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For The Sake Of Our Democracy

Nick Switanek is a data scientist and social scientist based in Evanston, Ill. He recently did an extensive study on voter participation in the U.S. with what I think are shocking and disturbing results. Turnout at the polls for elections is so low that hardly any elected official on the national level is elected by a majority of all eligible voters. In fact some representatives and senators are elected by unbelievably low numbers of people. For example, Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and John Cornyn of Texas both won their seats by getting only 17% of eligible voters. That means five out of six eligible voters did not vote for them. More than seventy senators won with the votes of just a third of their states eligible voters. And no U.S. President has ever been elected by a majority of all eligible voters. Donald Trump won with the votes of just 27.7% which was worse than Barack Obama’s first term 32.6%. When that few people participate in electing our leaders, it seems to me democracy is in real danger. There have been proposals that voter registration and voting itself be made easier, for example on line and same day registration and even early voting and voting by mail. Perhaps those would help. Maybe we need to consider what the policy is in other parts of the world where voting is compulsory. Many democracies make election day a national holiday and levy fines or tax penalties on voters who do not participate. Voter participation in these countries averages 85% or higher. Americans can fail to get the representative democracy we deserve in two ways: either lawmakers can be elected by a minority or they can act on behalf of a minority. Right now both of these things are happening. And as a result real democracy is endangered. Americans need to vote.


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