What the Rest of the World Can Teach America About Voting - OZY | A Modern Media Company

What the Rest of the World Can Teach America About Voting

What the Rest of the World Can Teach America About Voting

By James Watkins


Because democracy should be about the will of all the people.

By James Watkins

While the result of tomorrow’s vote will directly affect the lives of more than 318 million people in the U.S. in some way or another, only about two-thirds of them are actually eligible to cast a ballot. And fewer than two-thirds of those individuals are likely to register then cast a valid ballot. In the end, fewer than one in four Americans, or about 70 million folks, are expected to vote for the eventual winner. 

Will of the people, huh? Indeed, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA):

The U.S. ranks 138 out of 169 countries in the world for voter turnout.

Though most developed democracies have seen a slide in voter engagement in recent decades, many of them consistently attract more voters than the U.S. — which is expected to sit at less than 60 percent this election. Some countries, such as Uruguay, boast 90 percent turnout or better. One major problem with the U.S. boils down to voter registration: Turnout as a proportion of those registered is actually relatively high, yet not enough people are on the register. Some reports suggest that over 200 million voters are registered for this election, which would be a significant jump from 2008 and 2012, when there were around 150 million ready to tick off their picks.

But there is still plenty we could learn from others abroad. Countries such as France and Sweden automatically register all citizens to vote, which could help push these numbers even higher. Meanwhile, other nations facilitate voter turnout through policies such as holding elections on weekends or public holidays, compulsory voting or even allowing people to vote via the web. Here’s how else the U.S. stacks up against others.

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