Why don’t more Americans vote?

On November 6, millions of Americans will make a mad dash for the polling booths and determine the occupants of the 435 House seats and 33 Senate seats, as well as the thousands of local and state positions that are up for grabs. Or, at least, politicians hope that they will.

Unfortunately for these politicians, it does not seem that this vision will be achieved soon, despite fervent efforts to guarantee voter loyalty. These politicians are likely to be disappointed this year, just as they were in 2014, when a mere 35.9 percent of the American population voted at midterms, the lowest number since 1942, according to the United States Elections Project (USEP).

Despite popular belief, this is not a new phenomenon. According to USEP, voter turnout during midterms has not been at or above 50 percent of the population since 1914, and percentages have hovered around the 30-40 percent range for decades.

If history is any indication, this election will be no different. Despite the political significance of this upcoming Election Day, most voters will choose to remain at home. Most claim that they are too busy to vote, or that they do not have enough time to visit polling booths. However, this is often not the case.

Many voters, like Granada Hills resident Jonathan Kim, have simply become disillusioned with politicians. “I no longer believe in politicians’ empty promises for a better America, so I don’t feel that there’s a point in voting,” Kim said.

Voter turnout rates are also highly correlated with factors such as wealth, race, and, most overwhelmingly, age. “The wealthy tend to vote more frequently, [and] nonvoters are more likely to be poor, young, Hispanic, or Asian-American,” according to National Public Radio (NPR) in “On the Sidelines of Democracy: Exploring Why So Many Americans Don’t Vote.”

“There is a significant lack of knowledge [in young people] about how exactly the government works, and, therefore, how their vote actually matters,” according to Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, the director of Tufts University’s CIRCLE program.

In a survey of working-class youth, she found that a staggering 20 percent of young people believe that they do not know enough to vote, and that many young people do not believe voting to be an effective way by which society can be changed.

Over 50 percent of the American population do not vote in general elections or midterms. Those who do not vote lose the chance to have their interests considered in the political process, and are thus not adequately represented in the voting pool.

In Science News, political scientists identified several effective methods for bringing more voters to the polls. First, we must educate our citizenry; those with college degrees are more likely to understand the voting process, and are thus more likely to vote. Secondly, we should employ more peer pressure by adding social pressures to bring voters to the poll. Thirdly, we must establish an environment of healthy competition within our communities; when people feel that their votes will make a difference, they will be more likely to vote. Finally, Science News points to the hundreds of studies which show that more personal one-on-one discussion with candidates or fellow voters can boost voting rates significantly.

Author: Apsara Senaratne

Apsara Senaratne is a junior at Granada Hills Charter High School and Feature Editor of the school newspaper, The Plaid Press. She feels very strongly about the right to free speech, and views journalism as a medium through which she can openly express controversial views, both political and personal.

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