Race of candidates should not affect voter turnout

By Anthony Ferranti

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)
(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

Whether you are for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson or even if you just want to vote for the stir-fry chef at Berk, don’t bother talking to me about your political opinions if you aren’t registered to vote. Compared to other developed countries, America currently trails significantly in voter turnout even when excluding countries with compulsory voting. However, this was not always the case.

The United States voter turnout was consistently strong from 1840 to 1896, before women’s suffrage and back when many African-Americans were still restricted from voting, with voter turnout fluctuating between about 70 and 80 percent of the eligible voter population. During the Third Wave of immigration to the United States from around 1890 to 1920, voter turnout percentage dropped significantly over time to about 50 percent of the population. Then, after women finally won the right to vote in 1920, the voter turnout percentage slowly rebounded over the subsequent decades, increasing to about 60 percent of the eligible voter population. However, since the end of the Third Wave of immigration, voter turnout has not risen above 65 percent of the population and has even dipped as low as 49 percent in the case of the 1996 Clinton-Dole election. So what is the connection between the Third Wave of immigration and voter turnout?

A majority of immigrants at this time were Asians and Southern Europeans and, as it turns out, the ethnicities of presidential candidates has a huge impact on the voter turnout for other races. In fact, Asians and Hispanics are more likely to not vote than to vote, although this is not the case for whites or African-Americans as African-Americans were the most likely race to vote in the 2008 and 2012 elections, and whites were the most likely race to vote in every other election dating back as far as 1986. Obama’s campaign and presidency significantly affected the voter turnout percentage for African-Americans, but unfortunately this change was seen only in African-American populations and not in other minority groups.

There is a clear reason why Hispanics, Asians and other minority groups are less likely to fill out a ballot: politicians in America have historically been white males. Although I personally believe that every citizen should register to vote and show up on election day, many citizens are reluctant to vote for candidates of other races because they feel underrepresented in politics. This year, the Republican Party primary voter turnout percentage increased by a whopping 62 percent (from 19,214,513 voters in 2012 to 31,108,968 voters in 2016), which should come as no surprise considering the diversity of candidates such as Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson. Meanwhile, with white candidates on the Democratic primary stage the voter turnout percentage dropped by 21 percent in the 2016 primary compared to the 2008 primary when Obama was nominated.

It is bothersome to know that many Americans are not willing to vote for races other than their own, but it is equally as unsettling to watch the presidential race be dominated by whites nearly every election. America is a melting pot of people of different races and ethnicities who have immigrated from all over the world, and we must continue to elect government officials of other races in order to ensure that the voices of minorities are being represented in politics.

In reality, presidents are not elected to represent a singular race, but they are elected to represent our country as a whole. Americans must realize that we should show up on election day no matter the presidential candidates.

I realize that it is too late to nominate a candidate of color for the 2016 election, but that should not drive away non-whites from voting. Even if you feel underrepresented by Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, voting in this election is about much more than who holds the Oval Office. Many Americans fail to realize that there are ballot questions that have nothing to do with politicians you see on TV and in the news. Unlike the citizens of many other countries in the world, Americans have the privilege of democracy. Even if you hate every name you see on the ballot, get off the couch and vote this fall because you might be surprised to find more than just names on the ballot.

Anthony Ferranti is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].