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Political Participation Voter Registration Reasons for Low Voter Turnout.

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Presentation on theme: "Political Participation Voter Registration Reasons for Low Voter Turnout."— Presentation transcript:

1 Political Participation Voter Registration Reasons for Low Voter Turnout

2 Voting  Voting is at the heart of a modern democracy  A vote sends a direct message to the government about how a citizen wants to be governed

3 Voting  Over the course of American history, voting rights have gradually expanded  Today—very few individuals are excluded

4 Voting  Yet—expanding suffrage is countered by a current trend:  Lower percentages of eligible voters in recent presidential elections actually going to the polls to cast their votes

5 Voting  For example—only about 50% of eligible voters actually voted in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections

6 Voter Registration  Laws vary according to state  All states except North Dakota require voter registration

7 Voter Registration  Until a few years ago some states required voters to register as much as 6 months before the election

8 Voter Registration  In other words, if someone moved into the state, forgot to register, or passed their 18 th birthday, he/she would be ineligible to vote in any elections for 6 months

9 Voter Registration  These rigid requirements were the result of voting abuses of the early 20 th century:  Ballot box stuffing  People voting twice  Dead people voting

10 Voter Registration  In recent times, these requirements are believed to be responsible for low voter turnout

11 Voter Registration  Federal law prohibits any state from requiring more than a 30- day waiting period

12 Voter Registration  In 1993, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act  AKA - Motor Voter bill

13 Motor Voter Bill  Allows people to register to vote while applying or renewing a driver’s license  Also requires states to provide assistance to facilitate voter registration

14 Motor Voter Bill  Removal of names from voting rolls for nonvoting is no longer allowed

15 Motor Voter Bill  Supporters of the law claim that it will add some 49 million people to the voting rolls

16 Motor Voter Bill  Neither the 2000 or 2004 presidential elections showed significant increases in voting percentages

17 Motor Voter Bill  In general, Democrats have been more supportive of the bill than Republicans

18 Why?

19 Motor Voter Bill  They believe new registration will favor the Democrats based on demographic factors

20 Other Reasons for Low Voter Turnouts  Difficulty of absentee voting  Number of offices to elect  Weekday, non-holiday voting  Weak political parties

21 Difficulty of Absentee Voting  Even if citizens remember to register ahead of time, they can only vote in their own precincts

22 Difficulty of Absentee Voting  If a voter is out of town on election day, he or she has to vote by absentee ballot  Most states have stringent rules about voting absentee

23 Difficulty of Absentee Voting  For example, some states require a voter to apply for a ballot in person  America is a highly mobile society, so this makes a difference

24 Number of Offices to Elect  Because American vote for so many officials on many different levels of government, they cannot keep up with all the campaigns & elections

25 Difficulty of Absentee Voting  Americans vote for more public officials & hold more elections by far than any other modern democracy  In most states, primary elections, general elections are held every year or two

26 Weekday, Non-holiday Voting  In many other democracies, elections take place on weekends  Others that hold elections on weekdays declare election day a national holiday so that no one has to go to work

27 Weekday, Non-holiday Voting  By law, national general elections in the U.S. are held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in even-numbered states

28 Weekday, Non-holiday Voting  Most state & local elections are also held during the week, and only a few localities declare election day a holiday  Many people find it difficult to get off work in order to vote

29 Weak Political Parties  In many countries, parties make great efforts to get people to the polls

30 Weak Political Parties  In earlier days, parties called their members to ensure that they register and that they vote  Parties also would often provide transportation to the polls

31 Weak Political Parties  Although parties still have “get- out-the-vote campaigns,” parties today are not as strongly organized at the “grass roots” – or local level as they used to be

32 Political Participation  In studies that compare political participation rates in the U.S. with other countries, Americans tend to engage more frequently in non- electoral forms of participation :

33 Weak Political Parties  Examples include:  Campaign contributions  Community involvement  Contacts with public officials

34 Enduring Questions  Does it really matter that the U.S. has a low voter turnout?  Some say no because they think it indicates Americans are happy with the status quo

35 Enduring Questions  Others believe that a low voter turnout signals apathy about out political system in general  If only a few people take time to learn about the issues we are open to manipulation by authoritarian rule

36 Enduring Questions  Did the expansion of suffrage lead to voting rates by widening the voting base?  Will the Motor-Voter Law eventually improve voting rates?  Is voter registration still too difficult a process?

37 Enduring Questions  Do we need to move elections to weekends?  Do we need fewer elected positions?  Or do low voter turnouts just indicated that people are happy with government & don’t feel the need to vote?

38 Whatever the reasons, the U.S. today has one of its lowest voting rates among modern democracies

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