Voter participation is a pillar of democracy. It’s very simple: the higher the number of voters who come out to the polls in a free system, the more the result represents the will of the people. However, not everyone agrees with this premise.
In an election where voters participate voluntarily, what makes a difference for the winner is who gets motivated to vote and who gets discouraged. At times, this is accomplished by debating ideas. However, another way is changing state election laws to make it more complicated for certain sectors of the population to vote, with the unjustifiable excuse of tackling a non-existent problem such as massive election fraud.
Within this context, Republicans are taking advantage of the legislative majorities they obtained in the 2010 election to pass laws that restrict the voter participation of young people, senior citizens and minorities, all groups that are considered pro-Democratic. These laws are making voter registration systems more complex and establishing new voting requirements.
In response, House Democrats introduced the Voter Empowerment Act. This bill encourages voter participation by improving access to the polls through modernization and voter registration options, monitoring the integrity of the process and its results.
We think it’s necessary to get more voters to participate in the election process, whether or not it’s convenient for one party or the other. This is especially the case given that voter participation is very low for a democracy as large as the United States.
For example, estimates show that 51 million voters, meaning one out of four potential voters, are not registered to vote. During the 2008 presidential election, which broke a 40-year participation record, 43% of potential voters stayed home. At that time, an estimated 3 million registered voters were prevented from voting because of administrative problems. The integrity of an election process is fundamental for the result to be fair and valid. That being said, the participation rate mirrors the credibility that the result will truly reflect how the majority of Americans feels.
The way to win elections is to conquer voter support with ideas and proposals, rather than discourage and obstruct voter participation at the polls.