Strategy To Increasing Voter Turnout and Voter Retention – by Andrew Bailey. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
Voter turnout is on the decline in our country and this poses a major problem for our democratic system. This is the case for local, state and federal elections. Voter turnout among voters between the ages of 18-24 is the lowest of all. Political parties in the States of Minnesota and Wisconsin are trying to reverse these statistics one voter at a time. Efforts to increase voter turnout and retention include making contact with potential voters in several different forms. Telephone calls, social media campaigns and mailings are executed by political parties to increase voter contact, voter turnout, and voter retention. The general trend is that voter turnout in presidential elections is much higher than in races for local elections. The turnout for presidential elections can hover anywhere from 50-80% of the electorate, compared to less than 20% for local elections such as city mayors, judicial positions, city council and school board positions, and county executive offices.
One of the methods utilized by political parties is contacting voters and sending them a ballot in the mail prior to election day. This is a brilliant move as members of the electorate are more likely to vote in a local election if the ballot is mailed right to their door. Simply put, it makes the voting process easier and increases the likelihood that the individual’s voice is heard in local elections. Not only does mailing the ballots to potential voters make voting easier, it increases the awareness on the part of the potential voter that an election is taking place. These local races will have a huge impact on the voters’ community, as these elected officials become the heartbeat for our schools, cities, and counties–leading initiatives and implementing policies that have wide ranging impacts.
Historically, the opportunity to vote has been guaranteed under the Constitution for most U.S. citizens. Americans have fought to expand the right to vote during the women’s suffrage movement and throughout the Civil Rights era. Women in the United States were not able to vote until the 1920’s and African Americans were not able to fully participate in the voting process until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed (following the adoption of the Civil Rights Act of 1964).
Reflecting upon the history of our nation, U.S. citizens must come to the realization that the right to vote has not always been guaranteed to every person in our country. Many would argue that a vote is no longer held in high regard–as a vote can be cast by almost anyone–something that many people in our nation take for granted. Our nation has made remarkable strides in opening up the vote to all citizens, but let us not forget the momentous achievements of those who fought for their voice to be heard throughout the suffrage and civil rights movements. A question we must all ponder is how to make the voting booth more attractive once again and draw voters of all ages to exercise a fundamental right preserved by the U.S. Constitution and fought for by heroes of the civil rights and suffrage movements.
Andrew Bailey serves as an assistant editor for The North Star Reports. Andrew served as an intern for the Wisconsin GOP, and this essay is a part of his reflection on that opportunity.
Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu
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34 responses to “Strategy To Increasing Voter Turnout and Voter Retention – by Andrew Bailey. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports”
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Andrew, thank you for this. I would agree that the mailed ballots offer a less time-consuming opportunity for individuals to vote. One thing I have dreamed of time and time again is an electronic voting system in which individuals can vote right from their homes – however I am also aware that this is highly wishful thinking and that there are a lot of rules that would be difficult to implement if we ran that way. In our highly digitized day and age, I am sure someone will sort this problem out.
I found one statement semi-problematic in your article. Granted, I am being highly picky, but in regards to your statement, “U.S. citizens must come to the realization that the right to vote has not always been guaranteed to every person in our country.” I think it is highly arguable that the right to vote still is not guaranteed. Among the problems of mass incarceration, gerrymandering, and poverty, there are still major barriers for folks to get their vote. In addition, often times those who are most affected are people of color.
If a person has a felony, is on probation for a felony, or is on parole for a felony, they don’t get their vote. If a person is poor and can’t afford to renew their photo identification, they don’t get to vote. If a person who is poor wants to get an i.d. at a lower cost (50 cents) they can do that, but they have to forfeit their driving rights. I could keep going, but I think my point is made. I think, in order to increase voting turnout, we should take a hard look at all the barriers there are to voting. Address those barriers and the people will come. In my opinion, the problem is not that people aren’t interested in expressing their voice, they are tired of trying to express their voice, and not being heard.
Andrew, thank you for such a well developed report on voter turnout and voter retention. If shocks me to believe that one wouldn’t use their power to vote. Americans, stereotypical, are quite proud people to their nation. They value principles and honoring the system of Democracy. However, how can one be gung-ho about the perks of Democracy and fair representation if one doesn’t use their individual power that makes Democracy, Democracy. In some countries, I have researched, election day is a national holiday where everyone has the day off. Therefore, there would be no excuses. Thoughts?
This report also makes me think about the role of political ads and voter turnout. As we discussed in class, nasty political ads can be used to simply get people NOT to vote and instill doubt in a persons head. What are the morals behind negative political ads and should they be allowed?
Thank you for addressing such an important issue ,Andrew. Mailing the ballot to voters is an awesome idea. Just curious as to how much this has been shown to impact voter turnout, or what can be done to reach out to homeless voters… possibly making registration and ballots available at shelters for those who do not have a home address? Regardless, suppression of youth vote is extremely prevalent in todays climate and anything that can be done to encourage civil engagement from young people is so important.
I found your comments on increasing voter participation quite thoughtful. I liked the idea of having ballots mailed to constituents, however, I struggle to see how this would be an entirely effective method of increasing voter representation as I believe that the homeless population would be left out of this system as they have no permanent address. I liked your statement: “U.S. citizens must come to the realization that the right to vote has not always been guaranteed to every person in our country,” which I find to be incredibly true. Voter disenfranchisement is a major issue. I personally think that the fact that felons aren’t able to vote, even if it has been years since their crime was committed is a problem because this further dehumanizes criminals.
Thank you for your post!
This was a very compelling article and the data is shocking about voting during presidential elections and non-presidential. I think the decline in voter turn out has to do with the disillusion that many American voters have with the political system. I’ve heard plenty of people say that their vote doesn’t even count because of the republic system. However, I believe that voter turn out does matter, but I also feel that the younger generation is not targeted by politicians. I think we discussed in class how politicians are always talking about social security and retirement plans because the older generations have strong voter turnouts. On the other hand, when Bernie Sanders started talking about student loan debt and college tuition, the younger generation started listening. I guess I just wonder what has to come first, younger voter turnout or politicians campaigning on values that are important to the youth.
Your argument is sound, surely if the ballot was a mail in process the general population would be much more likely to utilize the voting system and perhaps influence elections. Politicians are likely to never actually implement this, as they would have to reassess their strategies to become reelected. I am quite sure that many among our political elite count on the general population not to vote and instead appeal to their fans and attempt to sway the oppositions voters. Introducing more absentee ballots and other incentives would change the political dynamic, if everyone voted each election would turn out very different.
Andrew, your article is very interesting. I’ve also wondered why voter turnout has been on the decline. I think it is due to a multitude of factors. First and foremost I think we are getting lazy as a society. Sure, sending ballots directly to people’s houses is a good idea, but if we were not so lazy and would actually get out to vote, this wouldn’t be necessary. I also think that we are taking voting rights for granted, which is really sad. There are wars fought over this human right, and we seem to take it for granted. One thing that is also confusing to me is that citizens are more concerned with the presidential election rather than state and local elections. One would think that citizens would be more involved with their local elections rather than national elections that may not impact you as much. Either way, thanks for your article!
I wholly agree with you that a high voting turnout is absolutely essential for a democracy to function as intended. I’m a bit confounded and disheartened by the fact that turnout is lowest among the young. How can change and progress be brought about if the young is not interested in politics? After all, policy decisions has a huge effect on the overall direction of society. Just out of curiosity, I took the liberty of comparing the figures you mention in the articles with the Swedish turnout in the 2014 general election. Sweden has a generally high turnout, and in 2014 around 86 % of the electorate voted. People aged 18-29 voted to a bit smaller extent than the average, but the difference was rather insignificant (82 % as compared to 86 % for the whole population). Perhaps the young in the U.S are generally more fed up with politics than we are in Sweden?
Also, about the low turnout in local elections: don’t you think a reason for this could be that people feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of elections, and that it becomes hard keeping track of which positions you actually vote for? Again, taking the Swedish perspective, we cast out votes for municipal and county councils at the same time and place as for the parliament. I think that this makes it convenient for people to cast their votes for these sometimes a bit more obscure local positions as most people recognize the importance of voting for the parliament.
Your argument made many good points of how the lower voter turnout by the younger ages and how it poses a big problem for Democracy. If the younger voters do not vote it does not allow them to get their voice heard by the local politicians and addressing problems in a local community. If problems are not addressed by voters it can lead to devastating problems for the future where once small problems turn into huge problems. The right to vote is the most important aspect for a Democracy and many people have fought or died trying to get the right to vote in the past. Before literature tests were banned in the U.S. it limited the right to vote for many African Americans and organizations like the KKK would use terror or violence to prevent from voting. Unfortunately, many of the young people that fall in the category of 18 and 26 do not understand how important voting is and how it allows are society to flourish. Overall, we can honor the people and organizations who fought for the right to vote by continuing the tradition of voting for local or nation-wide elections.
Voter turnout is a topic which I believe needs to be discussed more often in America. The only talk about the subject I ever see is about how the turnout of younger voters is abysmal as you mentioned in your article. However, I appreciate you providing ways to improve the voter turnout by mailing people the ballots. More solutions need to come about instead of just complaining about the turnout without taking any action. In an age filled with technology at everyone’s fingertips, I am perplexed by how few people even register themselves to vote. Registering through the internet takes mere minutes and if more people are made aware of this option, maybe this could also improve turnout. It is great to see articles raising awareness to subjects like this so thank you for the informative piece.
I enjoyed your article as I am also very interested in politics and feel that many people my age do not participate or want to be involved in politics. My grandpa always talks about how important it is to get involved and be aware of who you are voting for and that he sees less and less young people at the events he goes to. That is something that is a little scary to me as young people are the future and are affected a lot more from certain policies than those who may be older or retired. I like the idea of mailing the ballots to someones home so that they have it right there and don’t have to go anywhere to get it. At an event I was at this past weekend candidates talked about how so many people have to work on election days and cant afford to leave work in order to vote. I think election days should be an off day or a delayed start day for so many companies because do we really cherish democracy if we aren’t willing to do everything we can to let the people have a voice? Also, at the event they talked about mailing ballots and the importance of allowing people to vote early giving them more chances other then just one day to be able to go out and cast their vote. Either way it gets done voter rights need to be protected and in this day and age voting needs to become more accessible.
I liked your idea of mailed in ballots becoming more heavily utilized. I think that many poll areas and locations are very inconvenient for some to reach and the hours often leave something to be desired. Bringing this ballot into your home so you can research each candidate individually rather than having to check a box on a ballot on a race that you know nothing about at the polling location. I also thought it was shocking to see that local turnout is only around 20% because local politicians often make a much larger impact on the communities that surround us than other races. I want people to be proud of voting for a person and issue they can stand behind but in today’s political sphere you can be grouped and generalized for voting for a particular candidate. I think if both parties work together to understand each other and increase voter turnout for all eligible voters then our Democracy will strengthen as a result.
It is a puzzling thing that more students do not go out and vote despite being at an age where they are particularly opinionated it would seem. I was just reading an article the other day that talked about environmentalists and their movement, in which only 20% of registered environmentalists actually showed up to vote. The lower percentage of people that show up for local elections is also curious. I did some election judge training in my county and only three people showed up to vote within the 8 hour period I was there. Also, the fact that Minnesota’s voter registration jumped from around 50% in 2014 to 74% in 2016, may be explained by the particularly candidates that tended to strike strong emotion one way or another in the hearts of constituents. Perhaps more people would vote if they could see the ways in which they are impacted and become more passionate. I think having voting day as a national holiday would really help voter turnout. Despite the startling percentages, it is reassuring at least that Minnesota has placed number one in voter turnout for 8 of the last 9 election years.
I like how you are able to talk about very important issues that we need to be talking about in this day and age. I think that we do need to do something to make voting seen as something that needs to be done, instead of what it is now. But i do think things like given people the day off of work and school so that people do have the opportunity to vote. It would make more sense for the Federal Government to give us a day off to do our constitutional right, then say for president day. I do like the idea of sending the ballots to people, but there is a ton of people that don’t have easy access to something like that, for something that is a civil right. Another thing that we could do, is make it just easier for people to just show up and vote instead of some of the registration requirements that some places have. Also, for low voter turnout, one does need to also look at what voting places are open in low voter turnout areas. Because for a lot of people they do not have the means to take public transport that can take an hour one way.
I wish fixing the voter turnout was easy because it is such an important thing that we can do as citizens.
Hi Andrew, thanks for this article. I think it’s interesting that you address the idea of sending ballots straight to people’s homes. I was just sent two letters in the mail by The Voter Participation Center that had pre-postmarked envelopes with applications for absentee ballots. If I send one in I’ll be able to vote right from my house, no hassle or fees, just to make it more convenient. I think the convenience factor is huge in regards to why young people aren’t voting. Perhaps people our age are unable to vote in person due to school or work obligations, because even though you are supposed to be allowed time to go and vote, most people who are desperate for work hours aren’t willing to risk losing them. I think the system is designed to keep certain populations out of the polls despite the right to vote that most Americans have now (ex. requiring a state I.D. which can cost upwards of $25 just to vote, when some people don’t even have $25 to their name). I agree that this is a right we take for granted, but there is a list of reasons why some people vote and some do not. Another thought I had was that perhaps if the candidates in the races we are voting in are more relatable to a more diverse group of people (i.e. not all old, white men), people would be more ambitious to vote. Thanks again for raising these questions.
Thank you Andrew! I totally agree with what you are saying. The 2016 election was obviously a big one and the first time my friends and
I could vote. I remember talking to some of them and half didn’t vote because they did not care or want to. Another big issue is younger people not voting because they are not informed. I was so excited to vote since it was such a close race. I think something does need to be done about this issue with 18-24 year olds like you mentioned. I hope the next elections are different with voter turnout.
The right to vote is a fundamental principle of a democracy. Without it, democracy doesn’t work. I agree with you that there need to be more ways to increase voter turn out for elections on each level. However, even today people are restricted from voting because they can’t afford to take off work and don’t have transportation and or can’t afford transportation to get to where they can vote. Today, a lot of people do not have the means to get the proper documentation needed to register to vote, not to mention the different paperwork needed can be confusing to find out. I think there needs to be a public policy that is put in place to combat these things that keep people from being able to exercise their right to vote. What could this policy look like? How can we make sure people have the ability and means to use their right?
I agree that the voting turnout and voting in general is a very huge part of our democratic system. This gives everyone the opportunity to let their voice be heard in the government. If more people show up and vote that gives us a more realistic idea of how the country really feels about certain politicians and laws enacted in our country. Throughout my life, I have heard people complain and talk bad about many different politicians and political schemes. The first question I ask them is , “Did you vote?” I often get the excuse that “no I didn’t, my vote doesn’t matter.” We need to get these people back and excited to vote and get them to realize that if everyone who had that opinion voted, we could have a very different political climate. Voting is important and I think we should all continue to encourage others to voice their opinions and help raise the voting percentages.
Hi Andrew, this was a good argument and article. I agree that it would help to have a mail in voting process because people who are lazy or do not have access to a place designated for voting can get their votes in. I would worry however that potentially through the mail a persons vote could become lost or brought into the wrong hands. With giving people the day off of work I think this is a very good idea because often people have such busy lives that voting is not on the top of their list. If they are given the day off work I believe this would increase the voting turnout drastically. Thank you for sharing your article.
I’ve really come to love the saying: think globally, act locally. And voting is essential for this to take place. As the younger age demographic has historically been the most inconsistent voters, I really appreciate Senate’s and other clubs on campus’ efforts to register people to vote and get the word out. I also thought it was really cool that social media sites like Facebook and Snapchat were encouraging people to register as well.
I like how you noted that women and Black Americans haven’t had the right to vote until more recently. In fact, many would argue voter suppression is still around, as a lot of people do not have/can not afford transportation to their polling places, and many states make registration and voting more difficult than it needs to be. I was both surprised and relieved at how easy voting in the primary was in Minnesota.
In addition, those who are incarcerated lose their right to vote, and as Black people are disproportionately imprisoned and often given harsher sentences, some would argue this is a form of voter suppression as well.
What are your thoughts?
I would like to thank you for highlighting such an important subject. Quite frankly, voter participation in the U.S. is abysmal. One might even find the U.S.’s push to “spread democracy” around the globe pretty ironic considering we do not participate in it here at home. I agree that we as a nation, and in all of our communities need to find a way to make voting more appealing. As you said, maybe voting is no longer special since so many people can do it if they choose. I also wonder what role disenfranchisement plays. How many people do not vote because they think that the system is rigged and therefore their vote won’t matter anyway? I personally agree that focusing on local elections is a great way to start. In local elections, your vote can make a difference and, to quote you, the local elections produce the politicians that “become the heartbeat for our schools, cities, and counties.” Our political climate is currently extremely polarized. However, at the local level, I find it is a lot harder to be confrontational and to succumb to the propaganda when you see the candidates’ and your political opposites at the grocery store, at a restaurant or at a softball game. This report also made me think of some other questions that maybe we should be asking. Is it time for some form of compulsory voting? If not, what about making any election day a paid national holiday? What about developing an online voting system for local elections? I too hope that as citizens of this country, we can find a way to remember the importance of participating in our own political process.
Andrew, thank you for sharing this! It does surprise me that voter turnout is so low mostly because I would think that young people would want to be able to have a say in what happens in our country right now. What happens in the government now will affect our future. Also, voting is a right that we have not always had, it is the chance to change things you don’t like and have your voice heard. I think it is easy for voters to feel that their vote won’t count or make a difference, but I am a big believer in the idea that it only takes 1 person to initiate the process of change. I grew up watching my parents come home with the traditional “I Voted” sticker on their jackets, and we have made sure that we continue to go out as a family and vote. This year, I’ve already sent in my absentee ballot so I won’t have to go home on a Tuesday, and I’ve been so happy to see so much push around our campus and on social media to get people registered to vote. I think convenience is a factor in people not voting because it is something you have to make the choice and put forth the effort to do.
Hi Andrew, what a well-written post! I do like your proposal of having ballots mailed to people’s doors. Do you think that making the day we vote a national holiday would increase voter turn out too? In many cases, people simply can’t sacrifice their time to come in to vote no matter how strongly they feel. In our modern, fast-paced society, the long lines and the “hasle” that voter registration cause is simply too much of a commitment. If we want more turn out, it’s something we should consider but I’m excited to explore this topic more on my own. Thanks for sparking the idea!
I think it is great that ballots get sent to people. In small towns, mail-in ballots make life a lot easier. Mail-in ballots also benefit really busy people. If it is hard for one to get off work to vote, mail-in ballots are a great way to still have a say. I think one reason voter turnout is down is because of a lack of voter education. Many people may not be aware of election dates, deadlines, requirements, or voting locations. This may be an obstacle to work on and try and provide a plausible and reasonable solution, or an attempt at a solution.
I agree with your statement that a vote is taken for granted today and we do not appreciate how hard people have previously worked to attain that vote. Consistently low voter turnout is a menacing precursor for what is to come. I think that mailing the ballots is a very good idea. Though, I believe at some point secured software will need to be developed so that voters can vote from their computer at home. I understand that is an extremely tall task but in my mind that would be the best possible solution to our current voting problem. I do not know what it will take to enlighten those who are our age to the importance of voting and being an informed citizen.
It was very insightful to read your article and to clearly see your point of view about voting. I have to agree with you that some people in our community have the privilege of voting but they do not put it into a full use. Thus I wonder what can the various reasons as to why they don’t exercise their privilege to vote? Having ballots sent to people’s home is a good idea but I believe there are other factors that play a part in the sphere of voting. Majority of the people that do not turn out to vote simple believe in the narrative that their voice does not count. Therefore they see it as a waste of time to actually take the time to go to a polling place and vote. Personally, I slightly disagree with that idea that their vote doesn’t count for the power of placing a politician on a seat is in the hands of the people. However, there are those that do turn out and vote but no matter how loud they cry about their situation their voice never gets heard. Hence most of them never actually try to go vote. Adding on, some may actually be uncomfortable with the space of the polling place. Maybe the polling places are not situated near a familiar neighborhood. Overall, I think there are a lot of aspects that go into the reason behind why there isn’t always a good turn out to vote during the mid-terms. Thank you for sharing.
Wonderful post, Andrew! I like that you pointed out that ballots were sent to voters homes, because I had not known this being that I’ve never actually received one. With that, I’m curious to know how effective that strategy actually is and who it helps vote. Is there a way to sign up to receive ballots? How do people who are not familiar with this system jump on board? Additionally, what do you think would help create a greater turn out of our generation? I enjoy the registration and continued activity done by many of the students on campus to encourage others to vote. I think it’s affective. I know that I forget to show up until the emails and tables are set up and sent out.
I find that I often think of this problem myself, and I must admit it keeps me up at night. I have many friends that have ballots mailed directly to them so that they don’t have to worry about work schedules or prior commitments. It sounds like a brilliant idea. I used to be very much in favor of electronic voting like what has been done in Estonia, but with the fear of Russian interference, I feel that could make turnout even lower. It’s a very difficult question to answer in a political climate that is so hostile. One would hope that mail-in ballots would make a difference, and they have, but the difference isn’t what it should be for a healthy democracy.
I found the statistic that only 20% of the population turns up for local elections shocking. That means that only 20% of opinions are even recognized in local elections. I was too young to vote for the last election, but I had a friend who was registered to vote, but ultimately did not because he couldn’t support either of the candidates. I think that is what is happening with a lot of young people. It’s easy to get confused with what a candidate actually stands for when there are controversies and radicalism surrounding the candidates. I think young people often don’t see the importance of voting because they don’t see how their vote can make the difference. I saw a post on social media this week about voting, and it compared it to winning the lottery saying something like “You bought a lottery ticket this week even if there was a 1 in 4,000,000 chance of you winning? So why didn’t you vote?”
I just wrote an essay about this in one of my classes. It is quite interesting & sad at the same time. When I turned 18 I was excited to vote and have ever since when there was an election. A lot of my friends don’t vote and they say it’s due to not being informed. For the research for my essay I found an article of young people ages 18-29 on why they don’t vote. All of their ‘excuses’ were avoidable, and it is just being lazy. Although in recent Midterm election the percentages were up, so I hope it stays that way. Good article!
As we see the decrease to voter turnout, are there more drastic measures than only increasing awareness? I have always been curious why we do not have a national holiday for election day. I believe that this would be the most effective method to increase voter turnout as their is less of an excuse for people not to vote. As awareness of election day would obviously be increase, I see that citizens would be more informed of candidates and proposed public policies in their region. One of the reasons that I hear that college students won’t vote is because they truly have no idea how to. For college age students, their first election may be while they are away at school and have never participated in a local election. This is a barrier for many students as they are no longer having their hands held through tough decisions.
Andrew – thank you for such a well composed article on the decline in voter turnout. Citizens of the United States (let’s just call them Americans, although that term bugs me a lot) are quite vocal when it comes to our political climate – and not just on the national level. Frequently, I see local editorials published in the DNT that call our local government (city council & school board) into question. So, all of this complaining is puzzling when we realize how few people are actually turning out at the polls.
For as long as I can remember, my family made a tradition out of going to our precinct to vote and then going out to dinner every November (no matter if it was a “big” election year or not!). I know that my parents wanted my siblings and me to learn the importance of being engaged citizens – and to never take for granted the privilege it is to live in a Republic where our voices can be heard.
As the 2020 election draws nearer, I hope American citizens remember those who have fought and died for our privilege to vote. We will always be indebted to them. But if nothing else, I hope people vote to take action against all the complaining they do about our political climate throughout the rest of the year.
Thank you for writing a great article about such an important topic. You are right, not everyone was given the right to vote so it is important for us to take advantage of the fact that we have a democratic government and use our voices to vote. I think it is tragic that more young voters to not take the opportunity to participate in their civic duty to vote. I believe that young people of today have very strong voices so it is unfortunate that we fall short of making differences because people do not get out to the polls. I think a good way to encourage young voters to actually vote would be to implement more social media ads about voting directly marketed towards 18-24 year olds. Whether it be funded from specific campaigns or the government, I think more time and money needs to be put towards getting young voters to vote.