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As citizens of the United States, individuals have the ability to participate in their government. In various countries, political outcomes are more controlled and their citizens have little to no say in government decisions.  In the U.S. however, as part of a representative democracy, citizens eighteen and older are granted the right to elect politicians to represent them. From local, to state and then on to the national level, voters may partake in elections. Although U.S. citizens have the right to vote, as displayed in the low voter turnout, many American voters do not exercise this right due to an array of reasons. In more recent national elections, of the registered voters, only about sixty percent actually participated in the election by casting a vote. Various aspects affect voting turnout. Some people are more likely to vote than others because they are registered. While in other democratic countries citizenship automatically enables people to vote, the U.S is one of the few world democracies that require registration for individuals who wish to vote (Black). Those that are not registered may be less encouraged to participate in an election. Although some may argue that registering to vote is a process that requires only a few steps, numerous amounts of individuals fail to take the first step, thus they do not end up voting (Black). Another aspect that affect the likelihood of an individual voting include conflicts in schedules. In the U.S., elections are held on Tuesday (Black). During the week, individuals may be busy with work or other obligations. They may not be able to find the time to go out and vote. Those that have busy schedules during the week may be less likely to vote than those that do not. There are also costs that accompany voting. While voting is costly in regards to the amount of time and effort it may take, there are also financial costs to vote. Individuals that are more likely to vote may be able to miss a day of work or find transportation to the polls (Malter). People of lower income may encounter barriers that other voters can avoid. In order to get to the polls, they have to find a form a transportation. This costs money whether it is to pay for gas for their car or to pay for a bus or other means of public transportation. With the enactment of Voter ID Laws, voters living in states that require it need to pay for ID, in addition to the cost of transportation (Malter). This burden falls on voters who are less affluent, decreasing their likelihood of participating in an election. Between nonvoters and voters, there are a variety of characteristics that differentiate them from one another. Some nonvoters may be defined as individuals that express anger towards the government, think that the actions of the government will not extend far enough to affect them, or believe that voting will have no impact on the decisions of the government. On the other hand, reliable voters or those that regularly vote may view voting as a duty of their citizenship and usually feel a sense of guilt when they do not vote (Bianco). A nonvoting citizen may also be influenced by the paradox of voting. This is the question of why citizens should take part in an election even though their individual vote may have minimal effects on the overall outcome of the election. The paradox of voting also states that the high costs of voting outweigh its small benefits. Voting turnout among whites have also proven to be higher than for nonwhites. This is due to a variety of factors that include differences in income between nonwhite and white individuals.  Educated individuals make up a larger majority of voters. Voters are more likely to be college graduates as opposed to an individual with a high school education or less. An individual with a higher education is more likely to vote because in general, they have the ability to obtain the necessary resources needed to expand their comprehension of the political system. They may also seek a greater importance in participation (“Why People Vote”). Age is another characteristic that differentiates voters from nonvoters. Younger Americans make up more of the nonvoters, while older Americans make up more of the voters. Older citizens are characterized by a more permanent residency in one area. Since the registration process requires citizens to re-register every time they move to a new address, younger voters, who move more often, may be less compelled to vote (Brandon). Retired or senior citizens often have additional time to visit the polls, as opposed to the younger, working individuals as well. Senior citizens are also viewed to hold a stronger incentive to vote in order to protect their government benefits, such as social security (Brandon). Both age and education are two of the most significant factors that influence voting turnout. Overall, this is due to differences in “perception” and “civic skills” (PowerPoint, Voting). Older, more educated individuals hold a perception that there are greater benefits to voting, along with an increased motivation to practice civic skills. Among the many that do not vote, there are still those that do participate. When an individual makes the decision to vote, several factors influence voter behavior. Since there is little appeal within voters to generate information on candidates, many Americans rely on information shortcuts, or voting cues, to make their decisions. This results in a rarity among issue voters in America. Voting cues are more easily comprehensible information as opposed to interpreting endorsements, reports, or press releases. One kind of voting cue includes party identification. Citizens vote for the candidate that possesses their same party ID.  Personal vote is when an individual votes for a candidate who has either helped them acquire support from a government organization or assisted their community through the implementation of a government project. Voters also rely on a candidate’s personal characteristics. When a voter bases their decision on this voting cue, they are voting for the candidate whose age, race, gender, ethnicity, religious views or background correlates with their own. Another voting cue includes pocketbook voting. This is where an individual’s vote is reliant on the status of the economy. Voters choose to vote for the incumbent candidate if economy is thriving, but otherwise votes for the opposing candidate if economy is poor. Voters may also consider a candidate’s previous performance in office, their personal relationships with the candidate or other biases (Bianco). Oftentimes, voters utilize a combination of these voting cues to come to a conclusion on who they are going to vote for.                                                                     In the American democracy, voting remains a fundamental aspect of society. Yet, due to a variety of factors, voting turnout among U.S. citizens exist in low numbers. In an effort to address concerns and increase voting turnout, various solutions have been proposed, but have yet to be put into place. Solutions that involve mandatory voting raise concern in that although it may increase voter turnout, it may also result in the rise of uninformed voters (Jaffe). As the number of nonvoters increases, there are a greater amount of individuals whose views or interests are never voiced. When a greater number of citizens are active in elections, politicians are held more accountable to their actions. Low voter turnout may weaken a politician’s legitimacy, as their win in an election may not be as representative of the entire country’s desires (“Why Should We”).As a result of these issues, low voter turnout continues to remain a topic of relevance when discussing U.S. politics.


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