Archive for the ‘ Voting ’ Category

Comparing elections: U.S. and Venezuela

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitors voting internationally and advocates for honest and transparent elections. The United States has encouraged the OSCE in its missions, provides American monitors for elections in other countries and, in fact, has invited the OSCE to monitor our elections since 2002.

In 2012 presidential elections were held in both the U.S. and Venezuela. According to the Bipartisan Research Center the 2012 turnout was 57.5% of the eligible voters. The 2012 election was similar to that of previous elections, as reported in internationalcomparisons.org. According to the New York Times the 2012 turnout in Venezuela was 80.5%.

The OSCE summary of the American election was generally favorable but did single out some areas for improvement, including voting rights, voter list accuracy, voter suppression by Republicans, campaign finance transparency, and recount procedures. The OSCE also noted what many other observers had commented on, that financing U.S. campaigns with huge amounts of private funds is a cause for concern for democracy.

The OSCE did not observe the 2012 election in Venezuela, but the Carter Center, also an expert organization in election evaluation, was there. The Carter Center has monitored 92 elections. Jimmy Carter, former American president, announced that Venezuela’s election was the cleanest of those the Center has observed. The Carter Center particularly praised Venezuela’s simple yet secure and transparent voting procedures.

American mainstream media claimed that the Venezuelan election was tainted by fraud and intimidation, but had little to say about defects in the American election.

Reports by objective election observers indicate that the Venezuelan election was better run and had more participation than that of the United States. Multilateral, independent observers are needed to counter the power and propensity of the mainstream media to mislead and provide a sound basis for improving elections in the United States as well as abroad.

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.