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Gregory A.


Elections in America are important, but values, cultural norms, and social status play an
important role in society that dictates whether an individual will vote or not. In this blog, we will
explore why people choose to not vote and I will share my experience as a volunteered roamer
(trying to encourage people to become a registered voter) during National Voters Day at
Michigan Technological University campus. As you will learn, drastic measures must be taken to
engage people to vote.
No matter the outcome of a given election, cultural values influence the decisions of our
political leaders and government. However, when the powers that be go against our values and
norms, people feel neglected and perceive that their votes do not count. People realize that their
vote is only good for one vote. Although votes add up in an election, one vote is quite minimal
and many people feel that their vote will be outnumbered. This also reflects the social status that
they are in. If an individual is viewed as poor and lower in the social class, they will carry this
idea and do not value that they are important and, consequently, their vote will not count.
Lets take a look at some values that families may strongly believe in. Families tend to
share similar political values. Many people tend to stick with the values that they were raised
with. In 2008, economist Ebonya Washington revealed that daughters being raised by members
of Congress were more likely to vote for feminist measures. (Conley, 2017) She theorized
that the daughters socialized their parents into being more sensitive to womens concerns.
(Conley, 2017). This correlates with the concept of how and where the individuals are raised.
Both scenarios will dictate how an individual will value elections and how they develop norms
towards becoming a registered voter.
In many countries, aside from the United States, people are automatically registered to
vote. Having to fill out a registration form is work and requires time. For those who said they
were not a registered voter and were not interested in being registered, this indicated that either
they did not care or they did not want to spend their time filling out a registration form. From this
reason alone, you can see how the US has one of the lowest voter turnout rates among many
democratic countries! In 2012, a Pew election initiative study concluded that there are at least
51 million eligible US citizens that are not registered voters (PEW: Inaccurate, Costly, and
Inefficient, n.d.)! This is a shocking finding. This example establishes the culture of many areas
in America. At Michigan Technological University (a rural college in U.P. Michigan), the 2016
voting rate was 34.3% (NSLVE). This was an increase in the rate of 5.7% since 2012; however,
this rate is quite small where only 2,052 students out of the 5,990 eligible voters at Michigan
Tech voted during the Presidential Election (NSLVE). As of now, Election Day is a working
day. If we were to make Election Day as a national holiday, people would be able to focus and
have time off for the election day. As you may have noticed, becoming a registered voter in
America seems to be an inconvenience making people not interested in voting. Furthermore,
research was conducted in 2013 where Burden et al. demonstrated that if we have people register
to vote on Election Day, we would have an increased voter turnout (2014). This is easily
imaginable since US citizens must register 30 days before Election Day.
Gregory A. Kaurala

As I volunteered as a roamer during National Voters Day at Michigan Technological

campus, I had the opportunity to ask people if they were a registered voter. If they were not, I
would try to influence their decision and have them fill out a registration form. Although the
registration form is straightforward and requires basic personal information, people expressed the
attitude of not caring. For instance, as one of the students explained, The government is corrupt
and no matter who I vote for, American politics will remain the same. As mentioned before, this
norm is developed throughout the individuals life. There was no way I could convince people to
become a registered voter just by asking them. This is a prime example of how strong norms and
values are in society and how well rooted they are to the way people are brought up (how they
were raised by their family). This norm persisted with students that grew up in different countries
but were now US citizens! They explained that since they did not grow up in America, they
could not see how US politics would affect them. Besides, as one student joked, If America gets
ugly, I will just go back to my country. This norm of not caring was not an act of pure laziness;
however, it seemed as if the students followed values that were strong due to the way they were
brought up (that there was no way of fixing the corrupt politicians).
This was especially difficult for me. No matter how eager I was, people that refused me
demonstrated that they had strong values tied to how they perceive politics. I could not simply
break their norm of not caring by interrupting them and saying, Excuse me, are you a registered
voter? and if not, Are you interested in completing a voters registration form? At this point,
you may think my hours spent was a complete bust; however, I was able to convince a total of
six people to become a registered voter. This was, of course, six people out of the thirty-five
students I asked. Nevertheless, this was a successful time for me since I was able to encourage
students to think about voting and even get some people to register. By volunteering and
informing students about registering to vote, people started to rethink about voting. I can ensure
you that if it wasnt for volunteers, like me, people would have not even thought about
registering nor would they even had known that it was National Voters Day!
In order to get people to register to vote, we must be able to actively engage the
population by connecting people and make registration forms available to people. This can be
achieved by targeting nonrelated subjects that people value (perhaps a celebrity or some
inspirational figure) and have them spread awareness on voting importance. As long as the word
is spread out and registration forms are accessible, people will start to think about registering to
vote and may even discard the norm of not caring. After all, if you do not vote for your interests,
who will?
Gregory A. Kaurala

Works Cited:

Burden, B. C., Canon, D. T., Mayer, K. R. and Moynihan, D. P. (2014), Election Laws, Mobilization,
and Turnout: The Unanticipated Consequences of Election Reform. American Journal of
Political Science, 58: 95109. doi:10.1111/ajps.12063

Conley, D. (2017). Chapter 4: Socialization and the Construction of Reality. In You may ask yourself:
an introduction to thinking like a sociologist (5th ed., pp. 124-125). New York, NY: W W

NSLVE 2012 and 2016 Report-Michigan Technological University. (2017, August). Retrieved from:

PEW: Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient: Evidence That Americas Voter Registration System Needs an
Upgrade. (n.d.). The Pew Center on the States. Retrieved from: