1. A Reason to Vote: Issues at Stake, Political Competition, and Voter ChoiceA critical factor in voter turnout is having a reason to vote. When voters believe key issues are at stake, they want a say in the outcome. HIgh competition levels also help voters feel like their vote can actually make a difference. Competition often leads to higher levels of voter education, mobilization and media coverage, all of which further enable and encourage civic participation and turnout. Finally, if there are real, differentiated choices of candidates, voters are more attuned to the direction of public policy.
2. Voting Practices and BarriersIn 2008, more than eight million eligible and interested voters did not or could not vote due to outmoded voting practices, avoidable errors or confusing procedures that vary in all 50 states, county to county and even towns. For example:
- An estimated three million voters could not or did not vote because of registration problems, which could have been easily addressed if all states allowed voters to fix their registration or make a new registration on Election Day (as is already done in 8 states).
- About one million citizen-age voters where barred from voting because of a past conviction, despite the abundance of evidence that identifies voting as a way for ex-offenders to re-connect with their communities and to decrease recidivism. This would not have to be the case if all states had the same laws as Indiana, Ohio or the 14 other states that restore voting rights after time served.
- Several million votes are lost in every major election due to poor election administration that results from underinvestment, low standards, and partisan interference in the election process. Well-documented problems with equipment, poll worker hiring and training, and lines also contribute to ballot losses.
|Election Issue||Voters Prevented or Discouraged from Voting|
|Voter Registration Issues||3 million (+)|
|Disenfranchisement of Ex-Offenders*||1 million|
|Election Equipment and Ballot Design||3-500,000|
|Unnecessarily Long Lines and other Fixable Poll Procedures||250,000 (+)|
|Voters with Disabilities||1 – 1.5 million|
|Low Literacy/Limited Language||1 million (+)|
|Inconvenience/ Election on Workday (including lack of convenient early voting options)||1 million (+)|
|Problems with Receiving, Returning or Counting Mail-in Ballots||200,000 (+)|
|TOTAL "LOST" VOTES||Over 8 million|