Opinion: U.S. Governments Should Do More to Foster Voter Participation
President Obama last night announced the creation of a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. He tapped Democrat lawyer Bob Bauer and Republican lawyer Ben Ginsgberg to co-chair the commission. I agree that we need to do all we can to make sure our “God-given rights are protected here at home.”
The sad reality is that the United States is 138th out of 169 countries in terms of Representative voter turn-out versus the voting age population. We are 12th out of 16 countries in North America, behind Canada for registered voter turnout.
Voter turnout growth as a percent of registered voters and total population is flat. Our Democracy is weaker because the voice of all citizens is not being heard. Though it is a right and responsibility of citizens to vote the complexity of life and built up disdain for Government and its processes has created the environment of not prioritizing the need to vote.
It is the responsibility of Congress to enable and foster our Constitution, and in this case be innovative to make sure all voices are heard at the polls. We are the lead proponent of democracy through action and funding in the world, but when it comes to our own country our turnout results don’t represent our international actions.
Decisions made by our democratically elected government are less legitimate because of lower proportions of the population which participates.
There a lot of good ideas to enhance the voting experience and increase voter turnout and hopefully this new commission will identify and implement a few. Some in place already include external voting, vote by mail, and early voting, but that doesn’t mean they are effectively implemented.
At a minimum, the commission should look at the practices in six top voter turnout states which realize 60% plus of eligible voter turnout. There are two common variable identified as driving attribute to high turnout: one is same day voter registration and the other high civic engagement. Another reason is convenience of voting, for example by way of vote-by-mail ballot.
A more reliable and predictable voting process is needed and the US should be in the lead for fostering democracy with high voter participation.