The lessons of the 2012 election are still being learned, but here’s one we already know: We need to do more to increase voter participation.

In many battleground states, the intense and highly partisan presidential campaign bumped up turnout percentages from 2008. But in most states, where the outcome of the presidential contest was predictable, voter participation fell from the historically high levels of four years ago.

On top of that, there were embarrassingly long lines at the polls in many locations, something that hardly reflected positively on the nation’s commitment to democracy. Several states with Republican-controlled governments engaged in questionable practices to limit voting hours and impose other burdensome restrictions on people’s ability to register and vote that led to inhumanly long lines, most notably in Ohio and Florida.

Whether by design or campaign neglect, it is time, as President Obama said in his victory speech, “to fix that” and other participation problems.


2 thoughts on “California could serve as a model for election reform

  1. Though I agree with making it easier to register to vote and to vote (by mail, in person etc) I don’t think that is the key to improving voter participation. I think many don’t feel like their vote counts for much of anything. Most of us live in states that we know before hand will either vote red or blue. When you live in a place like that there is little incentive to go out and vote because you know which candidate will get your electoral votes. The votes that really count are only in the swing states. I think that the lack of voter participation has more to do with structural features of our system than the ease of voting / registering to vote.


    • Thanks for the comment. The act of voting should be valued as a responsibility to democracy (rule by the people). Without citizen participation, democracy fails. Without democracy, some form of authoritarianism is always the result (rule by a select few). If seen in this light, voting always counts as important regardless of whether your particular candidate or cause wins. Americans do not want to be ruled by a monarch, a dictator, or a privileged group of aristocrats.

      Yes, there are structural issues in our political system which work against democracy and the will of the people. These constructs were put in place specifically to preserve the power of the establishment (the U.S. Constitution makes no reference to political parties). That is why it is so vital that people vote. Any person who doesn’t vote is doing exactly what the forces of authoritarianism want.

      In addition to the voting reforms identified in this article, there are several other measures that can improve the system. Here are two that we should strongly consider. Best wishes!




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