Voting is a right of passage in America, however many people don’t turn out to vote. In any given election turnout rates can vary from 50-60% (McDonald) which gives the US one of the lowest voter turnout rates. This is a big issue for the country because it shows that many of those that are able to vote are not for some reason or another, which means that so many peoples voices are not being heard. Everyone who is able to vote should participate so that many diverse views can be accounted for in the decisions that affect our entire population. To encourage more people to vote, voting should be made more convenient, through automatic registration, online voting, and by allowing people to choose where they vote.
Ever since the country was created there have been limits on who was qualified to vote. For a long time, rich, landowning men were the extent of voters, and not until the 15th amendment giving African Americans the right to vote, and the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote did voting open up to the majority of the population. However, there are still states and laws that are preventing eligible voter the right to vote. According to Rapoport and Hines “23 states have enacted one or more restrictive laws since 2011” (22), these states are using anything from Gerrymandering, voter identification laws, and restricted registration and access to limit certain voters who disagree with the majority party of a state. Fortunately, the supreme court is fighting back against these states and forcing some states to relax their voting criteria. And in turn this will allow for a larger voter turn out as those who the states have oppressed will be aloud to vote once again.
Convienience is an important aspect that can increase voter turnout. Accourding to Stein and Vonnahme “Convenience is more influential to the infrequent voter’s decision to vote” (489), this means that by focusing on helping people who don’t typically choose to vote and making it easier for them, voter turnout can increase by the maximum amount. Those who vote irregularly or infrequently are most influenced by proximity and ease of voting and tend to vote on polling day, while on the other hand people who vote regularly typically take advantage of voting by mail, and plan ahead who and what they wish to cast their ballots for. However, making voting more convenient will benefit both groups and make all voices easier to be heard.
Automatic registration allows voters to vote without having to preregister. In many states there are currently laws that limit the amount of time in which citizens have to register to vote before the election day. These laws target younger voters who turn 18 near voting time, as well as voters who register later on. By allowing automatic registration no one can be denied voting rights because they were late to register. Currently more and more states have decided to implement automatic registration, “In just a few short years, 13 states and D.C. have adopted AVR. In Oregon, more than 200,000 voters were added in 2016.” (Rapoport and Hines 23). Even though registration may be automatic in some states, additional steps should still be taken to promote voting.
While it is very important to make voting more convenient to maximize the amount of people who vote, some states are doing the opposite and making voting less convenient for certain groups. States such as North Carolina are targeting African Americans in order to suppress their votes and keep the Republican party a majority in the states. An example of the techniques used to make voting more difficult for some voters includes, “targeting African American voters, including by eliminating Sunday early voting, when African American churches traditionally sponsor “souls to the polls.”” (Rapoport and Hines 22). These limits are strategically being used to suppress diversity, and in turn are bringing down the voter turn out rate.
There are many ways in which voting can be made easier and more convenient, however the one solution that has not already been implemented is online voting. If the option to vote online became available citizens could use their social security number, or driver’s license to both register online, which is already available, and vote at the same time. Across America 77% of people say that they go online every day. With the internet reaching a majority of the us population, as well as being a place that 26% of people are on almost constantly (Perrin and Jingjing), online voting would be extremely efficient in reaching a majority of the population while also being and convenient. For those who have cell phones or computers they could easily look up all of the issues that the ballot covers while voting to ensure that they are well informed on the issues. Online voting would also allow the homeless to vote on important issues, because even though the homeless can currently register to vote in all 50 states, they often have difficulty putting a home address or proving residency for a state (Voting and Homelessness). Through online voting a home address shouldn’t be necessary, and could be easily tracked with a social security number, so anyone could vote on their phone, computer or at a local library in comfort.
Some may argue that online voting may become an issue with security risks and hackers, however voting at polling places and by mail still have their own issues as well. According to various news sources reporting on the 2018 midterm elections many states had a range of issues due to their computerized voting machines that were out of date and constantly malfunctioning. In Michigan for example, “Rex Nagy, a voter in Redford Township, said that his polling place at Pierce Middle School was relying on just one voting machine … Nagy saw about half the line leave to go to work, he said” (Friedersdorf). And in South Carolina it was reported that, “machines were changing votes” (Friedersdorf), this issue was entirely due to these outdated machines not being able to keep up in modern times. While many such occurrences are marked as accidents, online voting could help to prevent these long lines and voting errors by giving people easy and reliable access to voting on their own electronic devices.
While choosing not to vote does not have a large impact on the overall country, it is a right that should not be taken for granted. Being able to vote is a right that many generations had to fight for, and being able to live in a democracy with voting rights shows how much society has changed. Current voter turnout however indicates that many citizens in this country are not appreciating all of the hard work and dedication that their ancestors put in to vote. Many minorities should welcome the opportunities denied to them for so long. The Civil Rights Movement, and the Suffrage Movement changed this country and the many lives that fought for and were lost for these causes should not be forgotten by the many people who do not turn out to vote for who and what they believe in, which will help change and inform the future of the United States.
Friedersdorf, Conor. “An Embarrassment of Glitches.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 7 Nov. 2018, http://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/11/voting-machines/575044/. This article provided a list of incidents with polling machines that occurred during the 2018 mid term elections. This article is being used to oppose an argument against online voting. While the article is written by a media company it is well researched and is credible because the author has collected data from reliable sources.
McDonald, Michael. “Voter Turnout Data.” United States Elections Project, http://www.electproject.org/2016g. This website contains official turnouts from various elections. I choose this website because it shows the differences between primary and midterm elections to show the range of turnout that can occur during election. This source is credible because the information comes from the government’s official voting tally.
Perrin, Andrew, and Jingjing Jiang. “A Quarter of Americans Are Online Almost Constantly.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 14 Mar. 2018, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/14/about-a-quarter-of-americans-report-going-online-almost-constantly/. This article compiles research that has been done on the frequency of Americans in using technology. It is being used to show how online voting could be beneficial to a country that relies heavily on the internet. This is a credible article because the authors have done research on the topic from a credible center.
Rapoport, Miles, and Cecily Hines. “The Good News from the Voting Wars: How Hard-Won Expansion of Voting Possibilities Could Raise Turnout, Boost the Wave–and Help Our Democracy.” American Prospect, vol. 29, no. 4, Fall 2018, pp. 22–26. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=poh&AN=132438062&site=ehost-live. This article describes the many issues that face the modern-day voter. Its being used to demonstraight the many issues that need to be addressed to improve voter turnout. This is a scholarly article.
Stein, Robert M., and Greg Vonnahme. “Engaging the Unengaged Voter: Vote Centers and Voter Turnout.” Journal of Politics, vol. 70, no. 2, Apr. 2008, pp. 487–497. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1017/S0022381608080456. This article discusses how to best reach those who do not regularly vote. The ideas from this article are used to show the best ways to engage the unengaged voter. This is a scholarly article.
“Voting and Homelessness.” Nonprofit Vote, Nonprofit Vote, http://www.nonprofitvote.org/voting-in-your-state/special-circumstances/voting-and-homelessness/. This website presents the issues that the homeless face when they want to vote. It is used to show challenges that certain groups face that could be solved with the use of online voting. This article is a nonprofit that aims to help people vote, which makes it a credible source on voting issues.