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Why Do So Few People Vote in the U.S.?
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Raul Merly, right, reads his sample ballot as he waits with others to cast their early vote for Tuesday's election at an early voting place in downtown Denver, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2006. Confronted by a lengthy list of proposed laws, candidates and other questions, thousands have voted early for November 7th election. For those who have waited there could be long lines on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

WASHINGTON , November 05, 2006 – Government of the people, by the people, will be missing a lot of people Election Day.

It's a persistent riddle in a country that thinks of itself as the beacon of democracy. Why do so few vote?

Compare U.S. voting with foreign voting and it's not a pretty sight. Americans are less apt to vote than are people in other old democracies, in new ones, in dangerous places, dirt poor ones, freezing cold ones, stinking hot ones and highly dysfunctional ones.

Even that theocratic "axis of evil," Iran, has bragging rights over the United States in this regard. So does chaotic Iraq, where an estimated 70 percent of voters cast ballots in December parliamentary elections.

The pitched battle for control of the House and Senate in Tuesday's election has raised hope that voting will rise above its usual anemic levels. But competitive races are not reliable predictors of turnout and doubts exist about whether Republicans will be as fired up as Democrats and whether independents will vote with their feet or their seat.

As in other aspects of American life, the people who run elections work to make things easier for everyone. Yet they achieve little more than blips in increased turnout, if that.

Participation, paradoxically, is highest in states where making it to a polling station can be misery on a wintry day. Minnesota, Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming are among states that lead the nation in getting voters out, and they put the Sunbelt to shame.

About 40 percent of U.S. citizens of voting age population cast ballots in nonpresidential year elections.

Despite the competitive nature of the 2000 presidential race and the certainty of having a new chief executive no matter who won, just more than half turned out. In 2004, a polarized year when everyone remembered the near dead heat four years earlier, turnout climbed over 60 percent _ edging a little closer to the likes of Iran, Iceland and Somalia.

Source: The Associated Press (AP)


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