The United States has trailed other developed nations in voter turnout for years. During the 2012 presidential election, 129 million votes were cast with turnout coming to 53.6 per cent of the voting-age population. That’s a huge distance behind Belgium’s 87.2 per cent, a rate that’s primarily down to the country’s compulsory-voting regulations. Even though compulsory-voting laws aren’t always strictly enforced, their existence in some countries can still heavily influence voter numbers.
Even without them, many nations still have consistently high election turnouts with Sweden (82.6 per cent) and South Korea (80.4 per cent) notable examples, according to a Pew Research Center ranking from August. Today’s election in the US is being contested by two of the most unpopular candidates in history and many observers are expecting a record low voter-turnout.
Many other reasons underpin America’s historical lack of enthusiasm for voting with the registration process particularly notable. Americans have to register on their own initiative (rather than being signed up automatically) and this has resulted in registered-voters representing a smaller share of potential voters than in nearly any other developed country. Only around 65 per cent of the US voting-age population was registered in 2012 compared to 91 per cent in the UK and Canada. The tradition of holding elections on a Tuesday when people have to work is also often cited as a further reason for America’s dismal voter turnout.
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