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Voter Turnout: Important for the Government,

Democrats, and Republicans


By Scott Balding

think its safe to say that when it comes to democracy, high turnout

during elections is a positive thing. When more people get to have a voice in
the election process, the more representative our politicians become. In
America, however, turnout has been particularly low compared to other
democracies around the world. Even when voting is in a citizen's best
interest, why don't they turnout? Is it because they're lazy? Apathetic? Or
does the American election model disenfranchise voters from electing
representatives that truly represent them?le

Elections seem simple on the outside, but they can become incredibly complicated

General Elections in a Nutshell


General elections in America typically follow a set of guidelines:

1. The Democratic and Republican Parties hold a nationwide contest to


determine their parties' nominee for POTUS
2. These contests are determined through either primaries or caucuses
in all 50 states via popular vote
3. Once the parties' nominees have been chosen, they duke it out for a
spot on the White House
In its most basic form, general elections typically look like this, albeit an
oversimplification of the entire process. You have complications such as
which states get to vote first in these party contests, whether they should
be a caucus or a primary, opened or closed, etc. I'm willing to argue that not
only is this process unnecessarily complicated, it's built in a way that
disenfranchises voters from their civil liberty to vote.
Primaries and Caucuses
Let's talk about primaries and caucuses. In a primary, a statewide ballot is
held all day, not unlike that of a traditional election, at any polling place. In
a caucus, you must participate at a specific time and a specific place that
can take up to a couple hours. These elections can also be open, closed, or
mixed. Open elections allow any registered voter to vote for any party
nominee, a closed election only allows member of that party to vote, and a
mixed election is somewhere in between.
Caucuses by their own definition greatly discourage voter turnout. Since
they happen at a specific time at a specific place, if you have work or any
sort of personal issue, you're out of luck. In the 2016 presidential race,
caucuses consistently have lower voter turnout than primaries with the only
exception being New York State (A closed primary). So far, no caucus has
even managed to push to at least 20% turnout (That's less than half of the
general election turnout). It is for this reason why I believe it's time to get
rid of caucuses and replace them with primaries.

Open and Closed Elections


As discussed before, elections can either be opened or closed depending on
the election rules of each state. Open elections are superior to closed
elections in that it allows not only Democrats and Republicans to freely
chose who they want, but Independents and third-party members as well.
Approximately 43% of all American voters are registered as Independent,
meaning that they do not identify with any political party. This contrasts
with Democrats (30%) and Republicans (26%) who do not have near as
much of a voting population. Whenever a state holds a closed election, the
state parties are effectively shutting Independents, nearly half of all voters,
from having a say in who gets nominated to run for president.
Why This is a Really Bad System
The 2016 presidential race is very unique in that the frontrunners of each
party have a very low favorability rating compared to their counterparts.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner has an unfavorability rating of
55.6%, and Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner has a startling
unfavorability rating of 63.6%. With frontrunners that unpopular, this may
almost be a literal choice between the lesser of two evils in the general
election.
When you prevent Independents from voting, a party runs the risk of losing
appeal from from them, and the more likely you are to lose during a
presidential race. Like it or not, Independents are an important part of
modern American politics, and if you don't accommodate for them, it may
cost you their vote.
Congressional Elections
Voter turnout during congressional elections is lackluster to say the least.
Though turnout in these elections are significantly greater than in party

contests, they are still consistently lower than corresponding general


elections. Some people may put blame on the slow rise of voter ID laws
across the country as the cause of this, but I believe that it may go deeper
than that.
Often times, general elections have much more news coverage than their
congressional counterparts, therefor more people are much more likely to
actually pay attention and participate in them. When was the last time
you've seen a debate between two candidates for Congress? Chances are,
never.
This is not to mention state and local elections where turnout might be even
lower than most congressional elections. It's these elections that are
arguably more important than any presidential race simply because these
are the people that make the laws. Remember the unfavorability ratings of
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? Well, the unfavorability rating Congress
is79%. If this doesn't show that there is a fundamental problem with how
our elections work, nothing will.
Mandatory Voting: A Possible Solution
While getting rid of voter ID laws may potentially help increase voter turnout
throughout the country, that doesn't mean that people who can vote will.
Even general elections, the most publicized elections out there, rarely get
above 70% turnout. The solution, however, may just be across the Pacific.
In Australia, voter turnout has been consistently above 90% for over several
decades. This is mainly due to the fact that they have mandatory voter
laws.
Mandatory voting is where it is legally required for all eligible citizens in a
democracy to attend a polling place during an election. Failure to attend
results in a relatively small fine. You may become exempt from this law only

if you have a legitimate reason not to vote such as hospitalization or any


other extenuating circumstances.
I believe that not only would this solve the problem extremely low turnout
during government elections, but could also solve the problem of low
turnout in party contests if gets more people into politics. Though some
people say that mandatory voting takes away individual rights, it's worth
remembering that things such as taxes and jury duty are also mandatory in
America.
Voter Turnout: It's Good For Everyone
You don't have to agree with the solutions I've presented to this major
political issue, but it's important that we understand that it exists. If we
want a true, representative government that reflects the values of its own
people, voter turnout is the first and most important issue we must address.
Whether it's in the government or in our political parties, we must demand
to them that we want change in our electoral system whether it's through
mandatory voting, banning closed elections and caucuses, or something
else. Even if we have a democratic system and only a minority of people
actually vote, then in actuality, this system is hardly democratic.