Maybe we really do need change

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)

Jefferson was quite future-conscious

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?



  1. Interesting post about elections….and timely, too. I know your course is about United States History, but you might consider looking at when/how other democracies around the world conduct elections. For example, are there countries that vote on Sunday? Does that improve turnout? How complicated is it to vote in the US? That is, if I live in Oregon and vote by mail, will I understand how to vote in Illinois? Does that matter? Your ideas on Jefferson are fascinating, too. I wonder what the Third Continental Congress would look like?
    Paul Monheimer
    World Cultures teacher
    Catlin Gabel School


  2. This is an interesting post and I agree with your view point. A lot has happened since the Constitution was written and therefore a lot has changed. As for the voting rate, I can see why it has gone down over the years in the variety of age ranges. For first time voters, I believe, they may not understand the importance of voting and why they need to stand up for what they believe in. Voting rates overall have gone down overall partly because voting for a president is not a new idea anymore. We do need to find a new way to get people more involved and interested in our government, politics and the world.


    • Hi Heather. Thanks for commenting on Jackie’s blog post. Unfortunately, she’s already graduated and moved on to university, so I think it’s unlikely that she’ll reply to you. Nonetheless, we appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on our blog. Cheers!

      Mike Gwaltney
      Teacher, OSG


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