With a 99.97% Voter Turnout, Does North Korea Have a Better Democracy than the U.S.?

There has been a lot of debate recently about how to increase voter turnout — to get more Americans engaged in the political process.

This is largely a reaction to the fact that the 2014 midterm election had the worst voter turnout in 70 years, with 36.4 percent of eligible voters casting ballots.

Ideas range from mandatory voting to increasing voter registration through motor voter laws and other schemes, but this is ignoring a greater reality: more people voting in a broken system alone doesn’t fix what’s broken about the system.

More people voting in a broken system alone doesn't fix what's broken about the system.
David Yee, IVN Independent Author
Take, for example, North Korea, where 99.97 percent of voters cast ballots in this year’s election. According to the Yonhap News, only those on foreign tours and working on the seas were excluded. Elderly were brought ballot boxes to their homes or beds, so they could still participate.

If voter participation was the standard by which to measure the health of a democratic system, then North Korea has a stronger democracy than the U.S. But in reality, the people were only voting for one candidate who was fully vetted and supported by the government.

But we live in the United States, the land of unlimited opportunity, and we have twice the choices that the North Koreans have for their election. Two lousy choices — fully vetted, and supported by their respective parties — for each election, and we’re supposed to be the world’s leader in democratic thinking?

And while our parties don’t go around making “little green books” out of their leader’s sayings, they do have exclusive membership perks that any totalitarian regime would be envious of achieving — like unlimited fundraising opportunities, complete control over the ballot box during publicly-funded primaries, and the incredible “mind control” ability to convince voters that going outside the party is throwing away one’s vote.

The single-party system of North Korea may have awesome voter turnout, but what greater proof is there that simply getting more people to vote isn’t going to cure what afflicts our democratic system here at home?

Voters do not have adequate representation, and in much of the country do not have equal and meaningful access to all integral stages of the election process. They have the illusion of choice by having two ideological opposites battle it out in the press during elections while being fundamentally no different once in office.

Efforts to increase voter participation are great and should be applauded, but if we want to improve elections and fix what is obviously a broken system, then we need look beyond the issue of turnout.

Photo Source: KCNA / Reuters