Running Head: A Comparison of Voter Participation in Iraq and the United States
A Comparison of Voter Participation in Iraq and the United States
The right to vote or suffrage is considered an important part of the civil rights of any individual. Countries whose systems restrict the citizens’ right to vote are considered as oppressive. Many countries have undergone difficult struggles in order to achieve the universal right to vote for everyone. However, despite all these struggles, voter turnout during elections remains low in some countries. The other side of the coin is that in countries where there is war, citizens are ready to risk their lives in order to cast their votes. In the United States, the voting process has been made easier by the use of electronic methods for voting. On the contrary, a decline in the number of people who vote continues to decline (Hill, 2006). In Iraq, war has made it difficult for people to vote out of the fear of being attacked. Despite the danger, people still value their right to vote and come out in large numbers to exercise this right.
Iraq conducted a national parliamentary election in March 2010 to elect its national leaders. There were fears of a low voter turnout but BBC news reported a 62% voter turnout. This is relatively high considering the circumstances that voters had to go through in order to vote. Prior to the elections, reports predicted that the country expected a low voter turnout due to the conflict that has hit the country for many years. The country was still unstable at the time and incidences of violence were experienced in many parts of the country. For example, there were several bombings in Baghdad meaning that the voters were risking their lives by going to the polling stations. Terrorist groups in the country had threatened to ruin the elections but this did not deter the Iraqi citizens from voting. The Election Day was not a peaceful day for the country as many people were killed by explosions in different parts of the country. This shows the amount of tolerance the voters went through in order to exercise their right to vote. The voter participation in this country is good compared to the risk that voters put themselves in, in order to vote.
In the United States 2008 presidential elections, the country recorded a 56% voter turnout. This was a slight increase from 2004, which had 55% (Hill, 2006). Voter participation in Iraq and the United States is different considering the current situation of each country. The United States is a relatively peaceful country with little or no incidences of election violence. On the other hand, the impact of war on Iraq is profound making elections in the country, an international concern. Another difference is the ease with which voters cast their vote in the United States as compared to Iraq. The government has created ways in which a person can vote from home with some states allowing people to vote via email (Shenkman, 2008). In Iraq, the situation is completely different with voters having to walk to polling stations, endure the long queues and being watched by heavily armed soldiers. It is hard to identify any similarities between the voter participation in the two countries. It is a concern that the voter participation continues to be so low in the United States considering the steps taken to make voting easier for the people.
One of the major lessons I can draw from the struggle of voters in Iraq is that the right to vote is valuable and each person must exercise this right. In addition, the importance of voting is brought into perspective as Iraqi citizens desired to show the world that they could choose their own leaders despite their circumstances. Secondly, I learnt that a free and fair voting process changes the international perspective of a country. The Iraq citizens understood the risk of going to the polling station to vote but they braved the risk and voted. Subsequently, the world changed its perspective on the country and the hope for a peaceful Iraq was raised. These lessons show that the American citizens do not understand nor value their rights to vote. Eligible voters create excuses as to why they cannot vote while people from other countries brave the different challenges in order to vote.
Hill, L. (2006). Low voter turnout in the United States. Is compulsory voting a viable solution? Journal of Theoretical politics, 18 (2), 207-232.
Shenkman, R. (2008). Just how stupid are we? Facing the truth about the American voter. New York, NY: Basic Books.