Bernie Sanders has long been an advocate of Democratic Socialism, and has adamantly pushed for the United States to progress toward policies already applied around the world. Not only widely discussed issues like healthcare, education and criminal justice reform—but policies that can greatly impact voter turnout.
These policies are working now in many European countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and more. Scandinavian countries have had success with Democratic Socialism now for years. A marker for their success Sanders has argued, is their voter turnout and how we could learn from it.
“The truth of the matter is that the media, large corporations, the people who control politically in our country today do not want you to participate. That’s only bad for them. Their nightmare is that young people, lower income people, working people jump into the political process,” says Sanders
Voter turnout in the United States has been in dismal decline over the last few election cycles. Our latest mid-term elections in 2014 saw the lowest voter turnout in a federal election since 1942, when only 33.9 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. Just 36.4 percent of the eligible voters in America exercised their right to vote in the 2014 mid-term elections. These numbers saw the return of control in the House of Representatives and Senate to Republicans.
The turnout for presidential elections is, of course, much higher. It was 58 percent of eligible voters that cast ballots in 2012 and 62 percent in 2008. However, many European countries still have much more significant numbers with more than 77 percent in Norway, 82 percent in Sweden and over 87 percent of eligible voters in Denmark voting in recent elections. Also, it is worth noting that France has had over 80 percent in recent elections as well. While France is not one of the much-discussed regions like the Nordic countries, they are still a country investing in their people with universal health care plans.
It’s as simple as this: The country invests in its people by fostering a society concerned with making sure that everyone stays healthy and has opportunity to become well educated, and the people in turn are an active and educated part of the workforce and Democracy.
It is absolutely imperative to the future of our democracy in America that we address what other countries are doing to bring voters to the ballot box. We have leading numbers in disenfranchisement in the United States, and as a result we badly trail many countries around the world in voter turnout.
It is no coincidence that we also have leading numbers in mass incarcerations, child poverty, and are one of the last major countries to not offer healthcare for all. We are not fostering healthy, happy and educated societies. We have a free market full of corporations that don’t pay their fair shares in taxes, that pollute the environment for our future generations and a government that works in favor of cutting taxes on big business and the rich while the inequality gap grows. We have a rich country that has been morally bankrupted by billionaire bottom-liners taking advantage of big business tax loopholes.
We must attempt to fully understand the reasons for the high turnout in these countries, for example: another big reason for our dismally declining numbers is that we have laws to disenfranchise voters and convolute the system. These other countries have no registration to vote, if you’re a citizen it is your right, they do not have laws that disenfranchise and restrict voter turnout.
Voting should be a right and should be protected by law. Voting is mentioned in the United States Constitution, but unlike Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion—voting is not a constitutionally protected right. Our voting rights in the United States seem almost constantly under assault with laws constantly changing regarding voter-ID and other tools of disenfranchisement that continue to adversely impact voter turnout.
In order to be able to call ourselves a representative democracy, we must be sure we are doing everything we can to get as many American citizens as possible to vote and represent their views and the views of their communities.