No matter which candidate you support, it’s easy to see that for elections to be truly fair and inclusive, the more eligible voters who cast their ballots the better. Finding ways to increase voter turnout isn’t just a job for politicians and government officials, though. There’s a lot the average person can do to help encourage their fellow citizens to vote.
Empowering voters through education
Many people opt not to vote simply because they feel their vote doesn’t really count or matter much. After all, they think, what difference does one vote really make? Others skip voting because they feel confused by all the political spin and are afraid they may vote for the “wrong” candidate. Feelings like these happen particularly among socially disenfranchised groups such as the low income or under-educated. To combat this, nonpartisan citizens’ education groups host free talks on subjects like voter demographics and where to find non-biased information about the candidates.
Dealing with hopelessness and complacency
While they’re on opposite ends of the emotional scale, these two feelings are related in that both can lead a person to inaction. In barely democratic countries rife with corruption, citizens may not bother voting because they feel none of the candidates will really do anything to improve the situation.
Interestingly, contentment in a healthy democracy and economy can have the same end result on voter turnout. Someone satisfied with all candidates or who believes their country is fine the way it is may not bother to vote simply because they feel it doesn’t make much of a difference who wins.
In both cases, one common way citizens' groups can motivate people to be more politically active is by staging public protests to draw attention to problems and show just how many people want those problems solved.
“Get the vote out” Calls
This strategy, popular in the U.S., is highly partisan, but effective when most parties participate. Local political campaign groups nearly always have a list of the phone numbers of nearby supporters of their party or candidate. To make sure their supporters don’t forget to vote, they simply call everyone up and remind them of when and where to cast their ballot. Unfortunately, this technique has some logistical challenges for small campaigns because all calls must be made within a day or two of elections, which requires a large number of people working the phones.
While some believe compulsory voting is akin to “forcing people to be free,” others see it as the only realistic way to make sure the opinion of every registered voter is heard. Compulsory voting laws are in place in both stable democracies like Australia, Belgium, and Liechtenstein, and in newer democracies like the Philippines and Peru. In most instances, voters who don’t approve of any of the candidates can vote for “none of the above” or simply cast a blank ballot.
A high voter turnout is essential for a healthy, truly representative democracy, yet all too often citizens in established democracies take the right to vote for granted and don’t bother to use it. Through free educational presentations and simple reminders, though, everyday citizens are able to get at least a few more people out and voting on election day. Every little bit counts!