Voting in America


Why is it that the voting public in the US is so low, yet everyone seems to have a political opinion? Many democratic countries REQUIRE every individual to vote, and can levy fines on those who don't. The US, who keeps bragging about being the land of freedom, continues to do everything they can (some of them) to make sure that people they don't like (politically, at least) are kept as far away from a voting booth as they possibly can. How can this be called any type of democracy???

freedom of speech
Voting Systems
Voting Rights
Robert Faller
17 months ago

5 answers


Firstly the US is not a Democracy, we are a Representative Republic.
Secondly voter suppression is not new and it certainly has terrible motivations for both of the main parties.
Everyone in the US does seem to have a strong opinion about politics but as I have witnessed there is very little beyond an uninformed opinion for most. Americans in general do not bother to learn about a candidate for office before voting. Most rely on advertisements, a few publicly aired "debates" and social media. The problem with this is in recent years social media has influenced a very tightly groomed sphere of like minded connections, with literally no room for dissenting opinions. With such a closed system of research or influence people fall deeper and deeper into the rhetoric espoused by their chosen party, right or wrong.
We are lazy by nature. If it takes more effort than a left swipe to get to the next entertaining video we won't bother. The need to leave one's carefully choreographed daily routine to step into a polling site and punch the buttons is just too much. Young voters feel abandoned or betrayed by the party of their parents and the lack of representation by any of the established older candidates. They choose not to participate in the process but are most vocal about not having a voice.
I appreciate your interest and concern with voting in America and I respect your perspective as it pertains to a system you are not familiar with. I hope that I was able to shed some insight into our system, our form of government and the current disenfranchisement that is rampant among our youngest voters.

Oren Birks, MBA
17 months ago
Thanks, Owen - Actually, I am quite familiar with the US system, having been born there and lived in the US until I was 65. I just don;t understand the psyche of the American people - particularly now. You are correct about the laziness; the problem is that it has repercussions that are magnifying significantly over time. My wish would be that people actually get interested & get involved! - Robert 17 months ago

Robert Faller , good question! The theory of learned helplessness comes into my mind. If people think that their vote cannot make a difference, they may not even try to. The problem is a potential difference between perception and reality. Of course one vote does not make a change, but a big number of additional votes do. We need disruption to get people outside this agony. Maybe the election of Trump could be such an event, as it shows what happens if the younger generations stay away and let "old white men" do the decisions.

Patrick Henz
17 months ago
I was concerned initially that this question would devolve into partisanship and insults. While there is no disputing the hopeless feeling of younger voters I feel that the leap to Trump as the example of a broken system is unfair. Furthermore the "old white men" comment is incredulous. If the DNC had run a fair nomination it would have been Sanders, the definition of old white male as the choice. - Oren 17 months ago

Great discussion Robert Faller Oren Birks, MBA and Patrick Henz. I find folks are in one of two camps, the politically savvy and communicative or the political un-savvy and repetitive.

The political savvy are news/commentary junkies and want to talk over their opinions whether sound or just plain nuts. Communicate, discuss, argue, just jump in. In this environment voting is exciting, compelling and inescapable.

I think the politically un-savvy are imitators. They listen to their peer group and didn't we all at one time? They may listen to a limited array of news/commentary but get sick of it. So they stick with the loudest, most common political statements and repeat them. They're part of the tribe with no effort whatsoever, just repeat whatever so and so says and you're in. At the moment tribalism is extremely high, the cost of disagreement is exile. In this environment voting is not exciting, not even interesting and can be a bit scary.

I don't blame the un-savvy. Getting sound factual information shouldn't be as hard as it is right now and not everyone wants to or can chase after facts through multiple media outlets. Getting a neutral or at least tolerant discussion going is impossible at this time.

My suspicion is that the young people will do what shocks us all and swing the pendulum the opposite direction. In 20 years you might find political shows along the lines of Tim Russert, Chris Wallace and Cokie Roberts. Rather like a tea party replacing a tractor pull. Then more folks will vote because they obtained calm, accurate information and have a considered opinion to take to the voting booth.

God speed youngsters, we'd like that culture ASAP.

Megan Hamilton
17 months ago
Excellent observations and great post! - Oren 17 months ago
Thanks Oren Birks, MBA! - Megan 17 months ago
Thanks, Megan - great perspective! - Robert 17 months ago

The United States did not begin from a position of universal suffrage and so from the outset there was a tradition of disincentives to voting. For example, when John Marshall ran against Thomas Jefferson in Virginia for Congress, there were no ballots or voting booths. Only landed males could vote, and they did so by standing in the town square and declaring their support for one candidate or the other. Both political parties would have drink to fuel the shouts and ridicule they heaped on those who voted for the other party's candidates. Often voters had things thrown at them while voting as well. Thus, the USA began from a tradition of limiting those who could vote and public ridicule of their support for a candidate. As the first new nation, we certainly did not have all the kinks out of the system. Gradually, the system has been broadened to enable all citizens, not just land-owning males, the right to vote. But the incentives within the party system remain to discourage voters of the opposing party by whatever means available so long as they, themselves, are not diminished by doing so. Because the USA is so large and the political parties are relatively weakly organized and financed, they remain vulnerable to manipulation. Also, the parties do not have the strengthen to demand loyalty of their members. Thus, party affiliation only loosely aligns with party platforms, unlike elsewhere.

Jim Ratcliff
17 months ago
Thanks, Jim. Yes - and this seems to continue today - what an absolute shame; we could do so much better if we actually tried. - Robert 17 months ago

You're not alone in this. The UK has just endured elections to the EU parliament (which we should have left) and voter turn out was 35%. Lack of trust, no belief that anything will change and sheer bloody ignorance all play their parts.

David Cottrell
17 months ago
Thanks, David - yes, I noted. There is a lack of trust all around. THe problem is, at least to me, those who are supposed to be ''leaders'' agree the ones spreading around all of the mistrust in the first place. - Robert 17 months ago
Robert Faller More interested in their job security and survival of their political party than the future of the country - David 17 months ago
Yes, clearly that is the case - Robert 17 months ago
As much as I'm disgusted by that behavior in the US, I'm sad to hear it has infected Europe as well. One would expect that would cost them their job! - Megan 17 months ago

Have some input?