FLORIDA ONE OF WORST STATES FOR VOTER TURNOUT By Roxanne Escobales08/17/06
At this time in American history more people than ever can vote. Yet voter turnout has steadily decreased over the decades. Primary elections are particularly low-show events.
30-year-old Luis from Tampa can not vote in the primaries because he is neither a Democrat or Republican. But heâ€™s excited about the upcoming November elections. Itâ€™s the first time in his life that heâ€™ll be able to vote.
ACT: Iâ€™ve had issues in the past and just got my rights to vote. This is the first year, actually, sinceâ€¦ever.
When Luis was 17 he committed aggravated assault with a firearm and he was charged with felony. He served three years in prison. He was released in 1996 but it was only last year that his voting rights were reinstated.
ACT: It kind of felt frustrating, especiallythe last big election with the president.. now Iâ€™m excited because Iâ€™ll be able to vote.
Just last week Luis received his voter registration card in the mail. But others in the Bay area who have the right to vote are not taking it.
Tom Patterson is a professor at the Harvardâ€™s Kennedy School of Government. He wrote the book The Vanishing Voter in 2002. Patterson says that Florida rates low when it comes to how it treats its voters.
ACT: Florida is generally unfriendly to votersâ€¦
Aside from closing election rolls early, Patterson says that Florida should keep its polls open longer.
Ryan Oâ€™Donnell is the spokesman for FairVote, an election reform group that studies voter turnout. He says that out of all the states, when it comes to how many people come out to vote, Florida is ranked 46.
Oâ€™Donnell says because of the geography of districts, and the winner-take-all outcome, many people do not feel their vote makes a difference.
Primaries in particular are a challenge in getting people to turn up and vote. In the 1970s the turnout rate for presidential primaries was a little over 30 percent. Now it is under 20 percent.
But thereâ€™s one Tampa resident who will show up on election day. And while Luis can not vote in the primary because he is non-partisan, heâ€™s relishing the opportunity to vote for the first time ever in his life this November.
ACT: o.q. the whole politics realm.
Primaries take place September 5th. Check with your local elections office to find out if you can vote early or by mail with an absentee ballot.