SixFifty

lessons from America

The American reality is currently only a dream for us

A copy of ‘America goes to the polls – a report on voter turnout in the 2008 Presidential Primary’ from a US voter engagement org has just landed in my inbox and I couldn’t wait til tomorrow to share some of the highlights with you.

1) More than one in four of all eligible voters participated in a primary or caucus. This is a rate not seen since 1972, when the voting age was lowered to 18.

2) Voter participation in Democratic primaries was up 112% and caucuses by 223% compared to 2004 – ie.the turnout in Democratic primaries doubled and tripled in the caucuses.

3) Youth participation rose at a faster rate than any other age group. Turnout by voters ages 18-29 went up for the third consecutive national election year (2004 and 2006).

But alongside these startling facts, there is a salient message: besides competitive elections (which are very important) or the date of the primary, a number of factors influenced voter turnout. Election Day Registration and Early Voting most likely contributed to higher turnout in many states.

“Election Day Registration (EDR): Allowing voters to register or fix their registration at the polls ensures that more voters can successfully participate. Of the states with some form of Election Day Registration, most held caucuses. The three states with primaries, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and North Carolina, had high participation. Voters in North Carolina, normally a lower turnout state, benefited from the state letting early voters to register and vote at the same time up until 3 days before the election.”

“Early Voting: Allowing voters more and better opportunities to vote early can raise turnout in contests with traditionally lower turnout, like primaries3. Four of the ten states with the highest 2008 voter turnout – Oregon, Illinois, Florida and California – have broad early voting systems in place.”

Maybe both are measures the Ministry of Justice should be more seriously considering within its Governance of Britain discussions and consultations, rather than just the tinkering round the edges that constitute its proposals on weekend voting and giveaways at polling stations.

And perhaps the main lesson to take away from the report is that:

“The 2008 election provides fresh evidence of the difference made by meaningful competition and a diverse field of candidates and the higher levels of voter mobilization and participation this engenders.”

Meaningful competition. A diverse field of candidates. Those phrases are right out of the electoral reform playbook. To continue with the sports analogy, the MoJ really should be allowing these discussions onto the field of play; rather than leaving us – and logic – shouting from the sidelines

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August 24, 2008 - Posted by | lessons from America | , ,

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