Photo by Flickr user Mortimer62.
Chris Gates is the president of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for open government globally and uses technology to make government more accountable to all. Below he writes on voter participation and campaign finance disclosure, inspired by the latest News Challenge from Knight Foundation. Knight News Challenge: Elections asks the question, How might we better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections? Winners will share in more than $3 million. Apply at newschallenge.org.
Over the past several decades, we’ve seen a steady decline in voter turnout, and a growing feeling of disconnect from the leaders of our government that exists to represent us. This, despite advances in technology that quite literally have put the world at our fingertips. Why is it then, when technology has made it easier than ever to access information, connect with one another, build networks and communicate ideas, that we’re so disengaged from the political process?
Rather than engage, more and more people are making an active, and rational, choice to not participate in our political process. The United States has the lowest turnout rate of any industrialized country in the world. Citizens are tuning out and turning away from a system they feel can’t hear them and doesn’t represent them. Are they wrong? Given the state of our political system, who do citizens think their leaders really represent?