Voter Turnout Is Critical For Democracy

Midterm Election Voter Turnout Percentages Are Notoriously Low

It’s no secret that midterm elections have low voter turnout. It seems voters are drawn to participate more when presidents are elected. Recent history shows we are not improving this bad habit. PBS noted that the 2014 midterm electionshad the lowest voter turnout in 70 years. Only 36.4% of the voting population participated! Two years later in 2016, the turnout percentage jumped to 69.12% (Still a low percentage turnout.).

080118 Voter Turnout Button

Since no presidential candidate will be on the ballot in November, who will turnout to vote? If you’ve watched the news you know there is much concern about the upcoming midterm elections because they may dictate which political party will control U.S. Congress.

Who Is Going To Vote In This Midterm Election?

The concern about voter turnout this fall is valid. Is everyone so turned off by the rancor and polarized politics that many will simply not vote? Richard Fry, a senior researcher for the Pew Research Center, notes in a June 14th article that younger generation voters, while being the majority, may not turnout to vote this fall. He points out that many younger than 53 may not participate.

This nation’s voting turnout history is nothing to cheer about. Many registered voters fail to vote in significant numbers no matter which election it is. True, some states have voter turnouts better than others, but the averages always prove to be, well, meager.

Voter Registration And Voter Turnout Can Improve

Danielle Root and Liz Kennedy of the Center for American Progress (CAP) note in a comprehensive July report, Increasing Voter Participation in America, methods to consider for improving voter turnout. Their conclusion follows (I added the bolded emphasis):

Our elected bodies are more representative and our laws are fairer when all eligible Americans are able to have their voices heard and to participate in elections.For voters who are disengaged and disenchanted with the political process, robust civics education programs and integrated voter engagement initiatives can drive participation by re-energizing voters and providing them with reasons and opportunities to cast ballots on the issues that matter most to them and their communities. Furthermore, states must have in place affirmative voter registration and voting policies in order to ensure that eligible voters who want to vote are able to and are not blocked by unnecessary and overly burdensome obstacles such as arbitrary voter registration deadlines and inflexible voting hours. By adopting the policies discussed in this report, America can find its 92 million missing voters and improve the voting experience for all eligible voters.

Abbreviated, their recommendations are:

  • Automatic voter registration:…[I]f every state implemented Oregon’s model of AVR, more than 22 million registered voters could be added to state voter rolls in just the first year.
  • Same-day voter registration:…[I]f all states without SDR had passed and implemented the policy, there could have been approximately 4.8 million more voters in the 2016 elections.
  • Preregistration: In Florida, preregistration laws have been found to improve youth voting participation by 4.7 percentage points.
  • Online registration: …[H]ad every state implemented an online voter registration policy … there could have been more than 536,000 additional voters during the 2016 elections.
  • Early voting :…[I]f all states had early voting in place during the 2016 elections, there could have been at least 789,500 more voters.
  • No-excuse absentee voting: No-excuse absentee voting has been projected to increase voter participation by about 3 percent over time.
  • Vote-at-home with vote centers: Colorado’s vote-at-home plus vote centers policy increased voter participation in the state by about 2 to 5 percent and increased participation for young people by 9 percent.
  • Restore rights for formerly incarcerated people: …[I]f all formerly incarcerated people had their rights restored, there could have been more than 914,000 additional voters during the 2016 elections.
  • Strengthen civics education in schools: …[A] study of Kids Voting USA … in Kansas found that voter participation was 2.1 percent higher for both 18-year-olds and their parents in Kansas counties that incorporated Kids Voting into school curricula.
  • Invest in integrated voter engagement and outreach: Integrated voter engagement groups combine issue advocacy and organizing with voter mobilization to effectuate positive change within the communities they serve. … [H]ad every eligible nonvoting American been contacted by canvassers, there could have been approximately 6.2 million more voters during the 2016 elections.

Simple Math Of Voter Turnout And Counting Votes

There are two other voting numbers you should consider (taking the 2016 election as a typical example):

Over 63 million votes for the president were not considered! This is simply because the winner-takes-all approach (not a true part of the Electoral College) caused these votes to not count. It caused 46% of votes to be forfeited!

Coupled with over 30% of registered voters not voting in 2016 (70% voter turnout), the number of registered voters not participating in the presidential election burgeons to over 124 million!

Equal Voice Voting Improves Vote Totals

Equal Voice Voting calls for us to dispense with the winner-takes-all approach. We could add those 63 million voters back into the system and encourage more voters to turnout.

Let’s assume only a 70% voter turnout and that we can “find” an additional 92 million voters as the CAP report suggest. We could add over 64 million votes (70% of 92 million) to elect a president. Combine that with the 63 million votes that do not count we could gain by using Equal Voice Voting. It means we can conceivably have an additional 127 million votes to count in the presidential election.

This rudimentary bit of math indicates that instead of only 74 million votes being counted for the presidency (experienced in 2016), 201 million votes could count.

That’s a voter turnout (and votes being counted) of which we could all be proud!