Gov: Voting

Voting is the most widespread form of political participation among Americans. There are four basic requirements to be eligible to vote in the United States. In most states, you must be:

• a U.S. citizen.
• at least 18 years old.
• a resident of the state.
• a legally registered voter.

To register to vote, you must fill out a form that asks for such basic information as your address and date of birth.

The voter requirement that Americans must personally register in order to vote is one reason for lower turnout among Americans. Voter turnout is significantly lower in the United   States than in other democratic nations. Other democracies place the burden of registration on government rather than on the individual citizen.

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.

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. Between 50 and 60 percent of American voters turn out to vote in presidential elections. In contrast, figures for most European democracies exceed 70 percent.

Frequency of American elections also discourages citizens from voting regularly. Finally, the major American political parties, unlike many of those in Europe, do not clearly represent the interests of opposing economic classes.

Some Americans do not vote because they think that policy will not change greatly. Civic duty, age, education, socioeconomic status, and other important factors affect voter turnout and participation.



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