Americans need to have their voices heard this midterm election season

As midterm elections loom closer, it seems that more people are urging others to register to vote before the deadline passes, and then to actually come out and vote on Election Day. Whether it be political activists or a cousin on Facebook, it seems like this midterm election is about to bring every eligible voter to the polls come Nov. 6.

However, voter turnout in the United States is reaching a record low. In the 2014 midterm election, only 36.4 percent of the voting-eligible population came out to vote — the lowest turnout since World War II.

Two years later, during the highly publicized presidential election of 2016, about 58 percent of the eligible population casted their vote. These two figures are stark contrasts to voting trends even 50 to 60 years ago, when close to 65 percent of eligible citizens turned out for the presidential election in 1960, and nearly 50 percent of people came out for the 1966 midterm election.

One would think that in a political climate full of polarization and controversy, more people would be heading to the polls to elect representatives who best represent their views. Politics are not enough to convince apathetic or busy American citizens that their vote actually matters. This leads to specific groups of people electing politicians who cater mostly to their wants. And these politicians mainly work on legislation and policies that benefit their voters, rather than the nation as a whole.

In order to further examine voter trends and find the true reasons behind these abysmal turnout rates, one first needs to examine what kind of people actually go out to vote every two years. Historically, the majority of voters has consisted of affluent, white, older and educated men. There was a period of time in history when this was the only group allowed to vote in elections or have any say in U.S. politics. Times have changed and archaic rules regarding who can vote were either turned over or amended, but the voting populace is still mainly rich, white Americans.

Through interviews with several nonvoters from different cities across the United States, NPR tried to distinguish exactly what makes someone a frequent voter or a nonvoter, which in this case means someone who voted either once or not at all in the past eight elections.

“Research has shown the biggest and most persistent difference between who votes and who doesn't is education and economics,” the article said, citing author and professor Jan Leighley. “Class is a more accurate predictor of voting behavior than race, ethnicity, gender or any other demographic factor.”

Younger citizens of the United States are less likely to vote if they aren’t educated or informed about their candidates and the issues that don’t directly concern them. Another reason younger people aren't coming out to vote is that their families are not active voters and don’t instill the importance of voting in their children.

Working-class citizens are also less likely to vote because they are usually less informed about elections and can’t risk taking time off from work to hit the polls, especially if their workplace is far from their polling site. Being too busy is an oft-cited reason for not voting, even in key midterm or presidential elections.

In terms of minority groups, people of Asian and Hispanic descent are the least likely to come out on Election Day. Part of this is due to both groups feeling less connected to their government, especially if they have just recently immigrated to the United States. Politicians are more incentivized to appease their existing voter population than to attract new voters, especially in states where people  typically vote for the same party regardless of how well the party’s politicians campaign.

Regardless of how past elections turned out and what kind of trends were discovered through them, there isn’t a single election that can be predicted before Election Day happens. Even if one vote seems as if it doesn’t matter, in the grand scheme of things, change can be made if this vote is multiplied by millions.

The way to make politicians pay attention to the issues that disenfranchised minority groups have with the nation and their government is to collectively show that these issues will affect how much support a candidate of any party will receive.

Swing states that are nearly split between candidates in the 2016 presidential election are the prime example of this phenomenon, but more people — of all demographics — voting on Election Day is the most successful way of showing politicians what the agenda of the government should be for the next several years.

-Diana Shishkina

Journalism ‘20