Out of all 169 countries who’s citizens cast votes, the US ranks 120th on the list for voter turnout, according to a January 2012 study from the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.
While some don’t vote for religious reasons or professional attempts to keep unbiased, the majority of those who choose not to vote do so because they feel that their vote doesn’t matter. And, according to Lyle Scruggs, a political scientist at the University of Connecticut, they are right.
An “individual’s vote doesn’t count for much, because the opposing party can stymie the president’s political party,” said Scruggs. He added, “The chance that your vote determines the outcome one way or another is very, very small.”
This is even more true in a large democracy like the US.
Also, choosing the president through the Electoral College, rather than by popular vote, may also reduce voter turnout. Because only a few states are “competitive,” most presidential campaigns pour resources and funding into those ten swing states, and spend almost no time campaigning anywhere else, notes Scruggs.
“If we had a popular-vote election of the president,” Scruggs speculates, “where which state you lived in didn’t matter, you would likely see many more national campaigns trying to mobilize a much more national constituency.”
Another reason that people skip the presidential polls is that we have too many things to vote for, and too often. Michael McDonald, political scientist at George Mason University, states, “Part of the issue is we have too much democracy.”
“We’re just voting a lot in the US,” he adds.
Add up state, local, and national elections, plus mid-term elections, and Americans have a chance to cast some sort of ballot about once a year. Other Western democracies, notes McDonald, “only have an election every five years.”
“That frequency makes voting a hassle,” he said.
Over 40 percent of Americans are expected to skip out on today’s visit to the voting booth.
Other democracies, such as Argentina and Australia, have mandatory voting. Small fines for those who skip the polls keep up the social norm for voting, and obviously help boost participation.
Readers: How do you feel about issues surrounding voting? Do you feel like your vote for president counts?