Increasing Voter Participation in America
People vote at a Los Angeles lifeguard station in Venice Beach on November 8, 2016. Photo: Getty/David McNew
Introduction and summary
Almost 92 million eligible Americans did not vote in the 2016 presidential elections.1 In the 2014 midterm elections, an estimated 143 million eligible Americans failed to vote, marking the lowest voter participation in 72 years.2 For the nation’s democracy to function properly and for government to provide fair representation, all eligible Americans must have the opportunity to vote—and be encouraged to do so. Our collective self-rule is established and fostered through free, fair, accessible, and secure elections through which the voice of every eligible American is heard.
The American people recognize the importance of voting in our democracy. In a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, 74 percent of respondents ranked election participation as a very important determinant of good citizenship—above paying taxes and following the law.3 And yet, millions of eligible voters are missing from America’s political decision-making process. This may be because of unnecessary barriers in the voter registration and voting process that prevent would-be voters from casting ballots or because potential voters feel alienated from government. Nationwide, roughly 6 million American citizens are barred from having their voices heard because of antiquated and discriminatory ex-offender disenfranchisement laws. Voter suppression tools, including improper voter purges such as those recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, keep countless eligible Americans from voting each election cycle.