Politics

Map Reveals a Huge 'Not Voting' Problem When It Comes to Voter Turnout

January 18th 2017

By:
Kyle Jaeger

One of the main takeaways from the 2016 election was that a significant swath of the country didn't make it to the polls.

In fact, voter turnout was so low that if "not voting" was a presidential candidate, he or she would have won in all but eight states in the U.S., according to voting data from the United States Elections Project, which Reddit user taillesskangaru turned into a map. In the majority of the states, the number of eligible American voters who didn't vote actually outpaced the number of votes cast for either presidential nominee.

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About 139 million Americans voted in the 2016 election, which is higher than the 2008 election where only 132 million Americans went out to cast their votes. But as impressive as 139 million might sound, that's still only 60 percent of the eligible voting population, Business Insider reported in December.

Elections over the past 100 years have seen turnout rates in the 48 to 62 percent range.

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Why aren't more Americans making it to the polls?

There's a wide range of factors that contribute to low voter turnout, but the loss of protections guaranteed under the Voting Rights Act, which was largely gutted following a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision, is one common explanation.

Prior to the high court's ruling, election boards required federal approval before implementing voter ID laws and changing polling locations. Nicole Austin-Hillery, the director of the Brennan Center for Justice in Washington, D.C., told The Los Angeles Times that new voter ID restrictions likely had a "chilling effect on voters," though she also noted that it's difficult to quantify the impact.

Then there are the other consistent barriers to voting that many Americans face — namely, long lines and the fact that Election Day takes place on a Tuesday. Early voting is an option that millions took advantage of in 2016, but for those who prefer to vote in-person, or who missed early voting deadlines, these inconveniences embedded in the U.S. electoral process still present challenges for would-be voters.

[H/T Indy100]