In 2012, 53.6% of all Americans eligible to vote participated in the Presidential election, significantly fewer than the 87.2% of Belgians who participated in Belgium's most recent national election. What accounts for low voter turnout in the United States? This 2016 Pew Research Fact Tank feature compares voting and registration data from the thirty-five nations that are part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In the accompanying write up, author Drew Desilver considers a variety of factors that impact voter turnout, including compulsory voting laws and registration processes. Notably, the United States has a significantly lower voter registration rate (approximately 71% of eligible citizens are registered to vote in the United States, compared to 91% of their Canadian and British counterparts and 99% of all citizens in Japan), which, in turn, plays a key role in low U.S. voter turnout. Why is voter registration so comparatively low in the United States? One possible factor is that voter registration is a strictly individual responsibility in the United States, while the government plays a more active role in registering voters in other countries.
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