The mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price, had an answer for her city's historically low turnout in local elections. She blamed the schools.
"Part of the problem is public schools aren't teaching civic engagement," she said during a mayoral debate in May, the election a few days away.
One of her challengers, though, blamed the press. "If the media would get more behind things and get a fire going, we'd have better turnout," James McBride said.
And another challenger blamed the politicians. "We have leaders who don't want people to come out and vote because they know a low voter turnout favors them," Deborah Peoples said.
Peoples, the local Democratic Party chairwoman, lost the election and Price, a Republican, won her fifth term. But the research on what influences turnout suggests it was Peoples who was onto something.
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Rep. Anna Eshoo touts her proposal to make Election Day a federal holiday during House debate on HR 1 in March. Behind her is fellow California Democrat Zoe Lofgren, who quietly cut the language from the bill.
Making Election Day a new federal holiday has been one of the highest-profile parts of the Democrats' sweeping package for reforming elections, campaign finance and government ethics.
Plenty of prominent members of Congress such as Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who is in his 13th term and a committee chairman, praised the holiday provision when the House debated the bill this spring.
The Associated Press mentioned the holiday language in stories about passage of the legislation, known as HR 1. So did CNN, Fox News, The Washington Post and The New York Times. Leading good-government advocacy groups, including Public Citizen, shined a light on the possibility of a holiday in praising the measure's advancement.
And what do all of them have in common? They all got it wrong.
This story has been revised after additional reporting.
Steadily if still softly, anxiety about the health of American democracy has become at least a secondary theme in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Proposals for restoring the public's faith in elections, and a sense of fairness in our governing system, have now earned a place on most of the candidates' platforms. And more and more of them have been including calls for democracy reform in their stump speeches.
To be sure, the topic has not come close to the top tier of issues driving the opening stages of the campaign. In the first round of candidate debates last month, for example, the contenders collectively spent less time talking about democracy's ills than eight other issues: health care, President Trump's record, immigration, social policy, economic inequality, gun control, foreign policy and the environment.