The percentage of people who participate in community elections is low and continues to decline. According to a report published by the National Civic League, the highest voter percentage recorded is about 47% (in Bradenton, Florida), and in some places, the percentage is as low as 6%.
Unfortunately, low engagement levels often lead to dissatisfaction and disorder within a community. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to understand what portion of the population is actively participating in local elections, and what’s stopping the rest from doing the same.
What Are Community Association Elections?
Community association elections are the foundation of local democracy. They empower residents living in a residential community to elect representatives for specific governing bodies that address the unique needs of their communities.
These elections can take various forms, such as:
However, when we say ‘community association elections,’ we typically mean elections to elect the board members of an association like a homeowners association or condominium association.
Which Factors Influence Voter Turnout?
Before we look at voting trends in further detail, let’s evaluate the factors influencing voter turnout:
- Demographic factors: These include age and education level. Older individuals and those with higher levels of education tend to vote more consistently.
- Socioeconomic status: Income and employment status also play a key role. People with higher incomes and stable employment are more likely to vote because they often have more resources and time to engage in the electoral process.
- Political factors: The competitiveness of the election race and the perceived importance of the election can significantly impact turnout. Highly competitive or high-stakes elections (such as the national-level elections) tend to attract more voters–but you can highlight the importance of community association elections with awareness initiatives and community events within the neighborhood.
- Voter registration: The ease of the voter registration process can either facilitate or hinder voter turnout. Communities with a straightforward registration process–such as one that is online–are more likely to see high turnouts.
- Accessibility to polling locations: The physical availability of polling stations and their proximity to voter residences affect turnouts. Long travel distances or limited polling locations often deter people from voting. This means smaller, more compact communities may have bigger turnouts compared to larger, more spread-out neighborhoods.
Historical Trends in Community Elections
A report on local elections published by the National Civic League presents the factors listed above in action. According to the report:
- People with higher income participate 30% to 50% more than people with low-income levels.
- Elderly residents (aged sixty-five or older) are seven times more likely to vote as compared to younger residents (aged eighteen to thirty-four).
As a result, the outcome of many elections is most influenced by the older, more affluent population of the community. That said, here are percentages of people who voted in community elections in their respective states in 2020:
- Las Vegas: 9%
- Oklahoma City: 12%
- Columbia: 14%
- Columbus: 30%
- Grand Forks: 38%
- Lexington: 42%
- Bradenton: 47%
Since 2020, there has been a downward trend in these numbers.
Strategies to Improve Voter Participation
There are several strategies that can be employed to increase voter participation in community association elections. They include:
- Community education programs
- Regular community meetings and events (these can help foster a sense of belonging among the residents and encourage them to participate in elections)
- Voter registration drives
- Online voting systems
- Offering early voting options
- Instructions on how to vote in community elections
Online voting systems can be particularly helpful because they eliminate the need for traveling to a polling station, which makes it convenient for the elderly or disabled members of a neighborhood to vote. If you’re looking for a reliable online platform for your community elections, try ElectionBuddy today!