POLS 1336 Lecture 3 (Participation)

History of the Franchise (voting)
* Said little; voter eligibility left to the states. Most states limited the franchise
-white male property-owners; later eliminated
-Taxpayers. This restriction removed in 1850s
-A few states had religious restrictions
Not until the eve of the Civil War did the U.S. have universal white male suffrage
The Next New Voters
Should we lower the voting age to 16?
Voting is a habit
We can get 16 year olds started early
Is this a good idea?
Voting Rights in the Amendment Process
* Between the Civil War and 1971 a series of constitutional amendments expanded electoral access
-The 15th Amendment (1870) extended the franchise to black males, but many could not exercise this vote in parts of the South
-The 24th Amendment eliminates the poll tax
The Voting Rights Act (1965) reestablished federal oversight of southern elections
-Department of justice must approve all changes in voting districts in the 11 Confederate States (including Texas)
Voting Rights in the Amendment Process (voting rights)
The 23rd Amendment (1961)
Granted residents of Washington, D.C., the right to vote for presidential electors
The 26th Amendment (1971)
Guaranteed voting rights to those under 21 (Note that states could use a lower age limit if they chose.)
Signed into law by Nixon
Trend: steady expansion of the vote
Convicted felons are not eligible in many states
Falls heavily on African American males
How Women Voting RIghts Spread
*Voting rights left up to separate states, which extended suffrage in different ways at different times
*Politics of voting expansion
-Woodrow Wilson and women’s suffrage
-His opponent supported it.
-Women could vote in the West.
-Wilson could not afford to surrender the West to Hughes so he adopted a moderate stance on women’s suffrage.
-Women’s suffrage began to look inevitable so other politicians jumped on the bandwagon.
France: 1945
Switzerland: Last canton in 1990.
Why People Participate (voting)
Extending suffrage has not led to increased voter participation.
Presidential elections
Half of the electorate stays home.
Voting is costly. What are some of these?

Why vote?
Most of the benefits are PSYCHOLOGICAL
example: Believe in civic duty to vote
Efforts of parties, groups, and activists to encourage turnout

International Comparisons
*Americans vote at much lower levels than people in most other countries
*The measurement of turnout varies
-In the U.S, it is measured by:
-Number of people voting for president/number of people in voting-age population
* Formula lowers American turnout as much as 5 percent relative to other countries
There is an understimate of Actual Voting
*Overvote/undervote/spoiled vote
-Ballots that have more than one choice for an office, whether because the voter voted for more than one candidate or wrote in a name as well as making a mark
*Voting-age population:
-All the people in the U.S. over the age of 18, including those who may not be legally eligible to vote

All of these things contribute to the underestimation of voters.

Personal Costs and Benefits: Registration
*More than 30% of the American voting-age population has not registered.
* But registration is also automatic in most of the world.
*Probably would not erase the participation gap
*Who would gain from high turnout—Democrats or Republicans?
Personal Costs and Benefits: Compulsion
* Some countries attach costs to nonvoting.
*Compulsory in some countries.
Australia and Belgium – fine nonvoters
Greek electoral law provides for imprisonment of nonvoters for up to 12 months (rarely applied).
Italy – no fine, but DID NOT VOTE is stamped on their identification papers. They also have their names posted on community bulletin boards.
*Compulsion raises turnout by about 15 percent more than in democracies without it.
Other Personal Costs and Benefits
*Elections traditionally held on Tuesdays
*Other countries hold them on Sundays or make the election day a holiday.
*Italian workers receive free train fare back to their place of registration.
*In the U.S., we vote many times during the course of a four year period.
*Being registered to vote also means being registered for JURY DUTY.
Mobilization and Turnou
-American parties have declined as mobilizing agents.
-Interest groups act as mobilizing agents, but they are not as deeply rooted in American politics.
-Overall, weaker mobilization efforts depress turnout by about 10 percent.
-Therefore, it costs more to vote in the U.S. and individuals receive less support for voting than citizens in other countries.
Turnout by race & age in 2008
Whites 66%
Blacks 65%
Hispanics 49%
Asians 49%

18-24 49%
45 + 70%

Why Has American Turnout Declined
*Puzzle: Why has turnout declined when developments have led us to expect an increase in turnout?
-Voting Rights Act
-24th Amendment (1964: outlaws the poll tax)
-Literacy tests abolished
-Shortened state and local residency requirements
-Simplified registration, Motor Voter Law
-Bilingual ballots
-Easier absentee voting
-Socioeconomic changes – Younger people don’t vote as much, but educated people do. While we have a younger electorate we have a much more educated electorate.
-Motor voter law
-So why the decline?????? (the recent uptick is for the moment being ignored by scholars as something temporary.
Why Has American Turnout Declined (social connectedness)
*Declining Political Interest
*Fewer Close Elections
*Declining Mobilization
*Declining Social Connectedness
-Compositional effect: an aggregate change that results from a change in the group’s composition, not from a change in the behavior of individuals in the group.
-Social connectedness: the degree to which individuals are integrated into society – families, churches, neighborhoods, groups and so forth
Who Votes and who Doesnt?
*People differ in
-their ability to bear the costs of voting
-their strength of civic duty
-how often they are targets of mobilization
*Highly-educated people are more likely to vote than those without formal education. Whites tend to be more highly-educated.
*Turnout increases with age until very old age reverses the trend.
*In other countries, there is not the strong relationship between socioeconomic characteristics and turnout.
Is Low Turnout a Problem? (yes)
* Three arguments say it is not
-Conservative argument: High turnout related to strife and conflict. If relatively no conflict, we should expect low turnout
-Elitist argument: Quality of electoral decisions is higher if a special effort is not made to increase turnout. On average, nonvoters are less educated than voters
-Cynical argument: Elections are charades. Real decisions are made by elites. Voting is solely to placate the masses. So elections do not matter. There is very little evidence to support this argument
Is Low Turnout a Problem (no)
Three arguments say it is
Voters are unrepresentative so elections are biased and thus public policies that are adopted are biased as well. Research says this argument is overstated. Why?
Policy views and candidate preferences of voters and nonvoters appear to differ relatively little
Low turnout reflects phony politics because the party system does not address “real” issues of concern to people. Phony issues are flag burning, gun control, school prayer. Real issues are jobs, education, housing, healthcare
Lower turnout discourages individual development. Participation in democratic politics stimulates people to become better citizens and better human beings. So they take politics to a higher level.
Evaluating the Arguments (voting/turnout)
nonvoters and voters have diverse motives
Some nonvoters are content; others alienated. The same goes for voters.
High turnout can mean high approval of the political order or serious dissatisfaction with it
Nonvoters do not have much political information, but neither do voters. So raising turnout will not “dumb” down the electorate.
Low turnout may make the actual electorate less representative than the potential electorate, but not as much as assumed
Low turnout – cause for concern but not despair
Beyond the Voting Booth (volunteering etc)
*Citizens participate beyond the voting booth.
-Americans are more likely than many to work in campaigns, contact public officials, volunteer for work in their community.
-Contribute money to candidates, attend local board meetings, and engage in political protest
-However, those who active beyond voting have opinions and preferences different than those who are not active. Thus, this elite is more likely to influence government.
-If a person wants to influence government, participation beyond voting is much more effective