Turning out

IT was a record-breaking election in the United States last week - the lowest voter turnout since World War II. Expressed as a percentage of voting-age population, the turnout of less than 50 percent suffers by comparison with that in other Western democracies. Discounting for aliens and for those unregistered or otherwise ineligible to vote, however, we find American turnouts in line with those of Europe or Canada.

The highest possible turnout is not necessarily the goal. Rather, the goal should be a system such that anyone who wants to register and vote can reasonably do so, unhindered by such inconveniences as capricious hours at registrars' offices or hard-to-find polling places.

Many feel that the US should, like other governments, assume an active responsibility to register citizens to vote. But requiring the individual to take the initiative, in voting as in other ways, is part of a larger American tradition, and should not be abandoned casually.

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