Get Out and Vote
By Karen Fanning

Voters mark their ballots during Florida's primary elections Tuesday, September 10, 2002. (Photo: Oscar Sosa/AP Wide World)
If the 2000 Presidential Election taught Americans anything, it's that every vote counts. So why do so many Americans stay home on election day?

"Many Americans report that they are too busy to vote," says John Dinan, an assistant professor of political science at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. "And many Americans say they simply aren't interested in politics and elections, and don't find themselves drawn to any of the candidates."

Indeed, over the past 25 years, roughly half of all Americans who are eligible to vote have not shown up at the polls. Those numbers drop even further during midterm elections. In the 1998 midterm elections, only 36 percent of the American public voted—the lowest turnout since World War II.

Political analysts hoped that the country's renewed patriotism might encourage more Americans to vote, especially since one third of the Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for grabs in November. So far, that hasn't happened.

"Unfortunately, early indications in primaries are not indicating that people are racing to the polls," says Karen Scates, president of Kids Voting USA. "Waving a flag is one expression of patriotism, but it is not enough. The act of patriotism includes going to the polls to elect our leaders."

For political experts like Scales, the very future of our country depends on Americans showing up at the poll booths.

"We live in this incredibly free democracy," she says. "But it will only stay that way if people exercise their right to vote."