If Voting Were An Olympic Sport, Would America Win?

Flags of countries of participants of the Winter Olympic games 2014 year

As our country faces a contentious election, having my nights filled with the Olympics is a welcome distraction. President Obama noted in an interview which aired just prior to the opening ceremony that the Olympics is an event that can unite our country.  The event also serves as a way for people to learn about other nations and share in the struggles that are faced by athletes around the world.

During the Parade of Nations, commentators provided insights into stories of other athletes and facts about countries that many of us will never get a chance to visit.  In hopes of learning more about these countries, especially after references to the impeachment process underway for Brazil’s suspended president, I looked into the data points related to politics and advocacy that have been covered less by the media.

Unfortunately, the U.S. certainly wouldn’t win gold if voting were a sport.  A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that the U.S. trailed most developed country in voter turnout and registered voters.  Countries with highest voter turnout rates in the most recent elections include Belgium (87.2 percent), Turkey (84.3 percent) and Sweden (82.6 percent).

Pew also found that the 2016 electorate will be the most diverse in the history of the U.S., with Nearly one-in-three eligible voters on Election Day (31 percent) will be Hispanic, black, Asian or another racial or ethnic minority, however we still have a long way to go to having a more diverse make-up (including but not limited to gender, ethnicity, and religion) of elected officials at the federal, state and local levels.

The Olympic Refugee team is a great example of athletes who have inspired the world.  These ten individuals don’t have the luxury of being able to participate in the political process, but you do. While the Olympics may fuel some healthy rivalries between nations, the athletes always exude good sportsmanship and respect for each other.  Perhaps we can learn something from these world-class competitors and in the spirit of the Olympic Games as we head into November.