Death
Chris Radburn—WPA Pool/Getty Images
Chris Radburn—WPA Pool/Getty Images

The queen's private secretary will start an urgent phone tree. Parliament will call an emergency session. Commercial radio stations will watch special blue lights flash, then switch to pre-prepared playlists of somber music. As a new video from Half As Interesting relates, the British media and government have been preparing for decades for the death of Queen Elizabeth II—a procedure codenamed "London Bridge is Down."

There's plenty at stake when a British monarch dies. And as the Guardian explains, royal deaths haven't always gone smoothly. When the Queen Mother passed away in 2002, the blue "obit lights" installed at commercial radio stations didn’t come on because someone failed to depress the button fully. That's why it's worth it to practice: As Half as Interesting notes, experts have already signed contracts agreeing to be interviewed upon the queen's death, and several stations have done run-throughs substituting "Mrs. Robinson" for the queen's name.

You can learn more about "London Bridge is Down" by watching the video below—or read the Guardian piece for even more detail, including the plans for her funeral and burial. ("There may be corgis," they note.)

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Christie's Images Ltd. 2017
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History
Abraham Lincoln Letter About Slavery Could Fetch $700,000 at Auction
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, in which future president Abraham Lincoln spent seven debates discussing the issue of slavery with incumbent U.S. senator Stephen Douglas, paved the way for Lincoln’s eventual ascent to the presidency. Now part of that history can be yours, as the AP reports.

A signed letter from Lincoln to his friend Henry Asbury dated July 31, 1858 explores the “Freeport Question” he would later pose to Douglas during the debates, forcing the senator to publicly choose between two contrasting views related to slavery’s expansion in U.S. territories: whether it should be up to the people or the courts to decide where slavery was legal. (Douglas supported the popular choice argument, but that position was directly counter to the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision.)

The first page of a letter from Abraham Lincoln to Henry Asbury
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

In the letter, Lincoln was responding to advice Asbury had sent him on preparing for his next debate with Douglas. Asbury essentially framed the Freeport Question for the politician. In his reply, Lincoln wrote that it was a great question, but would be difficult to get Douglas to answer:

"You shall have hard work to get him directly to the point whether a territorial Legislature has or has not the power to exclude slavery. But if you succeed in bringing him to it, though he will be compelled to say it possesses no such power; he will instantly take ground that slavery can not actually exist in the territories, unless the people desire it, and so give it protective territorial legislation."

Asbury's influence didn't end with the debates. A founder of Illinois's Republican Party, he was the first to suggest that Lincoln should run for president in 1860, and secured him the support of the local party.

The letter, valued at $500,000 to $700,000, is up for sale as part of a books and manuscripts auction that Christie’s will hold on December 5.

[h/t Associated Press]

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