84% of registered voters voted in 2000, just 42% in 2010. That’s an incredibly fast drop-off. So what happened?
Well, I don’t think anyone really has the answer. If you look at the more detailed numbers, you see that the number of registered voters almost doubled between 2000 and 2010, but that the number of people who actually voted stayed about the same (though it rose for the election that came between, in 2005).
|Election For||Date||Votes||Registered Voters||Turn Out|
data source: IFES Election Guide
Some possible explanations:
1.Disaffection? People are tired of politics, don’t see that there’s anything to be gained by voting?
2. An unexpected consequence of to the shift to a permanent voter register? This could be the case if, for example, a lot of people in 2010 found themselves living in one place and registered to vote in another?
3. Mobile money. To sign up for mobile money services you need some form of ID – a voter registration card was one of the few forms of ID that was cheap and accessible to everyone. If people joined the voter register just as a way of getting access to mobile money, that would artificially inflate the voter register and deflate the turnout.
One way or another, I think it has to be linked to young people. The increase in registered voters between 2000 and 2010 will have been almost entirely due to young people. And it is possible that all three of the reasons given above apply more to young people than to others – they are more disaffected, more mobile, more connected to new technology.
Nevertheless, none of these possible explanations seem very convincing to me. They might each have had a small effect, but even in combination, I can’t see how they could have led to the turnout dropping from 84% to 42%. There must be something else going on.
With an election now just over 12 months away, there are both risks and opportunities here. People with little faith in democracy will look for other ways of making their voice heard – which could lead to violence. Alternatively, if a party can work out why people didn’t vote in 2010, perhaps they can find a way of convincing them to vote for them next year.
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Hat tip to Dilhani for pointing me in the direction of this data.