Yesterday, conservative Nicholas Sarkozy won the French presidential election over the Socialist Party's Segolene Royal (who was attempting to become France's first female president). Besides the violence that erupted, what we found interesting was the fact that voter turnout was 84% in France.
Sure, France is a smaller country than the U.S. and there isn't an Electoral College equivalent, but the voter turnout for the Bush-Kerry 2004 election was 60% - and that was 6.4% higher than the 2000 election. One possible reason why French voter turnout is very high: The election was held on a Sunday.
Some people have proposed that the U.S. Election Day be moved to a weekend or be made a holiday, though some states, back in 2001, told the Commission on Election Reform that it was doubtful Americans would actually prioritize voting on a free day. People who work for public offices, as well as some schools and unions, do get the day off.
Did you know that after the very close Democratic mayoral primary in 2005, some election reformers believe that NYC should switch to instant runoff voting? (Here's more from Gotham Gazette.) The 2005 mayoral election between Bloomberg and Ferrer had a 30% turnout. At any rate, if you haven't registered to vote yet, you should. Here's information on voter registration in NYC.
Photograph of riot police with a protester at Place de Bastille in Paris by Michel Springler/AP