Why Voter Turnout is Inherently Low

Despite the joy many feel from Donald Trump losing his bid for reelection, there are still many fears to be had for the future of our nation. The very fact that 70 million people voted for Donald Trump is concerning and the closeness of this election does not prompt for a future of prospering democratic presidents. 

newspaper cover announcing Biden's win Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels

This sentiment is shared by many other Americans as Van Jones, a news commentator, author and lawyer tweeted after the election “Moral victory and political victory are not the same. Political victory is possible. But we wanted to see a repudiation of this direction for the country, and that has not yet come. That hurts.” 

This quote is powerful and shows that the nation has a lot of work to do in the next four years. 

Many feel the democratic party should try to change their platform to appeal to some of Trump’s voters, but this drastic change could be avoided. For years it has been the general consensus that the key to a democratic win is high voter turnout as minorities and young people are least likely to vote, but often most likely to vote blue. 

Five people with fist up Photo by fauxels from Pexels

If Democrats want to avoid another loss and another president similar to Trump (or possibly even Trump again) high voter turnout is key. 

The power of minority votes was particularly shown in this election with Georgia where Stacey Abrams and her organization Fair Fight registered more than 800,000 voters which is a major reason the state flipped blue. The reality is that Joe Biden’s win is from people showing up at the polls, particularly Black Americans. It is important for Democrats to recognize that this victory may not mean victories in the future, and this much enthusiasm from voters most likely will not continue.

Even with record amounts of voting, only 53% of gen-Z and millennials voted. Furthermore, this enthusiasm and record was encouraged by extenuating circumstances such as an extremely polarizing incumbent President, a pandemic and the increasingly important issue of racial justice. If these issues were not prevalent the amount of votes may not have been as high.

It was found in a survey done by Tufts University that “82% of adults between the age of 18 and 23 said the pandemic made them realize political leaders’ decisions impacted their everyday lives.” There was also more access to mail in ballots due to coronavirus which made voting much easier. These circumstances will not be present (hopefully) next election and if extreme circumstances like these are what is needed to get people to vote, that is not a good sign for Democrats. 

blue mask with tiles spelling Photo by Glen Carrie from Unsplash

Voting in the US is an inherently difficult task. According to the National Conference of State Legislature there are six states that do not allow in-person early voting, meaning there is only one day citizens in those states can vote in person. This is an issue for many, especially those that are lower income and cannot afford to take a day off or have a hard time scheduling a day off. 

According to Fair Fight, 1.6 million voters were purged from voter rolls from 2010-2018 and more than 53,000 voter registrations were put into a long term pending status, 80% of these being voters of color. Voter suppression is an extremely pressing issue that needs to be handled at a legal and national level, however, as shown in this election by Stacey Abrams and other black organizers the fastest way to combat voter suppression is voter turnout.

There is also the major issue that some people genuinely just don’t care about politics. As an extremely political person it baffles me when my friends show no interest in the election or politics as a whole. In an article analyzing why people don’t vote, Leonie Huddy, a professor of political science who specializes in the psychology of elections commented on this aspect. In the MSNBC article he was quoted saying “Some people find politics conflictual, difficult to understand, or are preoccupied with other aspects of their lives”. Huddy continues to state that many young people fall into this ideology. He elaborates that although many young people do believe politics is important and central to them many also don’t, therefore they prioritize other things. 

Mail-in Vote Box Photo by Element5 Digital from Unsplash

There is also the issue that young voters are often shamed for not knowing enough. The perspective that teenagers and young people know nothing because they haven’t had enough life experience is an issue that correlates to our disinterest in politics. Many young people are too afraid to even ask for help in terms of politics for fear of being ridiculed. Joan Mandle is the executive director of Democracy Matters, a nonpartisan organization that teaches students how to organize democracy reform. Mandle stated to Yes Magazine that “Many people don’t know how to vote or research the issues and are ashamed to ask for help” and called upon the older generations to be mentors for the newcomers to politics. 

Despite the fact that there was record high voter turnout this year, this does not mean the issues of voter suppression and politicalness are eradicated. Democratic politicians, and the United States as whole, cannot rely on a pandemic and a polarizing candidate to increase how many people vote. In four years these problems will be gone and it is likely that less people will vote, unless there are continued efforts to help combat voter suppression and encourage young voters. This issue is not only a party issue but an issue for the entire nation as the only way to have a fair and representative democracy is if everyone’s voice is heard by voting.

 

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7