Increasing voter participation in Charlotte County-Part 1

By Charles Magoffin, Charlotte County Dems Writer

Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a 3 Part series. Part 2 will deal with Voter Suppression and Part 3 with Voter Fraud. Stay tuned!

It’s safe to say that November 3, 2020, will be an important election. It may be the most consequential one of our lifetime. Let’s look at history and trends to ensure that our blue wave swamps Florida!

Eligibility to vote in the United States has been established both through the United States Constitution and by state law. The 15th, 19th, and 26th Constitutional amendments required that voting rights of U.S. citizens cannot be abridged because of race, color, previous condition of servitude, sex, or age for those above 18  The Constitution as originally written did not establish any such rights in the period between 1787 and 1870. 

The graph below shows the U.S. presidential election popular vote totals as a percentage of the total U.S. population. Note the surge in 1828 when suffrage (the right to vote) was extended to non-property-owning white men, the drop from 1890–1910 when Southern states disenfranchised most African Americans and many poor whites, and another surge in 1920 when suffrage was extended to women.

By international standards, U.S. voter turnout is low at 55.7%. The highest turnout rates among the 37 nation Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries are Belgium (87.2%), Sweden (82.6%) and Denmark (80.3%). One factor behind Belgium’s high turnout rates may be that it is one of the 24 nations around the world (and six in the OECD) with some form of compulsory voting, according to International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). 

During the 2018 midterm elections, U.S. voter participation was more than ten percentage points higher than it was in the 2014 midterm elections, demonstrating Americans’ demand for change and increased enthusiasm for exercising their civic duty to vote. That said, nearly 120 million eligible Americans did not participate in the November 2018 elections. 

As the pie chart shows, Gen X and Millennials lag behind in voting and registration versus older generations. These are important groups, since there are 70+ million Millennials alone who nearly match the Baby Boomer population.

As you might expect, Florida skews older with 21% of the 21.2 million population falling in the 65+ age group. However, it may surprise you that 33.1% fall between 18-44 years old.

Registered voters in Charlotte County increased from 118,837 in the 2008 general election to 146,397 presently. Participation of registered voters has increased from 72% in 2008 to 77% in the 2016 general election. The midterms, while historically lower, have seen an even larger increase, jumping from 52% in 2010 to 65% in 2018.

Seeking greater participation in Charlotte County, I have focused on the key younger groups (Zoomers, Millennials and Gen X). As the table above shows, the sum of the voter registration for these three age groups (18-55) in Democrat and No Party Affiliation (NPA) categories totals 30,097 versus 19,720 Republicans. Surely, these 17,608 NPAs would be receptive to convincing “Vote Democratic” arguments. 

Furthermore, with the national trend of Republicans lagging behind in voter and vote by mail registration, as well as voting, we could target drives and communication to reach and energize all three of these groups.  Let’s work to increase younger voter participation and to convince NPAs to vote Democratic!