The US ranks as one of the lowest developed democracies when it comes to voter turnout, and registration rates during the COVID-19 pandemic threaten to harm its position even more.
According to an analysis released Tuesday by the Civics Center, a non-partisan organization focusing on youth civic engagement and voter participation, fewer people registered to vote in April and May of 2020 compared to the same months in 2016. Some states have seen voter registration decline by as much as 75%.
The 2020 presidential election was expected to have record turnout, but now that is looking less likely.
The Civics Center attributes the decline to school and government office closures like DMVs, and the cancellation of in-person voter registration events. Voter registration volunteers can no longer canvas door to door, and online registration isn’t an option in every state.
Colorado, Florida, Illinois, and Virginia saw new voter registration decline by 60% or more in April 2020 compared to April 2016, according to data publicly reported by the states’ secretaries of state or provided to the Civics Center.
Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Utah saw similar dips with a 75% decline in voter registration in April 2020 compared to April 2016.
According to the Civics Center, the pandemic poses a significant threat to democracy in the US if voter registration doesn’t increase in the next few months. Low-income communities are at a major disadvantage if they miss opportunities to vote, according to the organization Fair Vote. Wealthy Americans tend to vote at higher rates, which means politicians are more likely to represent their public policy interests.
The COVID-19 pandemic will likely not only affect voting in the US. Experts warn that election groups around the world need support and advice to protect the electoral process.
Global Citizen and HeadCount have teamed up to launch Just Vote, a campaign mobilizing young Americans to register to vote ahead of the 2020 election and beyond. As part of the campaign, your favorite artists and entertainers are offering exclusive experiences, performances, and memorabilia — and they can only be unlocked once eligible voters check their voter registration status. Learn more about Just Vote and how you can take action here.