Ineligible to Vote: Civic Engagement in America

Despite Record Voter Turnout, More Residents Are Ineligible to Vote: Grassroots Grantmakers Shares Its Views on Civic Engagement in America

Exercising the right to vote is the most fundamental act in a democratic society and one of the most critical measures of civic engagement; however, millions of Americans remain disenfranchised from, or indifferent towards, the political process for various reasons.

For years, most election experts have reported voter turnout, and thereby civic engagement, is on the decline in the U.S. However, new research suggests that voter turnout has remained relatively unchanged since the 1970s; rather, how we measured voter turnout is inherently flawed. While some report voter participation is on the decline, others have recently discovered that there is actually a decline in the number of residents that are eligible to vote.

Grassroots Grantmakers considers voter turnout (and even voter registration) as proxy data for civic engagement and believes that community investment strategies should incorporate support for voter education and registration efforts and measuring effectiveness, in part, by the increase in the number and percentage of residents participating in the democratic process. Funding grassroots community organizing efforts can be an effectively strategy to not only engage residents in place-based problem-solving activities, but also provide a platform to reversing trends of indifference and removing systematic barriers to engage civically that has disproportionately affected some residents and neighborhoods than others.

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