Today I was having a discussion with a colleague who is originally from the United States (US). I was asking him about the participation rate for the presidential elections in the US. I was shocked to hear that it is only around 50%. In my own country (the Netherlands) it has been between 70 and 80% for the last twenty years.
My colleague explained to me that in the US it is more difficult to register for voting (we don't need to do that at all in the Netherlands) and that waiting lines for voting can be long, such that people have to wait up to an hour. In the case of the Netherlands, there are so many voting booths that voting has never taken me more than five minutes.
This brings me to my questions:
1) Starting from the assumptions that a high participation rate is a good thing, why don't they increase the number of voting booths in the US to increase the participation rate? I can imagine that this costs more money, but it would be for a good cause (assuming that this increases the turnout). However, my colleague expressed his suspicion that certain politicians do not want the turnout to be higher, because that would mean that their percentage of the vote would go down as the voters that do not show now are more inclined to vote for their rivals. Is this true?
Hence my second question:
2) Has there been any quantitative research/polling on the political tendencies of the people that do not go and vote? And could the sudden turnout of the normally non-voting people drastically change, for example, the outcome of presidential elections?