There are two forces in play which should ignite voter attention and participation in this year's mid-term election:
First, our nation currently finds itself overwhelmingly unsatisfied with its government. According to Gallup's most recent Congressional Job Approval Rating, 83 percent of those polled disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job while only 13 percent approve and 4 percent have no opinion. Down Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House approval ratings also show the public's displeasure. President Obama's most recent weekly job approval rating is 53 percent disapprove, 41 percent approve, and 7 percent of respondents have no opinion.
The second force of 2014 is that this year is a mid-term, non-presidential election. History has shown that voter turnout drops during mid-term elections. You'd have to go back to the 1820s to identify an election where mid-term Congressional voter turnout out-numbered Presidential election turnout.
The combination of these two factors makes it increasingly important for the electorate to become educated on candidate platforms and to participate in the election on November 4th-a mere 61 days away.
In 49 states, voter registration is the required first step the voting public must take in order to participate in the election. Voters must register to vote if they are unregistered or, update their contact information if it is inaccurate or has changed. A 2012 study commissioned by the Pew Center on the States found that an estimated 51 million U.S. citizens are unregistered; which is more than 24 percent of the eligible population. In other words, just two years ago, nearly 1 in 4 eligible citizens were not registered to vote. The report goes on to explain, "approximately 24 million-one of every eight-voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate". Although concerning, what is even more alarming is the fact that registering to vote is easy and still, the eligible population, remains unregistered and/or does not participate in the election by casting a ballot.
Each state determines voter registration eligibility and the mechanism used to register. Many states have adopted new regulations to ease the voter registration process. Paper registration by mail or in-person, online registration, and registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles are some of the most prevalent voter registration options. Many have noticed the lack of voter registration. Communities around the United States have begun to mobilize voter registration efforts through various drives and initiatives. Employee Voter Registration Week is one such endeavor. Focused on increasing voter registration among private-sector employees, eligible voters can find state-specific information on registering to vote in the upcoming election. By centralizing voter registration logistics and information, voters will be able to complete simple steps to register to vote, learn about voting early, and find their polling place.
Increasing voter registration is only the beginning. During this mid-term election, voters will elect 435 members of Congress, 36 Senators, 36 Governors and countless state and local officials. One could hope that, if more voters showed up and were knowledgeable on each candidate's platform, approval ratings to increase. In 2010, the last mid-term general election, only 41 percent of the voting-eligible population voted in the election for their state's highest office (Governor, U.S. Senator, U.S. House of Representative). An increase in voter registrations in 2014 and subsequent increases in voter participation will ensure that more of the electorate has a say in which elected officials make it to the winner's circle on November 4th.