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The major reasons for low voter turn out or non voting during an election

This the second story in a series comparing the U. Every close race in the country in November will depend on whose supporters show up at the polls and are allowed to vote. This, technically, is true of close elections all over the democratic world. There is no other developed democracy in the world that, when it holds an election in which all of the seats in the lower house of the national legislature are on the ballot, has a turnout of less than half of its eligible voters.

In the United States, it happens every midterm election and will happen again next month. Sixty percent of the voting-age population will not vote, which means a huge reservoir of potentially game-changing non-voters. Many campaign ads are actually intended to do the opposite. There are many differences in rules and systems that help explain the gap and these have been discussed for years by those political scientists who specialize in comparing political systems around the world.

Most of us are not parties to that conversation — including me until I started asking — but I was quite impressed with the list of structural, legal and procedural elements of U. Here are some of the U. Requiring registration Most scholars who seek to solve the riddle of low U. But, for me at least, this is one of the main benefits of looking at other democracies. Or, to put it a bit differently, in most of the democracies, registering citizens to vote is the responsibility of the government.

In general, the governments know the names, ages and addresses of most of its citizens and — except in the United States — provide the appropriate polling place with a list of those qualified to vote.

The voter just has to show up. In the United States, the responsibility is on the citizen to get registered. Scholars who rely on this explanation typically say that it makes voting a two-step process. You can criticize them for not taking that step if you like. The major reasons for low voter turn out or non voting during an election there are undoubtedly many who would vote if they were registered. Sometimes it can be fixed on the spot, or the vote can be cast provisionally. In an article for the journal Democracy, in which she advocated making registration automaticHeather Gerkin wrote: The registration process is plagued by two problems: In most states, citizens who wish to vote must obtain and fill out a paper application.

Between the 2006 and 2008 elections, for instance, states had to process 60 million registration applications, most of them on paper. Errors inevitably occur along the way. Moreover, most states demand that voters notify their election office of a change of address, and few jurisdictions have an adequate system for taking dead people off the rolls. Third-party groups compound the heavy costs associated with this paper-driven process. Because we place the burden on individuals to register themselves, third parties inevitably step in to help.

The trouble is that not all of them are helpful. These groups can make mistakes; some have even committed registration fraud. The problem of third-party involvement goes deeper, however.

  • Most Americans still lived on farms;
  • Scientists have been looking into this;
  • In an article for the journal Democracy, in which she advocated making registration automatic , Heather Gerkin wrote;
  • In most states, citizens who wish to vote must obtain and fill out a paper application.

Political parties take on much of the registration work. Their incentives are skewed, and as a result the electorate can become skewed. Their goal is to register their people.

And even when third parties are on their best behavior, they do most of their work immediately before the election, which means that under-resourced and understaffed election administrators struggle to deal with the onslaught of paper applications filed during the weeks leading up to the election.

Before moving ahead, this section raises an odd question: If requiring voters to register is so unusual, why do we do it? According to this article, it started in the early 19th century — when immigrants were flooding into U. Holding elections on Tuesday No one else does that. Most democracies vote on weekends, or have more than one day to vote, or get a day off work to vote. The Framers had nothing to say on the subject. Each state was on its own in the early days and there was no national Election Day.

But in 1845 Congress established the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November as a nationwide date for federal elections. Made sense at the time. Most Americans still lived on farms.

For them, it could take all day to get to the county seat to vote. Many Americans observed a Sabbath ban on travel.

Why is turnout so low in U.S. elections? We make it more difficult to vote than other democracies

Tuesday voting would give the white, male farmers the Sabbath day off, Monday to get to the county seat, Tuesday to vote and Wednesday to get back home.

Made some sense in 1845. Makes little sense now. Minnesota, by the way, which has the model law on most of these issues, guarantees every citizen time off from their jobs to vote without penalties or reductions in their pay, personal leave or vacation time. There has been a bill introduced in most recent Congresses to establish weekend voting, your choice of Saturday or Sunday.

This brings to mind a couple of recurring explanations for why our system is the way it is: They have benefited from our mistakes. Here, again, things are getting better, although the improvement varies dramatically state by state. Many jurisdictions are making it easier to, for example, vote by mail. Oregon, in case you missed this development, switched in 2000 to a system of exclusively voting by mail.

It had a voter-participation rate of about 80 percent that year.

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But there are still many states where voting on a day other than that one Tuesday is pretty hard. Here again, you can bring up objections to making voting easier or more convenient. But there are countries in which voting is mandatory, in some cases backed by small fines for those who decline to vote. Do the mandatory-voting countries really enforce that law? Eleven of the 31 democracies including our neighbor Canada allow felons to vote from prison. So do Maine and Vermont. A lot of countries, and a lot of the states of the United States, do not let felons vote from prison but eventually restore the right to vote after the felons have been released.

4 reasons why many people don’t vote

This is often on a sliding scale that depends, for example, on the felony of which they were convicted. Then there are a range of policies that reduce the likelihood of former inmates getting their franchise back. In many states, they have to apply for the restoration after they are released.

In Iowa, an inmate must apply and prove he or she has repaid all court fees and made restitution to victims. A study by The Sentencing Project heading into the 2012 presidential election found a startling level of racial and regional disparities.

More than three million convicts and ex-cons who had not regained their right to vote were concentrated in six contiguous Southern states — Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia.

Here Are 3 Big Reasons Americans Don

The racial disparity is staggering. That same 2012 study the lead author of which, by the way, was University of Minnesota sociologist Christopher Uggen found that because of felon disfranchisement, 23 percent of blacks in Florida, 22 percent in Kentucky and 20 percent in Virginia were barred from voting.

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Nationally, the disfranchisement rate for African-Americans was four times higher than for the non-African-American population. Since the United States locks up far more inmates than any other democracy, the impact on the electorate, or at least the potential electorate, is considerable and has grown at a startling rate over recent decades.

The Uggen study found that heading into 2012, 2. Almost half of them — about 2. It may strike you as reasonable to extend the punishment for a felony to a longer-term loss of the right to vote, or it may strike you as a better idea to reintegrate a released inmate into society as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

But the racial and regional disparities across a single democracy — especially when holding a national election — are weird and certainly might and do invite partisan exploitation, which conjures up one of the less-remembered elements of the greatest recent meltdown of a presidential election: Without checking to make sure the suspect voters were the actual felons, Harris ordered all the names stricken from the voting rolls, which led to thousands of Floridians — disproportionately African-American — being disqualified from voting in an election that was ultimately decided by a margin of fewer than 600 votes.