By Derrick Dyess, President/CEO, Promote the Vote
The right to vote ensures that citizens are able to make their voices heard. Unfortunately, a large number of voters choose to not participate. The 2020 Presidential Election had the highest voter turnout in U.S. history, but even with this historic voter turnout, only 66.7% of eligible voters cast a ballot. Out of the 239 million eligible voters, only 159 million votes were cast. That means 80 million voters chose not to participate in this election cycle. So why do so many Americans choose to not vote?
Here are the top 5 reasons that people choose to not vote:
- People think that their vote does not matter – According to Census Bureau data, 15% of registered voters reported they didn’t vote in 2016 presidential election because they did not believe their vote would make a difference. This is a common complaint in states that consistently vote for a single party. For example, reports show Republican voters in California feel discouraged, or feel that their vote doesn’t count as California votes consistently for Democratic candidates in presidential elections. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found half of the participants did not do any research into the election because they did not believe that their vote has any impact on the government. That is very unfortunate. Voting is one of only a few ways for citizens to have affect on pushing forward policies that they support.
- Lack of Information – A study conducted by the 100 Million Project discovered nonvoters are more than twice as likely as active voters to say they do not have enough information about the different candidates and political issues to decide on who, or what they should vote for. Moreover, many nonvoters said they do not know how to register to vote, where to register to vote, or do not know where their polling location is.
- Dislike of the Candidate – Many nonvoters indicate they choose not to vote because they dislike the candidates on the ballot. A Pew Research study found 25% of all nonvoters did not cast a ballot in the 2016 Presidential election because of a “dislike of the candidates or campaign issues.” Because they disliked both candidates, they felt, in good conscience, they had no good options.
- Contributing to a corrupt system – Nearly 20% of nonvoters say the “political system is corrupt” to explain why they do not participate in elections. They feel voting only helps perpetuate a broken political system. This might be a legitimate point in countries with an authoritarian regime. However, it is not a legitimate point where fair and open elections occur. In a 2019 study, the U.S. was ranked in the top 25 of most democratic countries in the world. So, this reason to not vote doesn’t hold water like it would in another country that is an authoritarian, or illiberal democracy.
- Not interested in the election/not involved in politics – Leonie Huddy, a professor of political science at Stony Brook University cites lack of interest to explain why young people vote less than older Americans. Huddy says young people “follow news less closely and are more likely than older Americans to get their news from social media. They do not feel especially well-informed about political candidates and think that the act of voting is more difficult than do older Americans.” Other nonvoters often indicate that they cannot become interested in politics or in voting because politics is too combative, it can be too difficult to understand, or they are too busy with their everyday lives to take time to vote.
These reasons for people choosing not to vote have long been issues throughout our history of political elections. In a time of easy access to information about politics, politicians, policies, etc., we live in a time that can help solve some of the problems keeping voters at home on election day and can encourage them to participate in our election processes. Due to the large amount of misinformation and outright false information, it is important voters educate themselves with factual information. Promote the Vote seeks to help educate Americans and address the issues that keep them from voting. Even though Promote the Vote primarily targets young voters, and voters soon to be, the nonprofit also works to empower, inform, and guide all citizens through the registration, and electoral processes. Voting is a right that is essential in a democratic society. When voter turnout is at its highest, elected officials better resemble the constituents that they serve.
Derrick Dyess is from Bassfield, MS and currently resides in Diamondhead, MS. Derrick served in the United States Coast Guard until a service connected disability forced him into permanent retirement as a decorated Veteran of the US Armed Forces. Since his service, he earned his Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Political Science. During his academic career he received numbers accolades for academic excellence. He earned the Trent Lott Scholarship Award, Political Science Outstanding Student of the Year for 2017-2018, Golden PRIDE Award, induction into the Gama Beta Phi Honors Society. In 2018, he was awarded the Judge R. J. Bishop Award in recognition of overcoming economic hardships in the pursuit of education. He has since worked conducting political research, analysis and provided recommendations of strategy for political campaigns.