Wilson is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Indianapolis and Public Voices Member at The OpEd Project.
Senate action on electoral legislation has stalled in 2021, even as governors across the country have urged the U.S. Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the Advancement of Voting Rights Act. John R. Lewis. The postponement came at a time when voting rights are under siege in many cities and states, potentially preventing many voters from voting.
In a recent interview with CBS ‘Face The Nation, VP Kamala Harris said, “And right now we’re about to take ourselves off the map as a role model, if we let people destroy it.” one of the most important pillars of a democracy are free and fair elections.
Recently, activists in New York City worked to give non-citizens the right to vote in local elections while Massachusetts plans to register on the same day. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice recently announced its lawsuit against the state of Texas for violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
National issues involving voting appear to be more politicized and polarized.
The Voting Rights Bill, named in memory of the late civil rights leader and longtime representative of Georgia, proposes numerous reforms, including the requirement for federal preclearance to change certain constituencies, the limiting restrictive voter identification requirements and adding requirements to change the keeping of voters’ lists or polling stations.
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Access to ballots has become a highly politicized subject in our country. Changing the voting rules will inevitably influence changes in behavior. But just making it easier to vote doesn’t mean people will be incentivized to do so. Perhaps involving young Americans in the process will improve voting rates.
The previous legislation made small improvements. The Help America Vote Act of 2002, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, and the Voter Registration Act of 1965 marked increases, but none triggered a substantial wave of higher voter turnout.
In order to get people to vote, the voters themselves have to want to do so. Research shows that early learning experiences as well as confidence and understanding of the electoral system lead to greater voter interest. In this area, the United States as a democracy lags behind other countries.
In the United States, the turnout is on average 55% to 60% in presidential election years and the numbers are much lower in non-year election cycles (53.4% in 2018 and 41.9% in 2014 ).
Interestingly, 2020 marked a record high, with 67% of eligible citizens of voting age, according to the Census Bureau. While this increase deserves recognition, the reality is that it is still far lower than many democracies around the world. Turkey and Sweden rank among the highest participation rates with 88.9 percent and 82 percent, while Switzerland (36 percent) and Luxembourg (48 percent) are among the lowest.
Other countries may boast of a higher participation rate, but this may be the result of their institutional structures that encourage or require it. Data from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance shows that 27 countries practice the obligation.
Even so, voter turnout reveals a decline in voter turnout in all countries over the past 70 years, although the numbers are even higher in states that require the vote compared to those that do not. . More democracies are holding elections on weekends or even declaring them holidays, giving many workers a day off with enough time to vote.
And that’s where the United States has to step in, Vice President Harris said in the CBS interview: “I think voting rights are one of the most important issues we face as a. as individuals and as leaders today, there is no doubt, no. question. Voting rights lead to all other rights, all other rights. And so we need to prioritize that as a nation, all of us, and understand why voting rights are important and – and – and insist that our elected leaders preserve those rights. “
One way to get more voter turnout is to get students to work in polls. Forty-five states have youth voter agent programs that allow adolescents as young as 15 to participate directly in elections.
For example, Indiana offers the Hoosier Hall Pass program through the Secretary of State’s office, allowing 16 and 17 year olds to serve as registered voting agents in elections.
Although this program has been around for almost two decades, many students and school districts do not take advantage of this unique opportunity to participate directly in democracy. In Indianapolis and Marion County, the state capital and largest urban area, 150 students served among the 4,000 election workers employed in general elections.
Poll workers tend to be older; a Pew Research survey found that the majority of election workers are over the age of 60. This was of particular concern during the Covid-19 pandemic. Voter registration efforts, like the Big-Ten leader Purdue University, can also encourage young voter participation.
When the United States Constitution was ratified in 1788, only white males who owned property were qualified to vote. Since then, numerous amendments and laws have allowed more Americans to participate, breaking down barriers of race, gender, ethnicity, property and age.
The requirements for voting now are fairly straightforward and straightforward: you must be a U.S. citizen, be at least 18 years of age, and meet your state’s residency and registration requirements. In most states, you can’t serve a felony conviction, but in Maine, Vermont, and Washington, DC, criminals never lose their right to vote.
The American electoral system would benefit from seriously reassessing the existing mechanisms and their effects. Voting is more than an annual task, and empowering “pre-voters” through experiential learning can impart that sense of civic virtue that is necessary for a healthy democracy.
Maybe then more Americans who can vote will actually vote.
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