It’s an election season like no other, with crucial issues like the economy, immigration and health care in play and political outsiders shaping the agendas of both major parties. Yet come November 8, if past trends are any guide, about half of all eligible voters might not head to the polls. But the fact is, a better tomorrow is contingent upon our involvement today.
Voter turnout hovered around 50 percent in the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. The pace has picked up since, with 55 percent to 58 percent voting in 2004 through 2012, according to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. But this increase “is still nothing to write home about,” said Sabato.
Still, there are reasons to be optimistic about participation in 2016. Turnout for the first 12 primaries was 17.3 percent on the Republican side, the highest since 1980. Democratic turnout was 11.7 percent, the most since 1992 with the exception of 2008 and Barack Obama’s historic candidacy.