America Needs Greater Voter Participation

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Government and Politics – America Needs Greater Voter Participation

We may live in a country that encourages voting in political elections, yet the level of voter turnout in America is relatively small and continues to decline. Compared to other countries with democratic governments, the United States falls very near the bottom of the list with its percentage of voter participation. One explanation for this disturbing phenomenon states that the American system requires more effort from voters, asking them to participate in “more elections for more levels of government with more elective offices at each level than any other country in the world” (Schudson 159). In most other democracies, the citizens may be asked to vote only 2 or 3 times over a 4-year period (Edwards, Wattenberg, and Lineberry 246).

American voters feel overwhelmed by all that is asked of them. The diverse and numerous elections held in the United States, especially at the state and local levels try the attention spans of voters and decrease their willingness or desire to participate. Reading the local election ballot and trying to determine the actual function of the various obscure local offices such as county clerk, court clerk or register of deeds can be a daunting task. Extracting real meaning from the political jargon used in wording local propositions can also be a challenge and source of discouragement (Schudson 156). Dr. Bill Lyons, of the University of Tennessee, said this of Tennessee state and local elections: “In Tennessee, we also have a very long ballot with a lot of constitutional offices and we have an awful lot of elections. I think that’s bad because it unnecessarily splits the time and attention of voters” (Flessner 2).

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...n Perspective Sections on pages 208 and 245.

Michael Schudson, “Voting Rites: Why We Need a New Concept of Citizenship”. Allan Cigler and Burdett Loomis, American Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings, 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Miflin Company, 1999, pp. 156-164.

Project Vote Smart, “PVS General Population and Youth Survey”, Department of Political Science at OSU, http://www.vote-smart.org/youthsurvey.phtml?checking=/, 1999, p. 5.

Robert D. Putnam, “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital”. Allan Cigler and Burdett Loomis, American Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings, 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Miflin Company, 1999, pp. 165-175.

Ruy Teixeira, “Voter Turnout in America: Ten Myths”. Allan Cigler and Burdett Loomis, American Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings, 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Miflin Company, 1999, pp. 149-155.

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