America’s Issues with Voter Turnout Stretch Back More Than 200 Years | Smart News | Smithsonian

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America’s Issues with Voter Turnout Stretch Back More Than 200 Years

Since before the Revolutionary War, America has struggled with low voter turnout

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Photo: Keith Ivey

Across the country, the general election is in full swing: the candidates have been chosen, polls’ minutia are being picked apart, and in some places, Americans are beginning to vote for the next President of the United States. CBS News:

In-person early voting opens today in South Dakota and Idaho, though ballots are already coming in from a handful of other states: Kentucky, Indiana and the battleground states of North Carolina and Wisconsin.

CBS says that early voting has been spurred by the 2002 passing of an act designed to encourage and enable early voters—all part of a long process to lift America’s traditionally low voter turnout rates. What’s easy to forget, however, is that even in its earliest days America struggled with getting voters to the polls. In the period leading up to the Revolutionary War, says History.org:

Voting, especially in rural areas, took effort. Voters might have to travel a long distance to a courthouse and sometimes paid for food and lodging. The effort and expense, coupled with lost time from shops, inns, and farms, meant some men stayed at home election day.

Though early voting, or absentee ballots, may give those who can’t make it to the polls on an election day an opportunity to make their voice heard, the future of ease-of-use voting is currently being tested up north, in Edmonton, Alberta. There, the city is testing an internet voting system that could potentially be used in upcoming elections—no waiting in lines or long-distance treks required.

More from Smithsonian.com:
Hayes vs. Tilden: The Ugliest, Most Contentious Presidential Election Ever

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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