Politifact did a puff piece on Bernie Sanders today, Mostly True: Bernie Sanders’ claim about America’s ‘lowest on earth’ voter turnout.
“Today, the United States has, sadly, one of the lowest voter turnouts of any major country on earth,” Sanders claimed.
Of all the claims candidates make during a primary season about the least controversial is voter turnout rates, but Politifact chose that to focus on. I suppose that ones that are data-based are the easiest to tackle, and with a puff piece they maybe didn’t want to work very hard.
But they didn’t get it right. The only source for their data can be the census.gov website, and I have that data myself, having written about it twice recently. THE BIG LIE ABOUT VOTER TURNOUT (I MEAN IT), There it is again: In 2012 86.8% of registered voters DID vote, but. . ., and The Golden Ballot Award for 2012 – Who Will Win in 2016?
AMAZINGLY, Politifact says this:
“Last May, the Pew Research Center ranked the United States 31st among 34 developed countries in voting turnout. The center examined votes cast as a percentage of countries’ estimated voting-age population.”
Now, what is wrong with this statement? Say someone is 25, a legal immigrant, and living in New York City. Is that person voting-age population”? Yes. Is there ANY legal chance he can vote? No.
YOU CANNOT USE VOTING-AGE POPULATION TO DERIVE THESE VOTING RATES, POLITIFACT!
I’ve already pointed out that there are THREE populations one can possibly use, and shown why Voting-Age Population is the EXACT WRONG ONE to use. Why? Because it includes immigrants (whether legal ones or not, I can’t tell, based on information available). Imigrants aren’t ALLOWED to vote, so using a population that incldues them is simply bogus.
WHY Poiltifact would use such a population can only be put down to three things here:
- They want to make Sandesr look correct (unlikely, but perhaps the author has a hard-on for Bernie and wants to make him look honest, as Sanders claims).
- They are lazy.
- They honestly don’t know how to discern what is pertinent and what isn’t.
- They want to continue the perception that Americans don’t vote
The Pew Reesearch web page about this that Politifact uses starts out with a graph. On that graph, the USA is shown WAAAAY down the list. And Pew bases the ratings on “voting-age population’.
BUT Pew ALSO shows what the voting rate is for Americans who are REGISTERED to vote. and THAT datapoint has a label on it (hover the cursor over it to see it), and that says,
UNITED STATES 2012 % of Registered Voters 84.3%
I quibble with Pew on that exact number (I get 86.8% from the census.gov information), but EITHER – 84.3% or 86.8% – is a better indicator of actual voter turnout. Those of us who aren’t registered can’t vote, so turnout MUST be limited to those who are registered.
Even Politifact’s 53.6% of “voting-age population” I argue is wrong.
Looking at votes cast for president in 2012, turnout in the United States was 53.6 percent.
Census.gov data allows determination of this number and the number is 56.51%, not 53.6%. But it’s bogus, anyway. People who aren’t citizens can’t vote, and citizens who aren’t registered can’t vote.
The only OTHER possible legitimate population to use – besides registered voters – is total citizen population. Using THAT, the number is 61.81%. Not great, but a good bit better than 53.6. (I don’t know WHERE the hell they got that rate, because it’s not derivable from the official numbers at census.gov.)
How does the USA stack up when REGISTERED VOTER RATES are looked at?
If we go by the graph that Pew has here, and go by REGISTERED VOTERS, an entirely DIFFERENT picture emerges.
Using Pew’s 84.3%, the USA is in the TOP TEN VOTING COUNTRIES:
- Australia – 93.2%
- Luxembourg – 91.1%
- Belgium – 89.4%
- Denmark – 87.7%
- Turkey – 87.2%
- Sweden – 85.8%
- USA – 84.3%
- Iceland – 81.4
- France – 80.4
- Norway – 79.2%
Using the number from census.gov, the USA with its 86.8% would leap-frog Sweden into 6th place.
Now, Politifact DOES make the case that Americans are free to register or not, just as we are free to vote or not. They point out that in some countries registration and voting are MANDATORY. #1 Belgium and #2 Turkey are like that. And others automatically register everyone including #6 Sweden and Germany. Germany has only a 71.2% rate for registered voters.
A side issue I discover on the Pew graph is that SOME countries – 9 on the graph – actually show LOWER voting rates for registered voters than for population as a whole! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE, except if non-citizens are voting?
. . . Strange. . . .
Using the more correct numbers, both Sanders and Politifact are WRONG. The USA has the 6th HIGHEST voter turnout of registered voters – THE ONLY ONES WHO ARE LEGALLY ALLOWED TO VOTE.