Magazine article State Legislatures

*Getting out the Vote *

Magazine article State Legislatures

*Getting out the Vote *

Article excerpt

Widespread reforms like the federally enacted "motor voter" law and state initiatives like early voting, "no excuse" absentee balloting, election day registration and Oregon's balloting by mail system have made it easier than ever to cast a vote.

Yet the rate of voter turnout has remained almost constant since 1972, averaging 56 percent of eligible voters in presidential elections and 40 percent (39.9 percent in 2006) in midterm elections. This is also contrary to the popular view that turnout has been declining.

George Mason University Professor Michael McDonald wants to change the way turnout is figured. He argues that using voting age population, which includes non-citizens, felons and the mentally incapacitated (all of whom are not eligible to vote) and excludes those living abroad (who are eligible to vote), skews results. Turnout calculations should be based on the eligible voter population instead. McDonald says the supposed decline in voter turnout since 1972 is caused by increases in the proportion of non-citizens and felons in the population. (It should be noted that in 1972. 18-year-olds were added to the eligible voting population, thus decreasing the percentages.)

Nonetheless. voter turnout in the United States is lower than that of every democracy in the world other than Switzerland and Poland.

The National Voter Registration Act ("motor voter"), enacted on the basis of a Michigan model, requires states to allow voters to register at government agencies like drivers' license bureaus. It has had only a slightly positive effect Same with election day registration, which allows voters to register right up until the time they vote. At best it can increase voter turnout by about 4 percent, although research shows that election day registration is particularly popular with young people and may increase their turnout by as much as 14 percent. …

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