Political Participation

Political Participation - Political Participation Americans...

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Political Participation Americans are less likely to vote than are Europeans. The reasons for this difference are complex. First, the United States has an almost bewildering number of elective offices, an estimated 521,000 positions. Voters' enthusiasm for elections is surely deflated by the sheer volume of names with which them must familiarize themselves. In Europe, in contrast, each voter generally is confronted with only one or two offices to fill per election, so that electoral decisions do not impose a burden upon the voter. Even in Europe, however, voter apathy increases with the number of elections. Too much democracy, in terms of either selecting government offices or making policy, is exhausting. A second explanation for the poor turnout rate involves the mechanics of voting procedures. It is common in other countries for voting to be compulsory by law and for registration to be carried out automatically by the government. Mandatory voting would probably fail to survive a constitutional challenge in this country on First Amendment grounds; just as people have a right not to speak (like refusing to salute the flag), it would seem to follow that they have a right to refrain from voting-a form of speech-as well. Simplifying registration is a different matter. Republicans in particular have tended to resist any easing of registration standards. President Bush vetoed legislation designed to enable voters to register when obtaining a driver's license, legislation passed in 1993 and in effect as of 1995. As of summer 1997, the partisan breakdown of new voters remained unknown. The weakness of political parties must also be considered. Unlike in the past, parties today
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This note was uploaded on 12/14/2009 for the course GOVT 32 taught by Professor Lind during the Spring '09 term at École Normale Supérieure.

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Political Participation - Political Participation Americans...

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