The lack of interest, particularly from the young people who comprise the majority of Egypt’s population, contrasted with the long queues and youthful enthusiasm of the 2011-12 polls that followed the overthrow of veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak. “I’m not going to give my vote to someone who doesn’t deserve it,” said Michael Bassili, 19, from Alexandria. “As young people, we’re trying to fix the country and we’ll work to do this … but these guys are just interested in money and themselves.” President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had personally urged Egyptians to use their vote, and the low turnout suggested the former general, who once enjoyed cult-like adulation, was losing some of his appeal.
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, the country’s longtime leader, was declared re-elected on Monday, winning 94 percent of the vote in balloting that was boycotted by opposition groups and marred by low turnout and public apathy. Mukhtar al-Asam, head of the Sudanese Elections Committee, said that 46 percent of eligible voters across the country had cast presidential ballots in four days of voting that began April 13, and that the turnout was lowest in the capital, Khartoum, and its surroundings, at just 34 percent. “The elections were useless,” said Mouyaser Hasan, 26, an engineer in Khartoum who said he did not vote.
California is the closest thing we have to a political lab for engineering a solution for the country’s voter apathy problem. From permanent absentee voting to term limits and redistricting reform and now a top-two primary system, California has tried just about every remedy imagined to help boost voter participation in the state. The result: turn-out in the Golden State last year for both the primary and general election was the lowest it has been in recorded history. Did reform fail? Was it a failure of candidates themselves? Or is there something more that California’s lack of voter interest can tell us about why/how reforms to voting systems impact actual voting behavior? At a conference organized by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley – called California Votes 2014 – some of the smartest and most plugged-in political professionals in the state tried to diagnose the state’s lack of interest in the 2014 election. Before we get to the question of why voters didn’t turn out, it’s notable that California’s low turn-out election didn’t bring Republicans the success they found in other parts of the country last year. Democrats actually swept all seven of the Golden state’s partisan offices and picked up one seat in the House. The joke out in California is that the GOP wave of 2014 stopped at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Some have attributed this to the younger and more diverse (i.e, heavily Hispanic) electorate. But, the Latino turn-out was just 15 percent – 4 points less than it was in 2012. And, young people didn’t show up either.
A lack of enthusiasm among Bahrainis for this month’s elections has been blamed for the limited number of citizens who have signed up to become poll monitors. So far just 30 people have put their names forward to work with anti-corruption watchdog the Bahrain Transparency Society – a fifth of the total that signed up to become observers in the 2010 elections. Its president Abdulnabi Al Ekry claims the opposition boycott is to blame for this apparent apathy among Bahrainis, an apathy that could hamstring his society’s ability to properly monitor the polls. “Compared to previous elections, this time we are noticing a drop in the number of monitors because of the boycott calls and also because of restrictions by officials,” he said. “This election is peculiar with its string of volatile accusations and counter-accusations constantly made by groups from all sides.