What the last 3 presidential elections say about voter turnout

“Four more years!” reverberated intermittently throughout President Obama’s reelection speech. Let’s hope for four better years. That said, let’s also compare US voter turnout in an international comparison perspective.

Voter turnout, although having shown some increase in recent presidential elections, continues to pale in comparison to other advanced democracies–and also in humiliating comparison to countries like Iran. The total of American voters has increased every presidential election since 1996 carrying with it a consistent increase in those registered to vote. Voter registration dramatically increased by 25% between 2004 and the first time President Obama was elected in 2008. Still, as a percentage of those registered, only 70.33% turned out to vote compared to 86.08% (the highest since 1988) in 2004. By these figures we conclude that in spite of a 25% increase in voter registration, there was only a 9% increase in total votes.

Fast-forward to 2012. Hope for progress in voter turnout is projected to leave us disappointed. Voting expert Charles Gans projects that a decline in voter turnout in each of the 50 states. The results indicate that the US has little chance of improving its rank at 59th in voter turnout as a percentage of total voting population. The Obama campaign has survived what it considered a mandatory requisite for claiming the 2nd term. Preliminary figures suggest 3 million fewer voters. Arguments for compulsory voting and elections on non-work days seem to be the most suggested remedies.

For more statistics from the US set against comparable advanced democracies, including voter turnout as a percentage of those registered and women elected officials, visit Internationalcomparisons.org’s Voting page.

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