Town Square

Does a low voter turnout threaten democracy?

Original post made by Frank Bravo, director of IT, Embarcadero Media and webmaster of Palo Alto Online, on Nov 9, 2006

With national voter turnout just over 40 percent, do you think that this low voter turnout is a threat democracy?


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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 9, 2006 at 12:33 pm


I don't understand your point.

Totalitarian regimes tend to have HUGE voter tournouts, and they vote 99% for the great leader. The remaining 1% get shot.

I voted, as usual, but I know several friends who rarely vote. However, these people are passionate about their politics. They are either too busy, or believe that their vote won't mean very much. If things get really serious, and they feel threatened by some issue, they will vote. In other words, they are very American - reacting only when a crisis happens. It IS democracy!

That's OK, at least in my opinion.

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Posted by Jill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 9, 2006 at 2:19 pm

Low voter turnout is the symptom rather than the problem. It signifies that people (except perhaps folks like John's friends) don't prioritize their participation in democracy. Too many other activities in life keep them (dare I say "us"?) from becoming informed on the issues. Judging from my own friends' experiences, even those who vote haven't always had time to think through the possible ramifications of the various propositions, etc. Don't know how to cultivate interest, though, other than to host non-partisan election discussion groups or some such.

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Posted by Jonathan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 24, 2006 at 10:11 pm

People should only vote if they're well-informed and have a reason to assert their vote. There's nothing wrong with abstaining if an issue isn't important to you, or if you don't understand the problem.

We have a very strange situation here in California... We elect legislators to legislate: to study each issue in depth, take a position, vote, and answer to the electorate. But rather than doing this, these representatives just collect their salaries and campaign contributions, and allow the most important issues of the day to be decided by voters who are typically informed by 30-second television spots and sound bites.