Low-income and minority citizens—both
significant portions of the American population—are historically alienated from
the electoral process. As a result, the proportion of the U.S. population that registers
to vote and that does vote is highly skewed towards Whites, the educated and
These disparities in the electorate weaken our
democracy and skew the national agenda by excluding from major public policy
decisions the voices of the least powerful and most vulnerable citizens.
However, the population that
voted in 2008—while still unrepresentative of the American population in many
ways—was more diverse than in previous years. This is attributable to the
increasing diversity of the population eligible to vote, a significant increase
in turnout among minority voters in 2008, and a slight decline in turnout among
White non-Latino voters.
Project Vote documented these significant gains (as well as the persisting disparities)
in participation among historically underrepresented groups in our 2009 report Representational Bias in
the 2008 Electorate, which found that:
turnout surged among non-Whites in 2008, making up approximately 9 percent of
the increase in the total number of voters since 2004;
- Registration and voting rates among minority groups under
the age of 30 increased 2 to 5
percentage points since 2004;
- Americans making less than $25,000 per year voted at a
rate that lagged 25 percentage points behind those who earn more than $100,000.
Despite gains made in the
2008 general election, continued disparities strongly point to the need for
civic organizations and government officials (at all levels of government) to
continue to reduce barriers to participation and embrace voter
registration reform that works to reduce the existing representational bias.
For their part, governments should view bias in the electorate as a call to
embrace voter registration as an affirmative responsibility through better
implementation of laws relating to the registration of young, low-income and
minority voters, particularly the Public Agency Registration provisions
of the National Voter Registration Act.
Project Vote works to close these gaps by encouraging voter
participation among young people, and low-income citizens, minority groups and
to eliminate unfair barriers to voter registration and participation.