HGov: Voter Participation


Political participation is involvement in activities designed to influence public policy and leadership. A main issue of democratic government is the question of who participates in politics and how fully they participate.

Voting is the most widespread form of active political participation among Americans. However, voter turnout is significantly lower in the United States than in other democratic nations. The requirement that Americans must personally register in order to establish their eligibility to vote is one reason for lower turnout among Americans. Other democracies place the burden of registration on government officials rather than on individual citizens. The fact that the United States holds frequent elections also discourages some citizens from voting regularly.

To register to vote, you must fill out a form that asks for such basic information as your address and date of birth. You may also be required to provide the registrar of voters with proof of your identity. To encourage more people to vote, Congress has tried to make the voter-registration process easier. In 1993, for example, it passed the National Voter Registration Act, better known as the Motor Voter Act. This law requires that states allow residents to register to vote while applying for a driver’s license. It also requires states to provide voter-registration forms at social service offices and by mail. Increased voter registration, however, has not translated into high voter turnout on Election Day.

Voter turnout is the proportion of the voting-age population that actually votes. Today, the United States has one of the lowest voter turnouts among the world’s established democracies. Low voter-turnout rates have fueled concern that Americans are becoming less connected to their communities and see less reason to get involved in politics.

In any given election, as many as two-thirds of all Americans who could vote do not do so. When asked, nonvoters offer a number of reasons for not going to the polls. Many say they are just too busy. Others cite illness or lack of interest. Political scientists who study voting point to three differences between voters and nonvoters: age, education, and income.

Age. The percentage of people voting varies among different age groups. Most voters are over the age of 30, and voting tends to increase with age. Once voters reach 75, however, turnout begins to decline, mostly due to ill health. The younger a person is, the less likely he or she is to vote.

Education. Voting also varies by level of education. Americans with college educations vote in much higher numbers than do high school dropouts.

Income. Voting also varies with income group. Middle-class and wealthy Americans are much more likely to vote than are those living in poverty. This difference may, in part, reflect the fact that income and education are closely intertwined. However, there may be other barriers to voting among the poor.

Google Classroom: Question for Today – due tomorrow 10/4
Chapter 10 Quiz – tomorrow 10/4
Chapter 6 Quiz III (retest) – closes Friday 10/7



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