For the next few weeks in AP US Gov, we’re working on a project to develop a more effective electoral system that will ensure higher voter turnout and make the electorate more representative of the real demographics and ideologies of the United States. This comes after discussing and debating about how Super PACs, with their incredibly saturated budgets, may or may not skew the vote away from political agreement and towards flashier advertisements. This got me thinking about the way the elections were supposed to happen.
In the early years of our country (the first century or so), voter turnout was astronomical, hitting a high of 81.2% in the extremely important and disputed election of 1860 between Lincoln and Breckinridge. But that doesn’t mean that only extremely important elections had high voter turnouts. In fact, most of the elections between 1840 and 1900 had voter turnouts of over 70%. (Source)
What has happened since then? According to our textbook, some factors that may have contributed to the dramatic change in voter turnout are the fact that younger people tend to vote less, the growing population of minorities, and less effective political parties. But I think it also has to be taken into account that we’re voting to a standard that was set over two hundred years ago. There have been some minor changes over time, but we are basically following the same model that the Founding Fathers set.
Perhaps Thomas Jefferson had the right idea when he said that future generations should not be trapped by the ideas of their ancestors. Maybe a complete Constitution rewrite as he proposed is a little “out there,” but there are probably things about the election process that could be changed to encourage more people to vote. What do you think?