Historically, there has been a remarkable decrease in the number of voters during mid-term elections as compared to the general elections. Every United States citizen has a right to choose their leaders through the voting process. Voters are expected to participate in two major elections, the Presidential and midterm elections. The two events are separated by two years as the Presidential elections precede. However, a higher number of citizens participate in Presidential elections as compared to midterm elections. Taking an example in 2018, only 57.1% of the registered voters turned up for the elections (Burden, 2018). The number experienced in the year was the highest in four decades. Two years later, during the midterm electronic, 36.9% of registered voters turned up (Hajnal, et al., 2021). The question of why some voters attend to the task and why others do not is a subject of discussion among academics, researchers and political scientists.
Campaign strategists should take advantage of the increase of polarization in American politics to persuade voters to turn up for the elections. They should avoid antagonizing their party’s loyal supporters, who are likely to turn up without much persuasion (Burden, 2018). For example, former President Obama’s success can be accrued to his campaign strategy, where he encouraged new voter registration and inspired voter turnout, especially among the black community.
However, some researchers say that the calculations of voter turnout may be wrong depending on the method of calculation. The data may vary based on the population estimate used as a reference (DeSilver, 2018). For instance, some researchers use the voting age population from the latest census results. This data may be faulty as not all voting-age citizens are registered as voters. Whichever way is used to estimate voter turn, midterm elections experience lower. Following the issue, this paper seeks to answer the following research question:
- Why is there a lower voter turnout in midterm elections compared to the general election?
- Why is the media less interested in state and local elections?
- Which strategies used in the general elections are absent in the midterm elections?
A significant difference is noticeable between the number of voters who participate in a Presidential election and the state and local elections in the United States. In the year 2016, an average of 57% of all US citizens who have attained the voting age cast their votes in the general elections (Burden, 2018). Two years later, 37% of the voters showed up during the midterm elections (Hajnal, et al., 2021). Arizona district registered the lowest voter turnout, with only 33% of the voting-age population casting their votes (Hajnal, et al., 2021). Although there is a significantly low voter turnout during the Presidential elections, the situation gets worse during the midterm elections. It is debatable whether the elections would be different if all Americans in the voting age cast their votes. The reasons for low voter turnout vary in different districts. For instance, in Arizona, there has been a record of mishandled ballots that have not been counted as they failed to verify the citizenship status of voters.
The Role of the Media
The media plays a vital role in ensuring democracy is practiced and maintained in a country. Voting is a democratic right of every US citizen, hence, the media ensures to cover the election process to eliminate and update citizens on the activities taking place. The media is involved in reporting the unfolding of election campaign events. It acts as a platform for different politicians to convey their messages and promises to the electorate (Carson, & Hitefield, 2018). The politicians are also able to debate various issues affecting the country and their policies using the media. The media creates awareness of various election and voting events which influences the public’s opinion.
Moreover, the media plays as a platform for the public to express their opinion, hopes, views and messages to politicians, fellow voters and the government. Voters can monitor the voting process, vote counting and announcement of the results via the media. It also scrutinizes the election process, and the management of votes and evaluates the efficiency and fairness of the process. The media is at center stage during the elections as they help to build or reduce tension among voters and politicians. They are keen to highlight every event which makes the election process remarkable.
It is hard to miss an important event in the general elections when following the media. However, the case is different in state or local elections. During the presidential elections, the media is highly involved in the campaign events making them the most important headlines. They are able to create tension among voters by discussing issues pertaining to the process and various candidates (DeSilver, 2018). They air various opinion polls and scrutinize all agendas presented by the electoral candidates. After the vote casting process, the media follows up on the ballot counting process, an event that leaves many voters glued to their screens.
During presidential elections, all national media stations are involved in the process. That is not the case for the state or local elections, as they do not capture much attention from the media. Although they highlight crucial events of the process, they do not cover the whole elections process (DeSilver, 2018) as media plays a significant role in influencing the voters to vote and pay attention to the event. Great coverage has a higher influence, while vice versa is true. Thus, voters are less interested in the state and local elections as there is less coverage from the media.
Public Education on State and Local Elections
The level of voters’ turnout is fully dependent on their interest in the process. Having a low voter turnout reveals that many voters are unaware that the processor is not interested. Public education and constant encouragement would play a vital role in ensuring a high turnout. Challenges faced by electorates in local elections may hinder them from participating in elections. Such challenges include a lack of information on where or how to register for the process and state and local voting laws. Some may not be aware of how to verify themselves as voters or maybe require translation or assistance to cast their ballots. On the polling day, it may be challenging for voters to reach the polling stations due to long distances or inconvenience due to conflicts between working and voting hours.
In addition to the challenges faced, citizens in state and local elections are ignorant of their voting responsibility. They are not aware that it is their duty to elect the right leaders’ failure to which bad leaders may occupy the offices (Carson, & Hitefield, 2018). A significant amount of voters are not aware of the duties of the local leaders and their impact on daily activities. In most cases, they are not familiar with the candidates in state and local politics. Citizens are also ignorant of the issues affecting them locally and the solutions that are needed. To achieve a high voter turnout, public education on the duties and responsibilities of a voter should be emphasized.
Less Funding for State and Local Elections
The United States electoral system is highly decentralized, as some of the money required to fund the elections are derived from the federal government. The federal government is expected to give $750 billion to different states to fund their political agenda (Carson, & Hitefield, 2018). Such agenda include public policies, education of voters, job recruitment and training, and social activities. However, Congress may provide less funding than expected which cripples the election process. Less funding for the process results in less voter education, ineffective campaigns and the inability of the authorities to carry out the in-person voting process. During the 2020 elections, some state and local elections officials were forced to close down some polling stations due to a lack of funding (Hajnal, et al., 2021). Moreover, the authorities are unable to pay for maximum media coverage of the events, which results in low publicity.
After noticing such inconveniences, the private sectors offer to help in form of grants. For instance, during the 2020 elections, Mark Zuckerberg donated $300 million to support the elections (Hajnal, et al., 2021). Private investors noticed that the local officials were not able to cater to the health of voters amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which posed voters with the challenge of choosing between the right to vote and their health. This situation discouraged a considerable amount of citizens from casting their votes. To improve voters’ turnout in the state and local elections, the federal government has to ensure sufficient funding for the process.
Burden, B. C. (2018). Disagreement over ID requirements and minority voter turnout. The Journal of Politics, 80(3), 1060-1063. Web.
Carson, J. L., & Hitefield, A. A. (2018). Donald Trump, nationalization, and the 2018 midterm elections. In The Forum (Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 531-549). De Gruyter. Web.
DeSilver, D. (2018). The US trails most developed countries in voter turnout. Pew Research Center, 21. Web.
Hajnal, Z. L., Kogan, V., & Markarian, G. A. (2021). Who votes: city election timing and voter composition? American Political Science Review, 1-10. Web.