Published: Question of the Day (August 11, 2015)
The United States election system may not be fatally flawed, but in many ways it’s on life support.
Here are five reasons why that is the case:
1. We make it harder for people to vote.
For one thing, as Eric Black explained in an article for MinnPost, most democratic nations don’t require citizens to register to vote — it happens automatically. “In general, the governments know the names, ages and addresses of most of its citizens and — except in the United States — provide the appropriate polling place with a list of those qualified to vote,” Black writes. By requiring citizens to register, the American government adds an extra step to voting that increases the likelihood busy eligible citizens won’t bother to turn out on Election Day. In addition, Voter ID laws and the Supreme Court’s overturning of Sections 4(b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act (which required states with a history of discrimination in voting to obtain federal preclearance before changing their voting laws) has even further reduced voter turnout. In the 2014 midterm elections, the first to be held since the Supreme Court ruling, only 41.9 percent of eligible citizens turned out to vote, the lowest number since the Census started collecting voting activity in 1978. The decline was strongest among racial minorities and individuals with low incomes.