Everyone knows that voter turnout is down, and that it’s due to increased apathy. As often as not, when “everybody knows” something, it’s actually not true. I just heard a commentator on NPR claiming that voter turnout, when computed in the usual fashion (as a percentage of the voting-age population) is in fact down. However, the decline is not caused by fewer eligible voters choosing to vote.
Instead, it’s the result of the decline in the number of people eliible to vote. In fact, the percentage of voting-eligible people who do vote has been steadily at about 55% since 1968. But the portion of the voting-age population that is not eligible to vote has increased from 2% in 1970 to 10% now, causing the decline in measured turnout. It’s partly the result of increased immigration and partly the result of the increase in the prison population and the number of felons ineligible to vote.
I can’t say for sure that this is true but it seems plausible. If true, the 10% number is disturbing.