During the 2016 election season, I was listening to a Maine Public interview with two college students who were volunteering with our elections. One was Swedish and the other Danish. When asked, “What do you think of the American political process?”, one answered, “In our countries 80% to 85% of registered voters vote on a regular basis. I do not think that democracy is sustainable with voter participation hovering around 50%.”

That estimate seemed low, so I did some research. Fifty percent is low, but actually not by much. I found an article published by Professor Michael P. McDonald of the University of Florida that listed the percent of participating registered U.S. voters in presidential elections from 1789 until 2016. Dr. McDonald lists his sources as, “Vital Statistics of American Politics”, published by CQ Press for post-1948 statistics while pre-1948 stats were attributed to Walter Dean Burnham.

According to McDonald, in the twenty presidential elections held from 1940-2016, voter participation ranged from a low of 51.7% in 1996, to a high of 62.8% in 1964, yielding an average (arithmetic mean) of 57.985%.

A century earlier, the 20 presidential contests held between 1840 and 1916 ran from 59% in 1912 to 82.6% participation (the highest ever) in 1876, for an average of 74.76%.

Both Democrats and Republicans are characterizing this year’s elections as perhaps the most important in history. Your vote has never been so important. Please, for the sake of our country, get out and vote.

Skip Gates


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