To bolster high voter registration rates, the United States could emulate how European countries encourage voting.
Voting rates for the upcoming midterm elections across the United States are at a extremely low rate. While the concept of the low turnout midterm election is a common theme in the American electoral process, it has hit a particularly bad snag in the previous years. In 2014, there was the lowest turnout in an election since 1942.
These numbers are due to a variety of reasons, whether due to time management, political apathy or outright distrust in the political system. Low voting rates is a dangerous issue for our democracy as a whole. If people are not participating in the voting process, it is impossible for our elections to be truly representative of the people.
This problem is extremely difficult to solve, but one potential solution to the problem is to follow the ideas held by other European democracies. By adapting our system with the institutions that have worked in other countries, such as instant registration at 18, we can improve the state of our own democracy.
U.S. voting rates are currently lower than other democracies across the world. According to the Pew Research Center, only 55.7 percent of Americans voted in the previous presidential election. Out of the 32 countries surveyed, the United States ranked 26th in voter turnout rates. This number pales in comparison to countries, such as Sweden, which had 82.61 percent voting rates among its citizen in its previous elections. Denmark follows a similar trend with 80.34 percent of the vote.
The major difference between the United States and other European democracies is the lack of voting registration. The Center states, “Only about 64 percent of the voting age population was registered in 2016… compared with 91 percent in Canada and the UK, 96 percent in Sweden and 99 percent in Slovenia.” While voter registration does not always equal higher voter turnouts in the case of Slovenia, the other three show a distinct increase in the voter turnout rates, as well as increased registration.
One potential step to improve voter registration is to follow the system used by Canada. In an article titled, “Expanding Democracy: Voter Registration around the World,” a non-partisan group known as the Brennan Center for Justice describes the benefits of the Canadian system. In this, all provinces create their own set of voting rolls, and the federal government carries one too. Due to these rolls, all people who turn 18 or have recently become a citizen are instantly registered into the system.
The Brennan Center states the major cause of Canada and other similar countries’ success is “carefully regulated data-sharing between government agencies.” Through collaboration, government agencies can help bolster voter rolls by using already available data, such as a national service draft. A similar idea could be used in America through the collaboration of the military’s selective service draft and state voting logs.
Some may argue that these methods would not work in America due to the size of the population and separation of voting power in the 50 states. Canada currently has a population of 36.95 million while the United States has a population of 327 million. While the task may appear daunting, it is a necessary step to improve the voting rates in the United States. This can be done through a large collaborative effort by both the states and the federal government. By providing everyone an opportunity to vote, we can strive for a better democracy.