Voter Participation

Why don’t more American’s vote?

RECENT POSTS

Map: States Where Felons Can’t Vote

Includes interactive map

The map below, created by designer/programmer Lewis Lehe, shows state-by-state felon voting laws and population impacts as reported by the The Sentencing Project, based on 2010 data. Note: among the eleven states that deny voting rights to those who have completed their full sentences (including parole), restrictions vary significantly, and often depend on the severity of the crime. A good overview of each state’s specific restrictions can be found at ProCon.org.

[See article below map]

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Which Propositions Passed (and which counties voted for them)?

Includes interactive map

Let’s be honest: voting in California can be kind of overwhelming.

Along with having to decide on a president, a senator, state and local officials, and local ballot measures, California voters were also faced with no less than eleven statewide propositions this election. Of these, five passed.

The map below shows which counties supported what (counties in green voted Yes, those in red voted No). The voting patterns emphasize the fairly sharp political divide between more liberal counties in and around the Bay Area, Los Angeles and along the coast, and the far more conservative counties of the Central Valley.

Should Felons Have the Right to Vote?

Includes video

In California, felons serving time in prison or county jail are denied their right to vote. So too are ex-felons who have served their prison terms but are still on parole.That amounts to a fairly significant population – many thousands of California residents – who have temporarily lost their right to vote as a result of criminal convictions.

(Most inmates in county jail awaiting trial or serving time for a misdemeanor, or who are on probation, can still vote, according to the California Secretary of State’s voting guide for current and former inmates).

And this raises an important question: is voting a privilege that should be denied to people who commit crimes, or is it an inalienable right? Continue reading

Who Votes? 20 Years of State-by-State Voter Participation Rates, Visualized

Includes interactive maps and charts

This interactive graphic, produced by the Pew Center on the States sheds light on how voters in each state, and the nation overall, have participated in elections, from 1990 through 2010. Check out voting trends over time across three separate measures of the election process: the number of registered voters, the number of ballots cast, and the number of votes counted. Visit Pew’s site for the full-size version.

What Do Young Voters Care About?

Includes audio files

Roughly 46 million eligible voters this election are between 18 and 29 years old. That’s a pretty serious voting block.

So, what issues do young people care about? What are their ideas about government and the role it should play in our lives?

Well, rather than blindly hypothesizing, KQED decided to (gasp) actually ask them. Directly.

In partnership with three other public media organizations on the West Coast, we launched a series called “Voices of Young Voters”. This fall, we spent a bunch of time on college campuses around the Bay Area, asking young voters to weigh in on the issues they care most about in this election. Listen to to some of the responses below, and find many more here.

What Is the Electoral College (and is it time to get rid of it)?

Everything you ever wanted to know about the electoral college but were afraid to ask (with videos and maps)

Here’s a little factoid that never fails to mightily confuse most voters. As Americans, we actually DO NOT directly elect our presidents and vice presidents. I repeat, the U.S. president is not chosen through a one-person, one-vote system!

Simply put: this is not direct democracy!

When we head to the polls on election day to choose a presidential candidate, we’re not actually really voting for that person. Instead, we’re throwing our support behind a group of “electors” who belong to a strange institution called the electoral college. And it’s that group that actually casts the direct votes to decide who the next president and vice president will be.

Don’t believe me? Check out Article II of the U.S. Constitution. Says it right there. Honest.

Weird, right?

Here’s how it works:

First off, what is the Electoral College (and do they have a good football team)?

It’s more of an institution than a place. No dorms.  No frat boys. No teams. No crazy parties. Basically, none of the fun stuff.

Here’s what it is: During the presidential election every four years, the various political parties in each state (for instance: California’s Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, etc.) choose a group of “electors,” generally party activists who have pledged their electoral votes to the presidential candidate of that party should he/she win the popular vote in that state. Pretty much anyone who’s registered to vote is eligible to be an elector, with the exception of members of Congress and federal government employees). Continue reading

Should the Voting Age Be Lowered?

Flickr/Liz the Librarian

American youth under 18 years old live under the same laws as adults. They pay sales taxes (every time they buy something). And some can even work jobs and get drivers licenses.

But … they can’t vote.

And that’s just not fair, say a growing number of student rights groups across the country that are lobbying to have the voting age lowered to at least 16. Continue reading

Who Votes in California? (Hint: it’s not the majority)

Includes interactive map of voting rates and party affiliation throughout California
Click each county on the map below for stats on California’s eligible and registered voters, as well as a breakdown of political party affiliation (but keep in mind there’s a big difference between registered and “likely” voters). The darker the shade, the higher the percentage of registered voters.

(Source: California Secretary of State, May 2012 data)

President Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965, called voting “the basic right, without which all others are meaningless.”

But in California – where nearly 24 million adults are eligible to vote – the number of people who actually take advantage of this right is surprisingly small.

Consider these California voting stats (approximated):

                  • 24 million: People who are eligible to vote
                  • 17 million: People registered to vote (about 72% of those who are eligible)
                  • 6 million: “Likely voters” (those who regularly vote)
                  • 5.3 million: The number of votes cast in the June 2012 primary election

Public Policy Institute of California survey also found that California’s “likely voters” are not  representative of the state’s racial and economic diversity. About 65 percent of them are white (even though whites make up only 44 percent of the state’s adult population) and only 17 percent Latino (who make up about one-third of the state’s population). Likely voters are also generally older, more educated, more affluent, and far more likely to own a home than the average Californian. And more than 80 percent were born in the U.S.

For more on how to register to vote and who is eligible, go here.

Why Do So Many Californians Choose NOT to Vote?

Guest post by Jennifer A. Waggoner
President, League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

kristin_a/Flickr

Voting is essential to the democratic process; it allows citizens to participate in shaping the role and scope of government. And it remains one of the most powerful and interactive forms of civic engagement.

In most Democratic nations throughout the world, universal suffrage is a right that’s been fought hard for. And in some democracies, voting among the adult population is actually mandatory.

Yet in America, it’s a right that’s grown strikingly underutilized. Continue reading