In the 2020 United States Presidential Election, the voter turnout rate was one of the highest seen in the past few years. An overall 66.8% of eligible voters checked off ballots that November, and every single state increased in voter turnout from previous 2016 election numbers.
High voter participation rates like in 2020, contribute to a strong democracy and a more functional society as a whole. A wider range of voices are able to be heard and the people will get to accurately choose who they think should represent them. Knowing this, wouldn’t Americans want to enter the polls as soon as the doors open? How do we get to see high voter turnout like that of our past Presidential election?
One way we can see more of an increase in voter turnout is through spreading the word. Political news media and other outlets that broadcast debates, advertisements, and more, draw in viewers to their televisions or social media devices. With this fast moving type of outreach, it becomes the topic of conversation at the family dinner table in a matter of minutes. Colleges like Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts, have created various avenues for election awareness through programs like “Suffolk Votes”, “Suffolk University Democrats”, “Suffolk University Republicans”, and many others. This allows for an increase in voter participation amongst their student body and contributes to Suffolk being ranked as one of the best colleges for student voting in the country.
Another way we can see more of an increase in voter turnout is by making Election Day (November 3rd) a federal holiday. This would allow eligible voters in the workforce to be able to cast their ballots and register to vote without worrying about making poll times. This is a topic that has been brought to Congressional light as recently as this year and has so far not shown much progress. Nonetheless, there are steps forward into making this idea a reality. Companies like Apple, T-Mobile, and many more have participated in giving out paid days off to help contribute to a healthy democracy. Other companies have also been taking steps to make election day a “no meetings” day or provide voting resources like mail-in ballots to their employees.
With a hopeful outlook on the future of our democracy, more and more Americans will participate in elections for years to come. If the people do their part and take incentive towards a higher voter turnout, it will contribute to a stronger country for all who are a part of it. Go out and vote, spread the word, and insure a civically virtuous tomorrow.
https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/01/28/turnout-soared-in-2020-as-nearly-two-thirds-of-eligible-u-s-voters-cast-ballots-for-president/ (Class Content)
https://www.suffolk.edu/news-features/news/2020/09/17/20/49/suffolk-among-best-colleges-for-student-voting (Class Content)
Hi Grace! I enjoyed reading your explanation for increased voter turnout rates as well as your suggestions for improved turnout in the future. I unequivocally agree with your point that high participation rates contribute to a strong democracy. But I think one of the most surprising things I have learned from this course is that high turnout rates are not necessarily, on face value, an indication of a healthy and thriving democracy. Many scholars have argued that the unprecedented turnout in 2020 is indicative of issues such as increasing polarization as well as a response to the Trump administration’s flagrant antidemocratic practices. I agree that we should be celebrating voter turnout and participation — a fundamental component to sustaining democracy — but I also think we should reflect on the reasons catalyzing these results. In terms of the question of getting Americans to the polls, I would be remiss not to discuss various state’s voter suppression tactics that disproportionately disenfranchise marginalized communities. The onslaught of restrictive voter legislation that Republican legislatures are attempting to pass following the 2020 election is extremely concerning. In order to develop comprehensive GOTV strategies we must fight against all forms of voter suppression and champion voter access. It is critical to remember that even in “Blue” states like Rhode Island, incredibly restrictive policies (such as the two witness and notary requirement for mail ballot certification) exist and decrease voter access and thus turnout. I also appreciate your insight on institutions of higher education serving as a key space for democratic engagement and GOTV efforts. I actually co-founded “Brown Votes” (a non-partisan campus-wide collective action initiative that aims to promote democratic engagement) in 2018 to address the ridiculously low voter turnout and registration rates on our campus. We have seen that both confusing/complicated/inconsistent voting policies and apathy seem to be the largest two reasons explaining students’ decisions not to vote. These institutions have an opportunity to reach voters when they are young and help foster a culture of democratic engagement so that these students build habits that will follow them post-graduation. I am thrilled to hear about and applaud the wonderful work that Suffolk Votes is doing, and I am hopeful that other campuses will continue doing this critical work that is necessary to sustain American democracy.
Exciting view of one of the Suffolk University students on how to get more Americans to the polls. She mentioned such programs as: “Suffolk Votes”, “Suffolk University Democrats”, and “Suffolk University Republicans”, however, we still have no idea what those programs are doing and how effective they are. Another great point is to make Election Day a federal holiday. Personally, I would agree with that. While there are many federal holidays this one can become the most important one because the country’s fate depends on it.