Your Take: Increasing voter turnout
With the summer coming to a close and autumn knocking on the door, we’ve begun to look forward to the changing leaves, a solid routine and… the midterm elections. With Nov. 3 around the corner, Americans have been heading to their local polls for primary elections and, now, turn their focus to Election Day.
According to census data, the 2018 midterm elections saw 61.3 percent of eligible voters register, with 49 percent casting their ballots. This was the highest midterm turnout in 30 years. And then during the 2020 presidential election, we saw another increase in voter turnout, with high showings from the younger generations.
As we head into midterm voting, Democratic leaders are hoping to lure swing voters motivated by polarizing issues like abortion rights, while Republicans feel confident in their strong base. Nevertheless, in midterms, turnout is often depressed.
So we asked our readers for their take on two related questions:
- What will you personally do to help people register, prepare and vote?
- How could we change our systems for future elections to make it easier to register, prepare and vote?
Following are some of your responses, edited for length and clarity.
I'm too scaredy-cat these days to knock on doors. (I honor the census people who did this recently.) I’ve done phone bank work but feel guilty bugging people that way because I hate the huge number of spam calls I get (and ignore, so it’s not efficient). I did put my name on the county elections website to monitor drop-off ballot boxes but that’s after the fact. And it’s prep that you want. -Daphne Mace
1) I will encourage my friends and family to vote. 2) I think the efforts to undermine mail in voting are incredibly detrimental. We should promote and foster mail-in voting to increase participation for those who are traveling, etc. Another consideration would be to make Election Day a national holiday to eliminate/minimize conflicts (perhaps replace Presidents Day or another existing holiday). - Mark David
1 ) I will do nothing. It is our duty to vote and if someone isn’t willing to vote without me urging them, then they probably shouldn’t vote. 2) It is easy to vote in the United States – very easy. Go to other countries and you will see how lucky we are. Many people don’t want to vote because people say one thing to get elected, and then don’t follow through – so why bother voting for that? The best thing that can be done to increase voter turnout is an honest media holding politicians accountable – campaign promises versus results. - Mary Pinney
How to market voting will depend upon the segment one is trying to reach. Seniors, they mostly vote but could do better. But when you’re reaching into younger market segments, you’ve got to tailor the message, choose the medium carefully and, where possible, get celebrity endorsements. Yes, get megastars and Twitter and TikTok influencers behind voting — repeatedly — and you might see some gradual progress. And maybe gradually turn nonvoters into habitual voters. We can each use the same principles to nudge people we know to vote — at work, social interactions, etc. Employers, of course, should give staff time to go vote, throw Election Day parties, whatever it takes to make it clear a culture of voting is valued. And, as a Utahn who has voted by mail for almost 20 years, I can say mail-in ballots should be the norm. - Patrick Partridge
To increase voter turnout we need:
- Early voting.
- Easily accessible voting offices/voting precincts .
- National holiday for voting.
- More accessible/alternative voter IDs (credit cards, library cards, school and workplace IDs as well as DMV, etc) with photos.
- Buses or some type of free public transportation.
- Common sense regulations for waiting in line (seating, shade, restrooms, water).
- Trained, nonpartisan poll workers and watchers.
- Better nonpartisan security personnel.
To increase registration:
- Registration through schools
- Automatic voter registration at the DMV.
- Church registration.
- 4. Easier access to birth/wedding/divorce/naturalization records.
- Civics education online and on TV covering who can vote/register and who cannot.
- Workshops and TV/online ads on how to g.et documents to get IDs
And we need standardized, nationwide laws/regulations regarding the above. - Ilona Yaeger
First and foremost, mail-in ballots for everyone. Makes it much easier to vote with no worries about lines, inclement weather, barriers to handicapped people etc. And no voter intimidation. As I get older and less mobile, getting out for various things is much more difficult. This is the single thing that would most increase participation and inclusiveness. To increase participation: ranked-choice voting. Reduce the influence of the political parties, and make people think a little more about their vote, who and why. You can't just go down the line and check the party. - Ray Curtis
We at ActiVote are focused heavily on voter education to ensure that voters have easy access to all of the information they need to cast an informed vote. We believe people want to vote, and the key is finding all of the ways to make it easier. - Sara Gifford
I'm all for increasing access to civic engagement for people who want to be civically engaged, but unfortunately, the most effective way for politicians to get new voters today is to "scare them to the ballot box." Therefore, we should be careful when celebrating higher voter turnout, as it could just be a reflection of the fact that sensationalism and fear-mongering are working as advertised. - Travis Monteleone
My father, brothers and nephew are veterans who fought to preserve our American ideals, so I registered to vote as my patriotic duty. I’m signed up to participate with Swing Left’s nonpartisan letter-writing campaign to urge folks to register to vote. In October, I’ll be writing letters and maybe canvassing in Pennsylvania to get out the Democratic vote. Again, the letters are nonpartisan, but the mailing list targets folks who are registered Democrats, urging them to exercise our precious right to vote for elected officials who truly represent us. - Molly Glassman
I think high schools are a good place to start. Civics could include helping kids with registering to vote. At least hand graduates a voter registration page along with their graduation materials. - Joan Blade
If we want more voters to participate in primary elections, we need to do two things: 1) Give voters more real choices with every single candidate appearing on one primary ballot (blanket primary/nonpartisan primary/open primary/e.tc), and 2) give all voters the opportunity to participate in primary elections without being forced to declare or register with a private political parties. Voter participation increases when voters believe they have more real choices, and a larger variety of viable candidates. More choices + more voices = more power for voters and more voters participating. - Eric Bronner
- Sending postcards to registered voters, urging them to vote by mail. Research shows that more people vote when voting is easier. I have been sending postcards since the beginning of the pandemic.
- Going to area colleges to help people register, update their registration and sign up for vote by mail. Most useful suggestion for college students: Vote in your pajamas!
- Posting neutral voter information sites on social media, as resources for people to get information about candidates and issues. I like the vote411.org, by the League of Women Voters, and Ballotpedia.
- Reminding people by phone and on social media to look for their ballots in the mail, another reminder when early voting starts, and on Election (or primary) Day.
- Taking people to vote this year. I am vaxxed and boosted, so feeling much more comfortable being around people now.
I’d like to see:
- Everyone should get their ballots by mail, and return mail should be free.
- Every American citizen should be eligible to vote at 18 and should remain eligible to vote unless they renounce their citizenship. This includes incarcerated persons and formerly incarcerated persons.
- All states should set up impartial redistributing boards and districts should be as neutral to political party as possible.
- The Electoral College should be abolished.
- Civics should be taught at every grade level from first through college. - Kathleen Finderson
At Business for America, we encourage every company in our network to make a commitment to ensure their employees have time to vote, helping to ensure no one has to choose between earning a paycheck and having a voice on Election Day. By creating a voter culture within our companies, it will help create a more engaged civic culture across the country. - Sarah Bonk
I believe all voting rights laws should be strengthened. Any weakening of those rights should be reversed and corrected. Each citizen eligible to vote should be automatically registered when they get (or renew) any state ID such as a driver’s license or student ID. Many countries in the world make voting mandatory. The USA should do this. Social media and news outlets should be held to high standards regarding the publishing and propagation of mis- and disinformation. There will always be freedom of speech and debate, but deliberate lying must be better controlled by our publishers and giant tech platforms. I don’t know how to do that. - Bob Meyer
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