Voter turnout in many western democracies has been decreasing since the 1980s. Political scientists believe that, in the US, this is a result of politicians focusing their resources towards expensive media campaigns, instead of intensive local campaigning and get-out-the-vote initiatives. Moreover, negative campaigning and the use of attack ads and smear campaigns can turn voters off the idea of voting.
The phenomenon of voter apathy is a growing problem. Young people can be especially vulnerable to this. These individuals are interested in politics but do not believe that their voice or vote will make a difference. Voters in battleground states are far more likely to vote than those in states that consistently vote the same way.
Voters are more likely to vote in years when there are presidential elections than midterms.
There is also a growing disenchantment with the democratic process as a whole. Many groups may think: “No matter how I vote, nothing changes”.
So what are the solutions?
Firstly, one of the main barriers to voting is the time during which the polls are open and the day of the election. Elections are held on Tuesdays, with polls open for around 12 hours most of which falls during the working day. Working people may not be able to get time off work, parents can face issues with childcare, and low-income workers can find it difficult to get to the polls due to transportation issues. Getting more people to mail in their vote in advance, and making it more common to vote in this way is a great solution. Alternatively, some have suggested giving people the day off.
Secondly, education is key. Civic education teaches people the importance of voting and their role in the political system. Making sure people know there is an election happening is also vital.
Finally, politicians have to become more positive and more engaged with their voters. A campaign ad is nowhere near enough engagement. Knocking on doors, shaking hands and talking to people is the best way to get them to vote. There are voters who have never had a politician knock on their door. Be the first to do so. Be their champion. Make them feel like they are important, and they will come out to vote.