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Increasing voter turnout among first time voters

20.09.2018  18:02

What are the results in Denmark?

Is it possible to increase voting among first time voters and young voters? Yes, the Danish experience shows that this is indeed possible. At the local elections in Denmark in 2017 no less than 75% of the 18 years old took part. It was an increase of 17 percent points compared to the local elections in 2009. This was the result of a broad based campaign launched by the Danish Parliament, local governments and youth organizations and implemented over several years. Young people have not only become active as voters, they also run for public office. After the last local elections Denmark’s youngest mayor, Christina Krzyrosiak Hansen, took office in the city of Holbæk at the age of 24.

So what worked?

The campaign and its impact have been studied in detail by the Danish professor Kasper Hansen and there is a lot of evidence of what works and what does not work.

  • Sending a SMS to young people, just before the election is very efficient and this is demonstrated if you compare with a control group not receiving a sms. On the contrary, physical letters had almost no impact. An U.S. study also shows positive results from the SMS-based approach.
  • Actions like mobile polling stations moving out to high schools and intensive campaigns on national TV, on the importance of voting, also had impact on the positive results.
  • Another project, which according to the prof. Hansen is likely to have had influence, is the School Elections. School Elections are an authentic simulation of the parliamentary election for 8th, 9th and 10th grades throughout the country. Almost 80,000 students took part this year. The students will be given election cards and ballot papers, and voting boxes will be placed at the schools. Prior to the election process, a three-week election campaign-like teaching program supports several subjects in social studies classes. Prof. Hansen highlights, that these kind of projects helps to make voting a habit among the young.

To sum-up: the studies conducted not only in Denmark but also in America clearly show that it is possible to increase voting participation through a broad based approach.