Low Voter Turnout in the United States

Essay by ashleygreyCollege, UndergraduateA+, November 2008

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Throughout American history, there has been a steady decline in voter turnout. Not only has this been "humiliating" for the United States, low voter turnout has been and always will be a threat to American Democracy. The concept of democracy is dependent on citizens actively participating in elections and voting to select representatives for public office. The government cannot be representative of the people, unless the people elect its representatives. Voter turnout is a major indicator of how citizens view their electoral system, and whether or not they believe that the system is working. There are numerous factors that impede voter turnout, including: citizens' political attitudes, demographic factors, and the structure of the electoral system.

The established registration process is one of the main causes of low voter turnout in the United States. Unlike many democracies, "the United States places the burden of registration on the individual" (Vanishing Voter, 7).

There are no penalties for citizens that do not register or vote in American elections. Some propose that requiring citizens to vote and imposing penalties on those who fail to do so will increase voter turnout. The dilemma with this proposal is that it is fundamentally undemocratic. Citizens of democratic societies are promised the right to vote. In guaranteeing the right to vote, citizens are guaranteed the right not to vote as well. There are better solutions to the problem of low voter turnout in the United States than enacting compulsory voting laws.

America has not established a national system of automatic registration; procedures for voter registration differ from state to state. A universal system of voter registration would make it much more simple for people to vote. The problem with this solution is that automatically registering people to vote does not imply that they will actually go...