AN IMPERFECT DEMOCRACY
Political participation in the United States is selective, which is to say that everyone does not take part in the political process, and those who do participate do so at different levels of interest. This statement is obvious to all who have ever become involved in political campaigns. But, of course, only a fraction of the public does. Some never bother to vote. The turnout in Presidential elections in this country compares unfavorably with major contests in other countries of the Western world. In the 1964 national election, only about 63 per cent of those who could have voted did. In 1968 only 61.4 per cent of the voting population went to the polls. In the Congressional election of 1966, the turnout was only 46.3 per cent.
The report of the President's Commission on Registration and Voting Participation issued in 1963 estimated that one-third of the voting-age population in the United States is not even registered. This is partly because state laws governing the right to vote make it very burdensome to qualify, especially if one is timid, unschooled, poor, different, or new to the neighborhood, city, or region. There is a structural, institutional bias to most of our election regulations, going back to their origins when many Americans really did not believe in universal suffrage.
Women, after all, have been allowed to vote only during the