Voter turnout simply refers to the fraction of eligible voters in any country who cast their ballots during an election. This percentage representation varies widely from country to country, depending on a host of factors. It is therefore important to note that voter turnout does not represent the population of a country, and the two might not be related in any way.
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Notably, voter turnout is considered to be an element of a fair election and has been sometimes used to measure the level of democracy in a given country or region in the world (Brooks, 2009). Based on this, there are several reasons, which explain voter turnout in any system, ranging from nation to nation. While this is case, there has been a general trend of low voter turnout in recent years among most established democracies around the world, including the United States.
This sounds strange and ironical since most people believe that a developed democracy should promote higher voter turnout in any given system. This may denote the fact that voter turnout does not necessarily depend on the level of democracy of a country; it encompasses a wide range of intertwined factors, which have to be analyzed in taking a fair stance towards voter turnout in the United States (Roberts, 2009).
What does history tell us about voter turnout in America? The United States has historically registered an inconsistent voter turnout trend, which keeps on falling and rising, depending on a host of factors, and not merely the level of democracy as perceived by some people. Regardless of the level of increment, it has been noted that America’s voter turnout has never reached or surpassed that attained by well-established democracies around the world.
Despite the fact that there have been signs of increase in voter turnout as experienced since 2000, America is rated position twenty out of twenty one developed democracies around the world. Based on the fact that the U.S. is ranked among established democracies in the world, it suffices to mention that its level of democracy might not be the only determining factor for its low voter turnout throughout history (Brooks, 2009).
As indicated earlier, there are several factors which have continuously contributed to low voter turnout in America, ranging from social, technological, economical, procedural, to demographic explanations. It has been noted that voter registration significantly affects the overall voter turnout in any given election (Brooks, 2009). In the year 2004, 89% of registered voters voted in presidential elections, proving this assumption.
In a research conducted prior to the 2004 elections, it was found out that approximately thirty two million eligible Americans had not registered as voters. There are several reasons why a considerable number of Americans fail to register as voters. For instance, voter-registration usually has a deadline, which may lock out some citizens. In other cases, lack of registration information has been blamed as citizens may not be aware of the registration centers, requirements and deadline.
Another factor, which contributes to low turnout in the United States, is technology. Despite the fact that America is one of the leading nations in terms of technological advancements, e-voting has equally affected voter turnout results. During its introduction, there was no paper-trailing for voters, making it hard to instantly account for individual voters (Roberts, 2009). Additionally, the low voter turnout trend has been blamed on economic factors such as the level of income, which varies broadly in the country.
In most cases, it has been found that citizens with high income are likely to vote as compared to low income-earners. Consequently, there is voting disparity, which is based on demographic patterns. In such cases, politicians usually have a significant role and they tend to respond to opinions of constituents with high income. In worse cases, politicians may be three times more responsive to the rich as compared to how they handle issues affecting the middle and low-class voters.
It is also important to acknowledge that most eligible Americans who don’t vote get disinterested with the exercise because of lack of clarity in policies between contesting candidates. Oftentimes, campaigns are issue-based, depending on what the candidate considers to be more favorable. It therefore becomes discouraging and confusing to voters when they cannot draw a line between the candidates though a voting process.
Based on the issues discussed above, it is crystal clear that voter turnout in America is affected by a wide range of factors that are intertwined. For this trend to be reversed and match other developed democracy, there are certain issues that have to be considered. These include but not limited to a more effective voting system to avoid errors and hacking. Additionally, politicians have to win voters by cutting clear boundaries when selling their policies.
This further reinstates the confidence of voters, thus being motivated to vote (Brooks, 2009). Lastly, both social classes have to be equally considered by politicians to avoid discouraging low-income earners, who feel discriminated. In general, low voter turnout in the United States cannot be solely blamed on the country’s democracy. Such an assumption does not include several factors surrounding the issue.
Brooks, S. (2009). Understanding American Politics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Roberts, D. (2009). Why We Don’t Vote: Low Voter Turnout in U.S. Presidential Elections. University of Tennessee. Web.