We Americans hold these truths to be self evident: that government of the people, by the people, and for the people is the best form of government. And, by extension, the more the people participate, the greater the result. And nobody loves democracy like Americans, right?
Let’s check that out.
The following is a list of some of the most noteworthy democracies, and the percentage of voting-age population that voted in that country’s last presidential or parliamentary election, per the World Economic Forum.
1. Belgium 87.2
2. Sweden 82.6
3. South Korea 77.9
4. Israel 76.1
5. New Zealand 75.7
6. Germany 69.1
7. France 67.9
8. United Kingdom 63.2
9. Canada 62.1
10. Spain 61.2
11. United States 55.7
12. Switzerland 38.6
(Of this list, you might want to discount Belgium, it has compulstory voting, though in truth all Belgians are compelled to register but not compelled to actually vote. And these numbers are not one-time deals, they have been relatively consistent for decades.)
In other words, the numbers clearly show that the United States, the world’s foremost democracy, is in fact quite “exceptional” at something; we suck at voting. In our Presidential election years, we have barely ever cracked 60% voter turnout. And our mid-term years are much worse, with about 10% lower participation; in 2018 we cracked 50% for the very first time ever.
Now, nobody knows what’s going to happen in 2022, with investigations of the previous administration ongoing, both houses of Congress pretty evenly split, and some razor-thin elections in 2020 having demonstrated the power of “getting out the base.”
But if the United States wants to be the leading voice for democracy in the world, we’ve got lots of work to do.
Until we do, you can’t spell “languishing” without U, S and A.
– Mike Keeler