Attracting More Voters

Attracting More Voters

Jesse Yacino, December 2014

A major issue facing society today is the lack of involvement in the political system. It is important to find out why this is and what are some ways to improve the number of voters. An important part of being an American citizen is exercising our rights. With citizenship comes so many opportunities to get involved in the U.S. political system. Some of the reasons provided as to why eligible voters are not getting involved are things we hear every day, such as “I’m not interested”, or “I’m a parent and I do not have time”. Are there ways the political system can be simpler and make it easier for people to get involved in voting and exercise the rights that come with being an American citizen?

In the United States, voting dates back as far as the 1800’s. Voting was done openly and only white men who owned property were allowed to participate in the political system. It is understandable why back then voting was done by a very small percentage of the nation. In our current year you are eligible to vote at the age of 18 and if you are a U.S. citizen. The capability to vote is very open now yet almost 60% of citizens eligible to vote do not participate. [1] How have we come so far in gaining our full right to vote privately, yet almost half of eligible voters do not exercise this right?

Starting with why people may not be involved in voting, what are some reasons? After every election, a major concern is why the voting turnout was a lot smaller than expected. In 2012, the voter turnout was at 57.5% of all eligible voters. In 2008, there was a slight increase up to 62.3% who voted. In 2004 it dropped to 60.4% and in 2000, the turnout rate was 54.2%. [2] A report released by the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that out of the people who did not vote, 8.6% were out of town, 18.9% were too busy, 12.7% did not like the candidates or campaign issues, and 15.7% reported not being interested. [3] These reasons are what we usually hear when you ask someone why they did not vote. Some other reasons were that people had issues with registration and they simply just forgot to vote.

It must also be taken into consideration that 14% of eligible voters could not vote due to illness or disability. [4] Even though this may be true, states and local jurisdictions created many ways to assure sick or disabled people can still cast their vote. Some of these ways include voting machines, curbside voting options, and web-interfaces for completing absentee ballots.

There is also a psychology behind voting and non-voting. Eligible voters may or may not cast their vote depending on who is running and their impressions. An article by ABC News suggests that if a villain would be on the ballot a lot more voters would participate. People tend to get more involved when they have more at stake. Anger and hate also drive people to be more active rather than being passive and calm. It is interesting to look at this for being a reason why some people might not get involved. Let’s say someone likes both candidates. If this is the case then this person may not even bother to vote since they see the election as a win/win for them. Now let’s put someone on the ballot that this person cannot stand, and if this candidate gets elected then this voter suffers bad consequences. The voter will for sure participate in elections to ensure their chance at safety. [5]

One’s first impression is also very important in the psychology behind voting. People tend to stick to their first impression. It is important for the candidates to do something positive and memorable to start their image off right. Propaganda used in political elections tend to be very vicious displaying the flaws of their opponents. These propagandas are trying to get voters to see the other guy as the “villain” encouraging them to vote for them so that “villain” does not succeed.

If the voting process was made easier, would more eligible voters get involved? The United States is known for exercising our rights and also for being lazy. The Washington Post suggested fifteen ways to make voting easier. One reason listed was to expand online voting registration. Only fourteen states allow online registration, and those states proved an increase in voting turnout. The ability to register online increased registration rates from 29% to 53% in the years after Arizona adopted the practice. [6]

One of the reasons people do not vote was because they were out of town. Would if there was an expansion of early voting? In 32 states, voters can show up weeks before Election Day to cast their votes. In 27 states, a voter can get an absentee ballot without needing an excuse. [7] This would help those people who plan on being out of town during the election and could increase the number of voters.

The Washington Post has a couple other simple ways to make the voting process easier such as going electronic and being able to vote online. Jurisdictions around the country are testing electronic poll books. It’s a lot easier to use a search function to look up a voter’s information than to page through massive paper-based lists. [8] This will allow them to cut down user error by making sure the right voter gets the right ballot. Voting online will increase the turnout of voters because it could allow those eligible voters out of town to vote and also perhaps people in the military over sea to vote.

An interesting way to make poll voting a smoother process would be to recruit new poll workers and train them well. The poll workers are mostly retired folks. To diversify the poll worker pool, they could recruit high school or college students and a good incentive to get them to participate could be to give them the day off from school. The poll workers usually only receive about two hours of training before working their twelve hour shift. [9] More intensive training can lead to poll workers to be more effective and efficient.

Even if you do not vote, there are other ways people can get involved in the political system, for example attending candidate debates. This is a great opportunity to see what the candidates stand for and this can get you interested if one of the candidates share the same interest as you. Community and campaign groups often hold “Meet the candidate” events. [10] This provides people a chance to meet with the candidates and express any concerns or questions. Another way to get involved would be writing to a newspaper, whether it be about which candidate you like better or perhaps just expressing ideas about the entire campaign. People can also volunteer to help with a candidate’s campaign, even if just for a couple hours. People have a sense of pride when they help in the political system, knowing they put effort into shaping a better America.

Being a citizen in America means having the right to choose. I choose not to vote for reasons I cannot explain because I am not quite sure. Researching and discussing this topic has made me realize how easy it is to get involved and how important it is as a citizen to put my say in the future of this country. These ideas stated would lead to a smoother and a more accessible voting system. Minor changes could lead to a dramatic increase in voting participation. Although there will still be those who may not have a particular interest in politics, the ones that were not able to vote due to life reasons, perhaps they will have a better chance at placing their vote. The United States political system stands a better chance if we just make those minor advances and exercise our right as American citizens.

Notes

[1]. “Blog.” Bipartisan Policy Center. N.p., 10 May 2013. Web. 7 Oct. 2014. .
[2]. “Election Results 2012: Voter Turnout Lower than 2008 and 2004, Report Says.” KNXV. CNN Wire, 8 Nov. 2012. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. .
[3]. “Blog.” Bipartisan Policy Center
[4]. “Blog.” Bipartisan Policy Center.
[5]. Dye, Lee. “The Psychology of Voting.” ABC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Oct. 2014. .
[6]. Wilson, Reid. “15 Ways to Make Voting Easier.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d.Web.7Oct.2014. .
[7]. Wilson, Reid. “15 Ways to Make Voting Easier.” Washington Post.
[8]. Wilson, Reid. “15 Ways to Make Voting Easier.” Washington Post.
[9]. “A Plan to Make Voting Easier.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 Jan. 2014. Web. 7 Oct. 2014. .
[10]. “Ten Ways to Get Involved in Elections.” Ten Ways to Get Involved in Elections. Accessed October 8, 2014. http://cms.asce.org/Government-Relations/Key-Contact-Program/Ten-Ways-to-Get-Involved-in-Elections/

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