Are low turnout rates a threat to democracy?  Are low turnout rates a threat to democracy?  

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Low voter turnouts can threaten democracy in several ways.

First, democracy is a system in which the laws and policies of a country are determined by a majority of the citizens. If only a small percentage vote, then the country is, de facto, being ruled by a small minority. Assume voter turn out is 40% and a President gets 51% of the vote. That would mean that approximately 21% of the country elected the President -- hardly a mandate.

Next, it`s important to look at the causes of low turnout and the demographics. Often low voter turn out is the result of policies which make it difficult for marginalized elements of the population to vote. For example, short hours for polling stations, onerous registration procedures, location of polling stations, etc. can marginalize or exclude the poor and people who live in rural areas (in the US, this has been a particular issue with Native Americans not having convenient access to voting in some areas)

Final, in a representative democracy, low turn out may signal a party process that leads to the only candidates on offer not being ones supported by the majority of the voters -- being given a choice between a limited number of candidates who don`t represent the will of the majority isn`t really functional democracy.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Low voter turnout rates indicate one of several things: people are unable to be informed and to participate due to health, over-work, interest or other reasons; people do not have the capacity to understand issues and the meaning of politician's platforms due to educational limitations, age, health, or other reasons; people are cynical and jaded about politics and politicians due to scandals, votes by "representative conscience" rather than by "will of the represented," escalating domestic and/or foreign crises or other reasons. In each of these scenarios, the loss of votes makes a marked difference to the outcome of a democratic representative election. Each group under-represented--the aged, ill, over-extended workers, under-educated, idealists, those opposed to status quo--would weight the results of an election to a statistically significant degree and might alter the ultimate choices made by government. So low voter turnout is a threat to representative democracy. Without these votes, democracy is representative of political enthusiasts who, generally speaking, favor one form of status quo or another.

dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, low voter turnout definitely threatens a representative democracy. The most essential principle underlying the true function of this type of government is the 'active participation' of its people. Unfortunately, when people don't participate in the electoral process it weakens the foundation of the democratic process. As previously mentioned in post # 2 there are several reasons why the U.S. suffers from low voter turnout , and not all easy to fix.

Perhaps the people who understand the importance of 'active participation' can raise the issue in public discussion at the local 'grassroots' level. Moreover, this type of community effort might then engage people to change the policies that hinder voter turnout. I think in most cases when one becomes a 'stakeholder' in the quality of their lives (in this case the electoral process-from local to national) the sense of belonging, educating, and working towards making their community/nation a better place would be very satisfying.

justaguide eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Low turnouts are a definite threat to democracy.

Many a times voters have to choose between two candidates neither of which deserve to be elected. Stuck between the rock and a hard place a large number of them simply decide to not exercise their democratic right.

The result is any candidate that can manage to get a few people to support him/her for irrelevant reasons getting elected and destroying the democratic structure. It is essential for people to understand the value of each vote and that everyone can make a difference.

enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, low turnouts are a threat. The question is "Why is there such low turnout?" As one poster has stated, the field of choices is usually poor -- people are tired of Demipublicans and Republicrats, but that is symptomatic of the deeper problem. It results from the failure of our representative government -- not that the people are at fault, but our representative government is. See more at the link:

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The points made above are strong. If low turnouts result from apathy, a lack of knowledge, or a lack of commitment to the nation, then perhaps in some cases low turnout rates actually benefit a democracy. High turnout rates would be most valuable among people who really know the issues and have given them serious thought.