Richard Valelly

Richard Valelly is the Claude C. Smith '14 Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College.

Recent Articles

Vanishing Voters

In 1990 and 1992, the eligible nonvoters will likely outnumber the voters in national elections. A political scientist sorts out the different explanations of the long turnout decline—and what might be done to reverse it.

E lectoral participation is vital to political democracy. Yet in the past quarter century our rate of voting participation has dropped sharply and shows no signs of rebounding. In 1988 just 50.2 percent of voting-age adults voted for President, down from 62.8 percent in 1960. Voting for lesser offices, chronically lower than presidential voting, has fallen dramatically as well. In 1986 only 33.4 percent of the voting-age population participated in House elections. The last time half the eligible population cast ballots in House elections in a presidential year was 1972. Turnout in 1988 came startlingly close to the depressed levels of 1920 and 1924, the all-time lows for the twentieth century, when a majority of the voting-age population did not vote. If present trends continue, in 1992 a majority of voting-age adults will again sit out the presidential election. Yet unlike the early 1920s, when turnout rates dropped after the Nineteenth Amendment expanded the electorate to include...