reasons lowvoter turnout by Matthew Vaden Sooha Ahmad Emily Perry
INTRODUCTION Even though voter turnout increased 4% between the 2000 & 2004 Presidential elections, the U.S. is still ranked 20th out of 21 in voter turnout among established democracies.
INTRODUCTION • There are many speculations about the reasons for low voter turnout. • These range from social, procedural, economic, political, demographic, to technological explanations. • In this presentation, we will address the problems presented by the voter registration process, provisional ballots, e-voting, and the election and voting processes themselves that negatively effect voter turnout.
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VOTER REGISTRATION • As 89% of registered voters actually voted in the 2004 Presidential elections, it shows that voter registration is a good indicator of voting behavior. • Figuring our the reasons why people do not register is a good way of figuring out why people don’t turnout to vote. • According to a recent Census report, there were 32 million potential, but unregistered, voters for the 2004 Presidential elections. • Out of these 32 million, • 51% claimed disinterest in politics or a belief that their vote will not count, and are voluntary disenfranchised. • 28% claimed involuntary disenfranchisement due to the registration process. • 21% claimed voting eligibility problems, personal or religious reasons or simply didn’t answer
REGISTRATION DEADLINES • Of the 9 million people who said they had problems with the registration process, the majority said they missed their state’s registration deadline. • This deadline ranges nationwide from 10 to 30 days prior to the election. • NJ deadline is 21 days before Election Day • This is problematic because: • Registration ends just as political campaigns are swinging into full-gear • Politically inactive people may become aware of the election just as registration is ending.
ELECTION DAY REGISTRATION This problem could be easily remedied with Election Day Registration, which allows constituents to register on Election Day, and there would be no need for registration deadlines, which would allow 9 million more people a chance to vote. • 9 million votes are equivalent to the votes of Ohio, or Pennsylvania • 4 of the 7 states that allow Election Day registration boast voter turnout rates above 70%, topping out at with the nation’s highest at 77% • The nation’s and NJ’s voter turnout rate is about 65%
REGISTRATION RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS • Most states require registered voters to be a resident for at least ten to thirty days prior to the election. • NJ requires a 30 day residency prior to Election Day. • 4.5 million people didn’t register because of residency requirements • That’s the same as Washington or Massachusetts not voting! • Registration deadlines contribute to this process because of the possible conflict presented by registration deadlines and residency requirement • Easy solution = deregulating residency requirements and/or allow Election Day registration
REGISTRATION EDUCATION • Almost 6 million voters (the same as NJ) didn’t register because they didn’t know how or where to register. • Perhaps if the DNC and RNC ran informative ads about how & where to register, they would receive more votes for their party. • There would be more registered voters. • These ads would promote a more favorable image of both parties, especially if the ads also reduced the number of negative attack ads the committees produce.
HOW & WHERE TO REGISTER: • You can pick up a registration application at: • The Division of Elections office • The Commissioners of Registration office in your county • Municipal Clerk • Various state agencies • Division of Motor Vehicles • You can print the application from: • http://www.state.nj.us/lps/elections/voter-reg-form.pdf • And mail it to the Commissioners of Registration office in the county where you live.
PROVISIONAL BALLOTS • Used when a prospective voter’s voting eligibility cannot be verified • Counted on the basis of: (1) the verification of the voter’s eligibility; (2) ballot has been cast in the correct precinct or jurisdiction • Uncounted or discarded provisional ballots contribute to low voter turnout by disenfranchising voters • Even when an eligible voter casts a provisional ballot in the correct precinct, still a 33% chance that it will not be counted • According to Demos, a non-partisan public policy and research center, 1:3 or 650,000 of 2 million provisional ballots cast were left uncounted in the 2004 election
PROVISIONAL BALLOTS • Miles Rapoport, the Demos President, stated: “provisional ballots are supposed to be a foolproof backup on Election Day, but in reality, voters are given the false promise that they have responsibly exercised the most basic right in our democracy” • Literally disenfranchise voters because they sometimes block eligible voters from officially voting • Sometimes registration errors are administrative errors, but the voter is still prevented from voting • Sentiment of disenfranchisement is associated with low voter turnout, as 11% of the 142 million registered voters that did not vote in the 2004 Presidential election cite the belief that their vote will not be counted as the reason
HOW CAN THIS BE REMEDIED? • Most of the problems plaguing the provisional ballot system can be helped on a state level • Rapoport explains that fixing voter registration administrative systems, thus reducing administrative errors, and the correct training of poll officials, would ease some confusion • Ultimately, the easiest way would be the implementation of Election Day registration, eliminating the need for training and the problems presented by registration administrative errors
HELP AMERICA VOTE ACT • Under provisions of HAVA, states were granted federal funds in order to improve the overall voting process, which included specific funds to replace and upgrade punch card or lever voting machines by January 1, 2006 • NJ received $80 million • New Jersey started replacing their manual voting machines with computerized voting machines for the 2004 Presidential election, and completed the statewide transition by the 2006 mid-term elections • New Jersey’s transition was similar to the rest of the nation
THE PROBLEM WITH E-VOTING • The problem: no paper-trail of individual votes (the machines just print out total tabulations at the end of the day) • Implications: there is no immediate way to verify that one’s vote has truly been counted, and correctly • Security (hacking) concerns and machine malfunctions • Effects: voters are disenfranchised when they feel that their vote doesn’t count, and accordingly do not vote.
SOULTION? • Voter-Verified Paper Record (VVPR) • Printout of each vote that the voter can check before submitting • Benefits: • Allows a manual recount to occur if a machine’s reliability is questioned • Assures voters that their votes were counted, and correctly • Drawbacks: • This doesn’t entirely address security OR reliability issues • There are only 27 states that have VVPR legislation • New Jersey’s legislation states, “By January 1, 2008, each voting machine shall produce an individual permanent paper record for each vote cast, which shall be made available for inspection and verification by the voter at the time the vote is cast, and preserved for later use in any manual audit.”
DAMAGE DONE? • Even though NJ will have a VVPR system in place by 2008, what about the 2004 and 2006 elections? • There are: • many claims of alleged machine tampering • The US Attorney of NJ is investigating claims in 5 counties that certain machines were “pre-selected” for Menendez when voters went to vote • several websites that posted pictures of unattended voting machines • various reports of non-functioning machines on Election Day • These stories negatively impact voter turnout, and may have already done their damage, because, similar to provisional ballots, the uncertainty of the system emits a sense that one’s vote will not be counted correctly, so it doesn’t matter if one votes or not.
DIGITAL DIVIDE & E-VOTING • The different sides of the digital divide are composed of those who have regular and effective access to technology and those who do not. • Those who are familiar with technology: easier transition to e-voting • Those who are unfamiliar with technology: uncomfortable transition • May accidentally vote for the wrong candidate • May not vote at all • Conclusion: A manual voting option, one that offers more guarantees than provisional ballots, should be available to voters uncomfortable with using the electronic machines.
AMERICAN VOTING TRENDS • Voter turnout is dropping everywhere. • Voter turnout correlates closely with voter income.
MOST COMMON REASONS FOR DISINTEREST IN VOTING: • Not enough of a fine line drawn between candidates/parties on campaign issues. • Outcome of election cannot be determined by a single vote, it is a collective effort, thus leading to impatience. • Distrust in candidates – comes largely from big commerce that control social and financial influence in a given area while endorsing candidate’s campaign, causing imbalanced popularity between both candidates. • Voter knowledge of candidates and issues lags – politicians don’t have much power to do anything since they really just function as a professional lobbyist to federal gov’t as well as certain levels of state gov’t. • Voters become disinterested when candidates loose after being favored to win, leading to apathy and depression in the system
RESULTS OF DISINTEREST IN VOTING: • All of these factors favor incumbents because voters, especially those habitually vote for incumbents, are more likely to vote for somebody they know without critically remembering what kind of a politician they really are. Their level of popularity will rise and give way to tenure and uneven balance in political power and popularity to voters, government, and various public and private intuitions alike.
RESULTS OF DISINTEREST IN VOTING: • As politicians succeed with more and more incumbency in office, they will attempt to manipulate their message to the general public, leading citizens to grow content with public affairs, and finally resulting in the voting public to become lethargic with wanting to care. • Incumbents then will look to: • Keep the economy flat • Lower voter expectations • Discourage voter awareness • Minimize personal responsibility of unpopular, but essential, government services
REINSTATING INTEREST IN PUBLIC AFFAIRS • Things that may lead to a higher voter turnout may be: • If the incumbent annoys the electorate • If a new candidate with some juice attached to him emerges to run against him • A monumental political or economic event that takes place, such as a terrorist attack or federal investigation of a major financial intuition.
An example of the disorganization of getting out the vote initiatives…
CONCLUSIONS… • Election Day registration would encourage higher registration, thus higher voter turn-out, and eliminate the need for provisional ballots. • More steps need to be taken to ensure the security and reliability of e-voting systems. • A general interest in public affairs needs to be activated in the American public.