Voter turnout can be measured in different ways, using different denominators. It can be expressed as a percentage of the population that is old enough to vote ("voting age population turnout"), a percentage of the number of eligible voters (“voting eligible population turnout”), or as a percentage of registered voters (“registered voter turnout”).
It is easy to confuse these different measures of voter participation and make misleading inferences about the relative health of our democracy. This is especially true when comparing turnout in the United States (which is often measured in terms of the voting eligible population or the voting age population) to other countries (which tend to measure voter turnout in terms of registered voters).
For a full discussion of these issues, read Haley Smith's blog, "Voter Turnout: Behind the Numbers."
In the first few presidential elections, most states either did not hold popular elections or imposed a property requirement, meaning only White men with property could vote. By 1824, almost all states held popular elections for presidential electors and property requirements were gradually being eliminated.The right to vote was extended to more U.S. residents in three notable ways since then.
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