Four Ideas To Improve Voter Turnout
Now that the dust has settled from Election 2014, one thing has become abundantly clear – voter turnout was extremely low. Nationwide, only 36.3 percent of the electorate cast a vote on election day. California turnout was only slightly better at 40%. The New York Times reported that this was the worst voter turnout in 72 years.
Clearly something has to be done to improve turnout. With this in mind, Civinomics wanted to present you with some possible options for getting more people to vote. (As you read on keep in mind that we as a company don’t take a position on any of these but wanted to share some actual proposals that are either currently being considered or are already in practice).
The first is to establish a system of compulsory voting. 22 countries in the world currently have such a system, including Australia, Brazil, and Argentina. In Australia if you do not vote, you must present a satisfactory reason why not. Otherwise you are fined about $20. As a result, their voter turnout has consistently been above 90%. Vote on whether you think the U.S. should have a similar system here.
The second proposal, and one that is currently being considered in the U.S. Senate, is to make election day a National Holiday. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont introduced legislation earlier this month to make a “Democracy Day” holiday on election day. The thinking is that it would make voting easier for working people, many of whom currently only have a small window of time on election day to go to the polls. Let us know what you think of the idea here.
The third proposal is to create financial incentives for people to vote, such as by establishing a cash-prize lottery for voters. However wacky this may sound, the city of Los Angeles is currently considering adopting such a policy after turnout in previous city elections was below 25%. Currently U.S. and California state law prohibits financial incentives for federal and state elections, but cities can establish reward systems for their elections. Should U.S. cities across America consider a lottery prize system for voting? Weigh in on the idea here.
Perhaps one of the most effective solutions for improving voter turnout, however, is to promote youth educational programs around elections. Take one classroom in Live Oak, for example, where teacher Justin Trinh-Halperin gave his students mock ballots and held regular discussions about the same issues we all were thinking about this past election. The non-profit, Civics for All, which does similar educational work, has also been active in Santa Cruz County. Vote on whether you support Civics for All education programs here.
And of course if you have any ideas for improving turnout we’d love to hear them! Go onto civinomics.com and create your own initiative for improving participation. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, a thriving democracy depends on the active participation of its citizens.