presidential elections

Participation in the US presidential election surprises everyone for being one of the lowest in the developed world, something that experts blame the voter registration requirement and complexity of this process in some states.

Manifestantes muestran pancartas durante una protesta que insta a los ciudadanos estadounidenses a votar en las elecciones presidenciales de Estados Unidos en Parliament Square, en Londres, Reino Unido, hoy, 3 de noviembre de 2016. Estados Unidos elegirá nuevo presidente el próximo 8 de noviembre.

‘Protesters display placards during a protest urging US citizens to vote in the presidential elections of the United States in Parliament Square, London, UK, today, November 3, 2016. United States will elect a new president next. Image: HANNAH MCKAY EFE’

In the presidential elections of 2012, a total of 129.1 million votes were cast of 241 million people, representing a stake of 53.6%.

The figure collides even more when compared with data from other developed countries such as Sweden, South Korea and Belgium, which record holdings above 80%; and France, Italy and Germany, with more than 65%.

The truth is that despite the huge deployment of resources by billionaire candidates, abstention in the US has remained persistently around 50% over the past three decades.

“Since 1980, participation has hardly changed 9 percent from a low of 1996 of 48% when Bill Clinton was reelected, to the maximum of 57% in 2008, when Barack Obama entered the White House,” said the center Pew studies in a recent report.

This abstention is not widespread, and the difference of race is particularly revealing

White voters have registered a share above 60% since 1980, which in 2012 was 66.2%.

African Americans have gone from just over 50% in 1980 to exceed 64% in 2008 and 2012, although this rise is driven by the fact that candidate Barack Obama, was the first black president in the history of America.

In contrast, and although they have a growing demographic weight, Hispanics have remained in the past three decades below the threshold of 50%. In 2012, their share was 48.8%.

And all this despite the fact that US citizens of Hispanic origin with the possibility of voting have grown from just 7.7 million in 1988 to 23.3 million in 2012 and will be 27.3 million this year.

Experts, however, do not expect their levels to rise above 50%.
The further conditions of this record vary widely by state. In some, the deadline is closed months before the elections, others can be done the same day, and each requires different documents and different procedures to be part of the electoral base.

Therefore, a change of residence, a change in marital status such as divorce or a driver’s license expired can prevent the vote.

Texas, for example, which has one of the highest percentages of Hispanic population had the highest vote in the US (28%, representing 4 million), it is considered “the most restrictive state in the country when it comes to record vote “according to the Texas Civil Rights Project, due to a bureaucratic and administrative framework of great complexity that activists criticize specifically affect minorities.

In 2011, in addition, a wave of legislation in a dozen US states, mainly in conservative areas of South Georgia, South Carolina and Florida, have increased requirements to comply with registration.

As a result, it is estimated that almost 25% of the US population of voting age (about 51 million people) are not even registered.

There are other factors hindering the vote

Historians point to the fact that a law dating from 1845, the elections are held on a Tuesday, always the first Monday in November, causing many voters to be away from work or the weekly routine to spend a few hours to vote and as lines are usually long to be able to cast votes.

Finally, the vast majority of states explicitly prohibits or place restrictions on prisoners or ex-convicts to exercise their right to vote, which is significant given that the country has the largest prison population in the world with 2.2 million people currently behind bars.

This year, Virginia has tried to amend this issue and is immersed in a judicial process to allow prisoners who have served a sentence can vote.

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