Saturday, October 18, 2008
The American Exception - making it difficult to vote
The US is the only democracy in which it is the citizen's sole responsibility to register to vote. It is not the citizen's responsibility to sign up for jury duty - government seeks them out. In other democracies, it is the government's responsibility to register voters, though individuals have the right to register. In over 30 countries it is compulsory to vote on the basis that it is a duty. In other countries it is a right, but not a duty. Nevertheless, government reaches out to find potential voters - except in the US. As a result, while voter turnout is close to 100% in Australia, where voting is compulsory, and in the 60-70% range in the UK, where it is optional, it is in the 40s in US General elections, where registration is the obligation of the voter and it is often made difficult. As a result of the difficulty, many Americans are never registered. In 2006 only 67.65 of eligible voters were registered to vote, and 47.8% actually voted. This varies by ethic origin, with 71% of non-Hispanic whites registered, 61% of Blacks, 54% of Hispanics, and 49% of Asians. Voting followed similar patterns. Voting rates also climb as income goes up, ranging from 31.3% for people with family income below $20,000 to 64.2% of people with family income above $100,000.