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Where Have All the Voters Gone?

The 6-page discussion guide, Where Have All the Voters Gone?, was created by the Maricopa Community Colleges Center for Civic Participation and Arizona State University Pastor Center for Politics & Public Service. It was updated in July 2016 and was adapted from National Issues Forums Institute. This discussion guide provides four approaches to use in deliberation on why voter turnout is currently low and has dramatically gone down since the 1960s, especially among communities of color. With each approach, the guide offers examples and suggestions; and concerns, trade-offs, and consequences. The end of the guide offers closing reflections on how participants’ thinking changed during the discussion and what can be done to remedy the low voter turn out in current US politics.

Below is an abbreviated version of the guide, which can be downloaded in full at the bottom of this page or found on NIFI’s site here.

From the guide…

Many Americans express frustration and concern about poor and decreasing voter turnout rates in local and national elections. Discussion about why citizens aren’t voting tends to focus on voter attitudes toward politicians and politics, and on the implications of a disengaged voting populace for the future of our democracy.

Given these concerns:
What, if anything, should be done to increase voter participation?
What are the key elements of a “healthy democracy”?

The discussion guide gives four options for deliberation:

Approach One: Eliminate the barriers
Proponents of this approach say that the act of voting has become too complicated and poses obstacles and barriers that can prove challenging for some voters to overcome. They suggest changes to the voting and elections system to make it easier and more convenient for voters to participate in elections.

Approach Two: Increase election issue awareness
Some research suggests that a major factor contributing to low voter turnout is a lack of awareness or familiarity with the candidates, positions, or ballot measures that will be voted on in a given election. Critics point out a declining emphasis on civics education in public schools as a cause for this trend. Others point to a vicious cycle for voters in communities that vote in low numbers: Candidates and campaigns focus efforts on communities that vote in high numbers. So minorities and poor voters, for example, get less information about elections, which leads to low turnout.

Approach Three: Reform the election process
Many voters and non-voters alike express concern and frustration about problems with the election and voting process. Some are concerned about security and accuracy issues relating to voter fraud and vote tabulation (“Will my vote even be counted?”), while others worry about the role and influence that the political party system, lobbyists and political campaigns have, and about the fairness and transparency of the election process.

Approach Four: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”
Some policy leaders argue that it is not necessary or even ideal for all citizens to participate in every election. They say that voters will participate in elections that have particular interest for them, and will perhaps endure the consequences for not voting, and that that is the nature of democracy.

To explore the full discussion guide with examples, suggestions, concerns, trade-offs, and consequences; click the link below. 

About Maricopa Community Colleges Center for Civic Participation
The Maricopa Community Colleges’ Center for Civic Participation (CCP) seeks to enrich public life and public discourse on our Maricopa Community College campuses and in our communities. The Center also serves to promote effective practices that support Maricopa’s mission relating to community education and civic responsibility.

About Arizona State University Pastor Center for Politics & Public Service
Located in the ASU College of Public Service and Community Solutions, the Center serves as a dynamic, student-centric hub of activity that promotes, publicizes, and encourages political engagement and public service among ASU students and the broader community. It embodies ASU’s commitment to being an active agent of change, addressing society’s problems.

About NIFI Issue Guides
NIFI’s Issue Guides introduce participants to several choices or approaches to consider. Rather than conforming to any single public proposal, each choice reflects widely held concerns and principles. Panels of experts review manuscripts to make sure the choices are presented accurately and fairly. By intention, Issue Guides do not identify individuals or organizations with partisan labels, such as Democratic, Republican, conservative, or liberal. The goal is to present ideas in a fresh way that encourages readers to judge them on their merit.

Follow on Twitter: @NIForums

Resource Link: Where_Have_All_the_Voters_Gone

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