Voter turnout in US lower than most industrialized nations
The Pew Research Center says that only 37 percent of Americans voted in the 2010 midterms, and analysts expect the number to be around the same this. Many of the people who don’t vote are poor and less educated.
Thirty-four percent of non-voters are under the age of 30; and nearly half of non-voters areminorities, including Latinos and African-Americans. Many people from low-income backgrounds don’t have the means get to polling stations to cast their ballots, or cannot afford to take time off from work to do so.
The Census Bureau says most people who don’t vote say they don’t have the time, while others aren’t interested or don’t like the candidates.
During Al Jazeera America’s Sunday night segment “The Week Ahead,” Thomas Drayton posed the question of who actually votes to Fredrick Harris, Director of African-American Politics and Society at Columbia University; and to John Hudak, a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, and Managing Editor of the FixGov blog, who joined the conversation from Washington, DC.
“There are huge groups of people in the United States who end up not voting particularly during midterm elections, but those people tend to come out during presidential elections,” says Hudak. “I think it goes back to how connected people are to the election, and whether the elections that they happen to be voting in are competitive.”
Hudak explains that older, white Americans who tend to be Republican, have higher voter turnout partly due to tradition, and partly because they are better able to make it to the polls, and are often more reached out to by campaigns. Mobilization efforts aimed at younger voters and minorities are generally less successful during midterm elections.
It tends to be a different scenario when there are issues pushing people to organize voter registration drives, or create more interest in the democratic process. In Ferguson, Missouri, where black teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in August, Reverend Al Sharpton criticized the 12 percent turnout in the last local election, calling it “an insult to your children.” He’s encouraged local activists to use Brown’s death to get people more politically involved.
Harris says that “younger voters, like some other voters, have to feel like they have a stake in the outcome of the election.” He explains that home owners are more likely to vote than people who rent, because they feel like they have a much higher stake in their communities. “When young voters feel that there is a hot, burning issue or they think they can make a difference in an election, like they did in the 2008 presidential election, then they will come out to vote.”