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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify factors that motivate registered voters to vote
  • Discuss circumstances that prevent citizens from voting
  • Analyze reasons for low voter turnout in the United States

Campaign managers worry about who will show up at the polls on Election Day. Will more Republicans come? More Democrats? Will a surge in younger voters occur this year, or will an older population cast ballots? We can actually predict with strong accuracy who is likely to vote each year, based on identified influence factors such as age, education, and income. Campaigns will often target each group of voters in different ways, spending precious campaign dollars on the groups already most likely to show up at the polls rather than trying to persuade citizens who are highly unlikely to vote.

Counting voters

Low voter turnout has long caused the media and others to express concern and frustration. A healthy democratic society is expected to be filled with citizens who vote regularly and participate in the electoral process. Organizations like Rock the Vote and Project Vote Smart ( [link] ) work alongside MTV to increase voter turnout in all age groups across the United States. But just how low is voter turnout? The answer depends on who is calculating it and how. There are several methods, each of which highlights a different problem with the electoral system in the United States.

Image A is of a tour bus driving along a road. Print on the back of the bus reads “Rock the Vote”. Image B is of Sheryl Crow holding a guitar.
Rock the Vote works with musicians and other celebrities across the country to encourage and register young people to vote (a). Sheryl Crow was one of Rock the Vote’s strongest supporters in the 2008 election, subsequently performing at the Midwest Inaugural Ball in January 2009 (b). (credit a: modification of work by Jeff Kramer; credit b: modification of work by “cliff1066”/Flickr)

Calculating voter turnout begins by counting how many ballots were cast in a particular election. These votes must be cast on time, either by mail or in person. The next step is to count how many people could have voted in the same election. This is the number that causes different people to calculate different turnout rates. The complete population of the country includes all people, regardless of age, nationality, mental capacity, or freedom. We can count subsections of this population to calculate voter turnout. For instance, the next largest population in the country is the voting-age population    (VAP), which consists of persons who are eighteen and older. Some of these persons may not be eligible to vote in their state, but they are included because they are of age to do so.

Michael P. McDonald and Samuel Popkin. 2001. “Myth of the Vanishing Voter,” American Political Science Review 95, No. 4: 963–974; See also, “What is the Voting-Age Population (VAP) and the Voting-Eligible Population (VEP)?” http://www.electproject.org/home/voter-turnout/faq/denominator (November 12, 2015).

Questions & Answers

Can you explain the Stockdale Paradox
Patricia Reply
How the capital market can create a better future for all import and benefit
Egbo Reply
in the dred scott case what did the supreme court decide the Congress had no power to do
Kazi Reply
who was james madison
Ceceilia Reply
Founding Father who fought to add the Bill of Rights to the Constitution he helped write (called the "Father of the Constitution"). He and Jefferson didn't want the federal govt to overpower the states (Democratic-Republican party). Cowrote The Federalist Papers. 4th President of the US (1809-1817).
Aaron
hi
Serah
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hi
Nicole
hello
faithsia
who has the power to declare war
Fernandy Reply
president who is commander in chief
Abu
Adam the president
Talima
are spelled out in Constitution
leticia Reply
What is constituencies
Patrick Reply
is the body of voters who elect their representatives for their area
Ernest
Can you say is the process by which voters who elect their representatives for their area
Lydia
people respresenting Congress
Nicole
but are you sure?
Anna
so does anyone UNDERSTAND the laws of the CITY and the City Council...
Anna
the first Republic political parties
Baby Reply
how call government system in Zambia
esenam Reply
was it Britain that colonialised usa
Temiloluwa Reply
Yes because is in the document of Britain which it cannot be change.
Abu
what is Electoral malpractice
Bailey Reply
it is a practice which is against the rules of electoral activities(electoral commission ).
Abu
Electoral malpractice, is illegal interference with process of an election.
Tina
Clifford constitution of 1922
ABAH Reply
to this textbook which countries have the highest rates of execution?
michael Reply
What are the advantages and disadvantages of having so many levels of subnational governments in the United States? Explain
Nicole Reply
to help in protecting the right of the citizens, in safety purpose also if not many tribulation war and conflict in between the Nations and perhaps the citizens that is we really needs them.
Emmanuel
What are the advantages
maureen
what were the initial issues that led to the introduction of legislation
Benedicta Reply
Do the consideration and bill of rights protect the life and liberty of all Americans?
Benedicta
yes
Emmanuel
yeah
Akuchie

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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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