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Voter Turnout on Election Day PDF Print
Written by Jonathan Haase   
Monday, 04 November 2002
With election day for 2002 tomorrow, I thought that this might be an appropriate time to do a rant on the lack of voter participation in the United States as a whole. With all of the other semi-political type rants that I have put on this page, it's only fitting that I should cover this subject as well.

According to census data from the year 2000, there were somewhere near 206 million people in the United States that were over the age of 18. This is a figure referred to by the federal election commission as V.A.P. or Voting Age Population.

Of the 206 Million people who could register and vote in the 2000 elections, a little more than 105 Million actually placed a vote in the November 5th elections. That's just slightly more than 51%. There is some amount of error in these numbers, as the FEC does admit that that 206 Million people over the age of 18, some of those are not actually eligible to vote in US elections for one reason or another. However when you consider that Census data only includes Legal residents of the US, I can't imagine that there is really a significant portion of the V.A.P. who are not eligible to register and vote.
Taking a bit closer look at the numbers listed here, you can see that only 155 Million or so individuals, around 76%, even bothered to register to vote. Even taking this number into account you can see that barely two thirds of those who registered to vote actually cast a ballot. Looking at the data referenced above, which is broken down by state, it's easy to see that some states are better than others at this statistic. Missouri ranks somewhere around the middle, with a higher than average percentage of the voting aging population actually participating in the election process. In fact at 94% of the V.A.P. registered to vote only Alaska, which somehow managed to have 110% of it's V.A.P. registered, has a higher percentage of those who are old enough to vote registered to do so. However this makes Missouri look worse in the turnout of those who are registered to vote at 61.1%.

So where am I going with all of this. Well to explain that let's take a look at a few more numbers. There are 100 members in the Senate two from each state, and an additional 435 members in the House of Representatives. Because we live in a democracy here in the US all of these people are theoretically elected by a majority vote of their respective districts. So given this let's just assume that each candidate won their seat with an overwhelming majority ( like that every happens ) and took 75% of the vote in their district. Based solely on averages of the numbers that we have seen, this would mean that these politicians were elected by approximately 79 Million people. Obviously this number is artificially high given that we assumed a 75% margin of victory, and that all districts contain an equal number of voters. Now let's remember that even under the most strict conditions the most that a law needs to pass through congress is a 2/3's majority. So that cut's things even further. So the point in this exercise is that given that all my estimates are on the high side of things, those who are "serving" us in Washington DC are actually speaking for less than 25% of those over the age of 18 in the United States.

The problem with this is that we here in the United States are currently facing a situation that the framers of the Constitution would never have imagined. Too many of the American people just don't care. At least they don't care enough to voice their opinion. The US Constitution provided for a system whereby the country would be ruled by elected officials whose decisions would reflect the feelings of those who they were ruling. That's not necessarily true today. Not through any fault of the election process, or the constitution. Rather the fault is squarely on the shoulders of the American public.

I read a recent article which claimed that less than 1 in 3 Americans actually agree with the "Pro-Choice" movement. So why then is abortion legal? The one third of the population who agree with abortion are almost twice as likely to vote than those who disagree. You could come up with similar numbers on practically any major political issue out there.

It all comes down to apathy. Those with the strongest opinions on any given subject will always be more likely to vote than those who are on either side of the issue, but just don't feel extremely strong one way or the other. When it all comes down to it, by failing to cast a ballot you are abdicating your right express your opinion. When you to not participate in the democratic process, by casting a ballot in each and every election, you are giving someone else the right to choose how you can live your life. If you are not willing to express your opinion, then those who lead the country can only assume that you agree with those who are.

At the end of the day the only way that the democratic system can really function as it was intended to is for everyone to participate by voting. I don't care if you are a Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian. I don't care if you are Pro-Life, or Pro-Choice. Whatever your political leanings are, whatever cause that you believe in, everyone should take the opportunity to vote tomorrow. In all the laws that have been passed governing elections, and everything that is spelled out in the constitution, there is one thing that I have to disagree with. Voting is not a right that is granted to us by the government. It's not even, as some people feel, a privilege of living in a democratic society. If you are an American citizen, voting is your responsibility. If you won't choose who should lead this country someone else will are you willing to live with the choices that others might make for you? Remember failing to cast a vote against something is the same as voting for it.

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