Article

American Voter Turnout in Historical Perspective

Michael P. McDonald

in The Oxford Handbook of American Elections and Political Behavior

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780199235476
Published online May 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199235476.003.0008

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

 American Voter Turnout in Historical Perspective

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This article tries to understand American voter turnout rates in a historical perspective. In order to do this, the pool of eligible voters, the voting procedures, and the political circumstances surrounding the elections in a given period should be addressed. The article discusses the four eras in American participation: Founding Era, Party Machine Era, Segregation Era, and Nationalization Era. The Founding Era witnessed the lowest voter turnout rates in American history due to measurement error. The Party Machine Era serves as an indicator of the important role political parties played in organizing American society. The Segregation Era marks a period of retrenchment in voter turnout. The overwhelming voting trend during the Nationalization Era has been a tearing down of walls, not building them. An active area of research is how procedural changes affect voter turnout, from how people are registered to when and how they cast their ballots.

Keywords: American voter turnout; Founding Era; Party Machine Era; Segregation Era; Nationalization Era; voting; American history; elections

Article.  7749 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Political Behaviour

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