A lot of Americans don’t vote. According to the Pew Research Center, 55.7% of voting-age Americans voted in 2016. The popular narrative is that some people are lazy or don’t care, which is an incredible notion in the world’s oldest democracy and one of the most patriotic nations in the world (American ranked #1 in a 2016 poll from YouGov). Do Belgians (87.2% of voting-age vote) or Fins (73.1%) love their countries more? Probably not. What makes us special was pointed out by Dr. Melody Rose during her January 26 Friday Forum.
“We have a registration problem in this country,” she said. “It is highly unusual in a fully formed, advanced democracy that the responsibility for registration falls to the individual. That’s almost uniquely American.”
On Friday, February 2, we spoke people who are working to solve that registration problem and are trying to solve other issues around voting, including providing information about the voting system, working to ensure the information that’s disseminated about each election is fair and accurate, and actively reaching out to and engaging populations that often feel left out of American politics. Our panelists included Jerry Cohen, Oregon director of AARP; Ana del Rocío, state director of Color PAC, and Jess Campbell from the Rural Organizing Project. Moderating the discussion was Caitlin Baggott Davis, a veteran of voter drives and one of the founders of the Bus Project.
You can find a full write up of Friday night’s Forum, and more, over at the City Club of Portland blog.