To refer to a Pew Research article on the problem, by Drew DeSilver:
The Census Bureau estimated that there were 245.5 million Americans ages 18 and older in November 2016, about 157.6 million of whom reported being registered to vote. (While political scientists typically define turnout as votes cast divided by the number of eligible voters, in practice turnout calculations usually are based on the estimated voting-age population, or VAP.) Just over 137.5 million people told the census they voted in 2016, somewhat higher than the actual number of votes tallied – nearly 136.8 million, according to figures compiled by the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, though that figure includes more than 170,000 blank, spoiled or otherwise null ballots. That sort of overstatement has long been noted by researchers; the comparisons and charts in this analysis use the House Clerk’s figure, along with data from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) and individual nations’ statistical and elections authorities.
The 55.7% VAP turnout in 2016 puts the U.S. behind most of its peers in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), most of whose members are highly developed, democratic states. Looking at the most recent nationwide election in each OECD nation, the U.S. placed 26th out of 32...Goddammit America. When there's 245 million or so Americans able to vote, and only 157 million or so register, that's 88 million or so who just aren't taking the time to do their civic duty. Worse, we get about 137 million actually voting out of that 157 million, so add that 20 million missing and we've got 108 million Americans refusing/failing to use their power and voice in our nation's interests.
The Democratic (people vote for leaders)-Republic (institutions are regulated and balanced to ensure no one part is dominant) form of government we have survives on the involvement of its citizenry. When this many people make themselves unavailable, when this many refuse to use their voice and participate, it only allows the more extreme citizens - the ones obsessed with things everybody else do not think are problems, the ones more interested in abusing the system to their profit - to overtake the reins of power and fuck the country over due to their inflexible, oft-times corrupt ways.
Think about this: if that 108 million who didn't show counted as a None of the Above/Vote of No Confidence, neither Hillary (65 million) nor trump (62 million) would have won, hell they would have been embarrassed.
Back to DeSilver:
One factor behind Belgium’s high turnout rates – between 83% and 95% of VAP in every election for the past four decades – may be that it is one of the 24 nations around the world (and six in the OECD) with some form of compulsory voting, according to IDEA...
There's been an argument for Automatic (universal) Voter Registration - that every American citizen when they turn 18 or become naturalized gets their voter ID confirmed without the hassles of filing paperwork - as a means of countering the voter suppression efforts the Republicans are constantly attempting (and sometimes succeeding at). Some states already deploy a form of AVR, it's just a question of getting EVERY state to do it...
Back to DeSilver:
In the U.S., by contrast, registration is mainly an individual responsibility. And registered voters represent a much smaller share of potential voters in the U.S. than just about any other OECD country. Only about 64% of the U.S. voting-age population (and 70% of voting-age citizens) was registered in 2016, according to the Census Bureau report, compared with 91% in Canada (2015) and the UK (2017), 96% in Sweden (2014), and 99% in Slovakia (2016).
As a consequence, turnout comparisons based only on registered voters may not be very meaningful...
No matter how they’re measured, U.S. turnout rates have been fairly consistent over the past several decades, despite some election-to-election variation. Since 1976, voting-age turnout has remained within an 8.5-percentage-point range – from just under 50% in 1996, when Bill Clinton was re-elected, to just over 58% in 2008, when Barack Obama won the White House. However, turnout varies considerably among different racial, ethnic and age groups...
Argh. For a nation that's supposed to represent to the whole world how elective governments should work, we're doing a shitty job when it comes time to walk the walk.
One thing I see online is this ongoing call by (oddly enough) Progressive/Far Left Democrats to get the Dems to entice the "(White) Working Class" voting bloc as a means of flipping control of government from Republicans. As though that voting bloc can be enticed away from their Far Right fear-driven world-view.
But there's an even better solution, Democrats. There's between 88 to 108 million Americans who aren't bothering to register, at least 20 million who are registered but still won't show up. If you can just find out what it will take to get that 20 million to check in and show their support for the Democratic side of the issues, that could create a more reliable, less racist voting bloc to get your Party over the gerrymandering and geographic hurdles the GOP has been using the last 10-30 years to stifle the Real Majority voice.
There's got to be a better effort at getting the vote out. And the next time you get control of the Congress like you did in 2006, will you do yourselves a huge fucking favor and get that Automatic Voter Registration system in place nation-wide. Christ. You gotta fix this Dems, the Republicans sure as hell won't.