The U.S. Trails Other De­vel­oped Na­tions In Voter Turnout


The United States has trailed other de­vel­oped na­tions in voter turnout for years. Dur­ing the 2012 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, 129 mil­lion votes were cast with turnout com­ing to 53.6%. That’s a huge dis­tance be­hind Bel­gium’s 87.2%, a rate that’s pri­mar­ily due to the coun­try’s com­pul­sory-vot­ing reg­u­la­tions. Even though com­pul­sory-vot­ing laws aren’t al­ways strictly en­forced, their ex­is­tence in some coun­tries can still heav­ily in­flu­ence voter num­bers.

Even with­out them, many na­tions still have con­sis­tently high elec­tion turnouts, with Swe­den (82.6%) and South Korea (80.4%) notable ex­am­ples, ac­cord­ing to a Pew Re­search Cen­ter rank­ing from Au­gust.

Many other rea­sons un­der­pin Amer­ica’s his­tor­i­cal lack of en­thu­si­asm for vot­ing, with the reg­is­tra­tion process par­tic­u­larly notable. Amer­i­cans have to reg­is­ter on their own ini­tia­tive (rather than be­ing signed up au­to­mat­i­cally), and this has re­sulted in reg­is­tered vot­ers rep­re­sent­ing a smaller share of po­ten­tial vot­ers than in nearly any other de­vel­oped coun­try. Only around 65% of the U.S. vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion was reg­is­tered in 2012 com­pared to 91% in the UK and Canada. The tra­di­tion of hold­ing elec­tions on a Tues­day when peo­ple have to work is also of­ten cited as a fur­ther rea­son for Amer­ica’s dis­mal voter turnout.

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