“American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion” explores the significance of voting in the United States. Judith Shklar offers many examples of why classes of Americans do not vote, while her argument is strong, she fails to answer the question of why many Americans don’t participate in voting.
“When one considers how passionately disenfranchised American men and women have for two centuries yearned and struggled for the suffrage, it seems deplorable that their more fortunate successors should care so little for it” (Shklar 27).
While empirical evidence leads to the conclusion that previously oppressed groups (particularly blacks and women) take to the polls less than their white, male counterparts declining voter turnout is a becoming more of a widespread issue on the American political scene.
Americans of all races, genders, and social status are less frequently excising their right (either earned of inherent from the founding) to participate in electing American officials. In fact, many social scientists predict that the 2016 Presidential Election will have one of the lowest voter turnouts in presidential election history. While voter turnout is a problem at all levels of government, it is increasingly in decline at the local level.
Voter turnout in municipal elections has been on a steady downward trajectory for the last sixty years and only seem to spike for a small handful of reasons. Local elections have seen an increase in voter turnout when a highly contested race is held or when local offices are voted on at the same time as a national election. Similarly to Shklar’s findings, it is difficult to determine why American voters are even more disinterested in local elections than national races. Simply stated, the same groups (blacks and women) still have the same history of earning suffrage, there are the same barriers for voters at the state and local level than there are at the national level. Perhaps it is an issue of media coverage. Local elections do not have endless cable news channels with rolling twenty-four hour coverage as compared to national elections. Or do people just not care?
“Motivating more voters to participate in local elections is difficult. But while governments can’t instill voters with enthusiasm… they can make it easier for citizens to find information and remove barriers preventing people from voting to make for a stronger, more representative government” (Maciag 2).
Personally, it is difficult to swallow the idea that people may just not care as much about local government than the federal government. Policy decisions that are made within city councils and mayoral offices affect an American’s day-to-day life in a more impactful and rapid way than any policy decision at the federal level would. Local officials have the capacity to directly affect change in your community, yet only 20.81% of registered voters participated in the 2015 City of Phoenix Mayor and Council Election.
It is so important for every American to participate at national level but also at the local level. Be an informed voter in your country AND your community!
If you need more information about voting in your local election check out the Arizona Secretary of State’s Website.
Works Cited :
McElwee, Sean. “Why Non-Voters Matter.” The Atlantic. N.p., 15 Sept. 2015. Web. 2 Oct. 2016.
Maciag, Mike. “Voter Turnout Plummeting in Local Elections.” Voter Turnout Plummeting in Local Elections. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.