U.S. trails other nations in voter turnout

Lisa Neff, Staff writer

The “land of the free and the brave” ranks No. 31 among 34 democratic countries in an analysis of voter turnout by the Pew Research Center.

One contributing factor: U.S. citizens aren’t required to vote.

Pew examined the issue and found that the United States has the fourth worst turnout of the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Corporation and Development, which includes highly developed, democratic states.

U.S. voter turnout was 53.6 percent in 2012, when the last nationwide election took place. In other OECD countries, Pew reported turnouts of 87.2 percent in Belgium, 86.4 percent in Turkey, 82.6 percent in Sweden. The lowest turnout was in Switzerland, at 40 percent.

Pew noted that voting is compulsory in Belgium and Turkey. Such laws aren’t always strictly enforced, but they do have an impact. Pew said three of the five nations with the highest turnouts require that citizens cast ballots.

Meanwhile, voter turnout in Chile plunged after the country abandoned compulsory voting in 2012 — from 87 percent in 2010 to 42 percent in 2013.

Pew noted in its research that in many OECD countries, the government adds names to the voter rolls when a citizen becomes eligible or seeks out and registers voters.

This is not the situation in the United States, where about 65 percent of the voting-age population is registered.