How democratic is the United States?

On my web site, I have written short guides to the political systems of 11 countries including the United States – see here. Some day, I intend to get round to writing an essay on comparing different political systems and, when I do, one of the points I will draw out is the ease or otherwise of being able to vote.

When I was on holiday in the USA recently [my account here], my attention was drawn to the efforts of so many states to make it harder to vote. Of course, these initiatives are dressed up as efforts to curb voter fraud, but in fact the evidence of fraud is tiny whereas the detrimental impact of the measures on turnout – especially among the poor and ethnic minorities – is clear. The fact that so many of these initiatives are being promoted by Republicans in swing states tells us that the real intention is to damage the Democratic cause and, in doing so, the democratic credentials of these states is called into question.

“Since January 2011, 19 states have passed a total of 24 laws that create hurdles between voters and the ballot box. Some states are newly requiring people to show government-issued photo cards at polling stations. Others have whittled down early voting hours, imposed restrictions on registration of new voters, banned people with criminal records from voting or attempted to purge eligible voters from the electoral roll.

The assault on voter rights is particularly acute in key swing states where the presidential race is likely to be settled. Five of the nine key battleground states identified by the Republican strategist Karl Rove have introduced laws that could suppress turnout – Florida, Iowa, New HampshireOhio and Virginia.”

This is an extract from a piece in today’s “Guardian” newspaper highlighting the scandal.


  • Wademar pawlak

    Requiring an ID to vote seems logical. Is this not true? Do you need ID to vote in England?

  • Roger Darlington

    You do not need ID to vote in Britain. You just turn up at the polling station and give your name and address. If you are on the electoral register and nobody has already voted in your name, you are given a ballot paper.

  • Nick

    See also Under the Influence, an essay about the impact of wealth on the U.S. government.


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