Voting In America: Why Are We So Far Behind Everyone Else?

Naomi Altman

There are many things that the United States excels at, but voter turnout is not one of them. The US trails the rest of the developed world, placing 26th overall. For a country that values the right to vote, a turnout rate of 55.7% in the 2016 presidential elections is pathetic. The country with the highest voting rate is Belgium, which has a voter turnout rate of 87.21%. The two countries do have something that impacts their citizen’s ability to vote. The nation of Belgium placed Election day on a Sunday, while in the US, Election day is on the first Tuesday in November. This helps Belgium achieve its high voter turnout, and the United States should follow in its example.

Alongside moving Election Day itself, there are other things that the US could adopt that would help us improve turnout. Certain parts of the US have higher voter turnout rates than average. Colorado has the 3rd highest voter turnout rate, with 63.8% in the 2016 election. It comes as no surprise that Colorado is one of three states that runs its elections entirely by mail. This creates a major difference in the turnout, as instead of Coloradans having to wait in line, they can vote whenever they have the time. In Maine, which is the state with the highest voter turnout rate (65.9%), any voter may cast an absentee ballot instead of voting in person. They also do not need a specific reason in order to vote by mail, which opens it up to more people. Having two ways to vote is the reason why Maine has the highest voter turnout rate in the United States, and why the rest of the country is struggling to keep up.

The right to vote is a fundamental part of our democracy, and it is important to make it as available to citizens as possible. In order for the US as a whole to catch up with the rest of the world, some changes need to be made. It should be easier to vote, and there should be several choices in how to vote to make it easier for working people. Allowing voting by mail for all and moving Election Day to a weekend or making it a holiday would enable more people to vote, and make elections be more representative of the United States as a whole, not just the people who can take time off work and school.  

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