Voter Turnout in the U.S. Compared To Other Countries
When measuring citizen participation in the democratic process, an obvious instrument is voter turnout. Knowing how many people voted in an election and who they are is valuable information for the government to have. Voter turnout can be measured in a number of ways. The percentage of registered voters who actually voted can be counted, the percentage citizens eligible to vote who voted, or the number of citizens of legal voting age who voted can be counted to see how many citizens voted in any election. These methods to count voters are the greatest voter turnout than others. The United States has a notoriously lower voter turnout than many other countries, despite having a high number of citizens who are eligible voters.
There are an estimated 58 countries with a higher voter turnout than the United Stated. However, why is this? The country with the highest voter turnout is Australia. This is due mostly to its strict laws. If citizens do not show up to the polls to vote they are fined, which helps offer a healthy incentive to vote. Belgium has the second estimated voter turnout. Belgium also uses the law to encourage voters to the booth. Voters who continually fail to vote in Belgium are eventually excluded from all future voting processes. This adds further incentive for citizens; though they may be apathetic to current issues or political candidates they understand if they fail to vote their voice may not be heard when an issue they care about does arise (114). During this lawful motivation works in Australia and Belgium, it would surely fail in the United States because forcing voters to vote in a democracy, would seem more like an infringement on most American’s rights than a reason to get involved.
Many other countries, such as Russia, Brazil, and France, do not threaten legal repercussions to those who do not support elections and yet their voter turnout is still better than the United States. This offers a more important question of why voter turnout in the United States is so low. We do not threaten voters with law, and we do offer the same democratic society as other countries, so why do voters tend to avoid the booths? One of the biggest reasons seems to be the absence of trust in the government. It may surprise some to hear that Iraq’s voter turnout is higher than that of the United States. This can be attributed to the fact that relatively new democracies such as the government in Iraq have yet to have the time to make mistakes like that of the American government. Mistakes, whether purposeful or not, lose the trust of citizens over time. Citizens grew lazy and less involved in the system, compared to other, more idyllic societies (195). The citizens of America have grown jaded over time while citizens in other countries are still thankful for the chance to vote in elections.
It appears that another reason voter turnout is higher in other countries than the United States has to do with motivation. Many things in the United States are streamlined and made for convenience. Many times, voting is not one of them. Much like waiting in line at the DMV or attempting to get a doctor’s appointment, voting is a hassle that Americans simply do not make the time for. Meanwhile in other countries such as Paraguay and Rwanda, citizens are still happy to have a chance to vote and will go out of their way to do so. Americans have grown lazy, and the idea of standing in line at the polling booths bores them. Mail-in ballots helped remedy this issue but only to a certain degree, as it only brought our voter turnout percentage up by 3 points worldwide (200). We are simply not as motivated to be involved in the democratic process as citizens in other countries.
When it comes to comparing voter turnout in the United States to other countries around the world, many factors are involved. Some countries use legal influence to achieve a high voter turnout. This would go against what many Americans feel are their basic rights and would never work here. Many American citizens no long trust the American government as they once did. The voting process is not as valuable to them as it once was. Also, most unfortunately, Americans are lazy, and the thought of voting is too tedious for many of us when compared to the citizens of other countries. For these reasons and several others, the United States has a poorer voter turnout than many other countries around the world.
Blais, Andre. "WHAT AFFECTS VOTER TURNOUT?" Annual Review of Political Science (2006): 111-125. Print.
Marien, Sofie, Marc Hooghe and Ellen Quintellier. "Inequalities in Non-institutionalised Forms of Political Participation: A Multi-level Analysis of 25 countries." Political Studies (2010): 187-213. print.