Presidential election years tend to bring a lot of people out of the woodwork with opinions on who should be our next president – and why. Most of them are equally full of reasons why the other candidate should not be elected. But do these very vocal supporters flock to the polls on Election Day? Well, usually, not so much.
On the other hand, this race has been an anomaly in every other way, so why not in regard to voter turnout as well? The last presidential election in 2012 resulted in a shockingly low turnout – with only 16 percent of those old enough to vote actually voting. That’s just half the number that showed up at the polls in 2008. The reason may be that Americans were generally satisfied with the performance of incumbent President Barack Obama. And according to Pew Research Center statistics, incumbent years often produce a lower turnout – especially among voters supporting the person already in office or when the challenger is not considered a strong threat.
So as President Obama prepares to move on and return to leading a private life, a free-for-all has emerged among the potential candidates. The campaign trail so far has been a wild ride for participants and voters alike. All of which has led to strong feelings and presidential preferences. But will they vote?
Ordinarily, history would side with “probably not.” But this year? Well, if the primaries are any indication, they just might follow through. In fact, in the early going, voters – especially Republicans – have been flocking to the polls in record numbers. In the first 12 primaries, almost 12 percent of eligible Democrats have voted. And the GOP has seen a whopping 17.3 percent turnout. There’s no reason to believe the general election will be any different. Especially in a year when frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are just not that popular, this may just be the election where voters choose the candidate they consider to be the lesser of the evils. Which may just be the reason you need to show up!
Would it surprise you to learn that young adults – who are,oddly, often the most vocal in support of their candidate – make up the largest group of nonvoters. In fact, 40 percent of eligible voters who don’t make it to the polls are under 30. And 76 percent of nonvoters are less educated than those that vote – having attained less than a college degree.
Here’s a look at the most common excuses Americans give for not voting.
- Too busy. It’s interesting that this is the #1 excuse given by respondents to a Census Bureau. The date is established months in advance and polls are generally open a couple hours before and after normal work hours but, well, Americans are busy.
- Takes too long. Depending on the turnout, lines can be long. But polling places have a system in place and it often moves faster than it looks. Take your phone along – just don’t talk on it!
- Forgot to register. If you’re reading this now, you still have time! Some states offer online registration and some allow voters to register at the polling place on Election Day. The key is to find out the rules for your own state in advance. Go to https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote to learn more.
- Voter apathy. This has been a big one in past years, earning it 2nd place in the Census Bureau survey. Some people just don’t care. Or at least, they don’t have a strong enough preference to cast their ballot for one or the other.
- Forgot to vote. How is this possible?
- If you don’t drive or know you won’t have a car available on Election Day, there are still avenues available to you. You can vote ahead of time by having an absentee ballot mailed to you. Ask a friend, relative or neighbor for a ride. Some senior centers offer free or discounted rides. And if you live in a big enough city, you can take a cab or bus.
- No voter ID. New voter ID laws have been established and will be in effect for the 2016 election in 33 of them. The legislation requires voters to provide proof of identity – some with photo ID. Go to http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/voter-id.aspx to find out the requirements in your state.
- Dislike candidates. The Census Bureau survey had this one coming in at a tie with “forgot to vote.” But this year? It could easily jump to #1. Even though Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are accumulating the delegates necessary to earn their Party’s nomination, many American still are just not sold – on either of them. In fact, in a recent Gallup poll, 53 percent of American report having an unfavorable perception of Clinton and even more – 63 percent – have a negative view of Trump.
Maybe this will be the first presidential election where the ultimate choice will be made by which VP candidate people like the best!