No Simple Answers to an Important Question: Why Don't More Americans Vote?

Posted by Molly Rockett on April 05, 2016

A recent profile by Bloomberg Politics uses data from the U.S. Census survey to track why Americans don't vote. While the results vary by state, common issues cited are difficulty registering, health issues, and travel on the day of the election. The survey also breaks responses down by income level and age, yielding interesting insights about why some populations fail to turn up at the polls at greater rates than others. For example, they find that 25.5% of voters aged 25-44 were too busy to vote, and 23.9% of those earning over $150,000 a year reported being out of town. Those earning $20,000 or less, in contrast, were most likely to list illness or disability as their reason for not voting, with 20.1% indicating that response.

The authors of this piece, Michael Keller and Yvette Romero, acknowledge that such a multifaceted problem cannot have a simple or singular solution, but that the data makes a strong argument for reforms to the voter registration and early voting process. FairVote's resources on voter turnout in presidential elections list electoral competitiveness, election type, and voting laws among the major factors which may increase voter participation. See our map below for an overview of turnout rates in Presidential elections compared to Midterm elections. Combined with reforms to promote greater ballot access, as suggested by Keller, Romero and other voting rights activists, structural electoral reforms promote turnout and ensure every voter has a meaningful voice in their election. 

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