Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires Kathleen FitzGibbon at the IFES USEP in Nigeria Meeting

November 3, 2020

  • INEC Commissioners, guests, and partners in development;
  • Members of the press;
  • Ladies and gentlemen;

Good afternoon.

I am delighted to join you all today to discuss the U.S. electoral process.  The United States and Nigeria share history.  We both have federal systems, large populations, vast resources, and diversity.

I also believe that we share the awareness that democracy is not a destination, but rather a journey to a “more perfect union,” in the words of the great American President, Abraham Lincoln.

We have embarked on this journey together since Nigeria transitioned to civilian rule – witnessing recessions, economic growth, globalization, and bonds that result from the flow of people and ideas.

We are also living in historic times, as both our countries confront a global pandemic, observe how citizens exercise their rights to peaceful protest, and witness how our respective governments respond to calls for social justice and better governance.

I am pleased to be in the company of some of the recent architects of Nigerian democracy.  Your presence resonates even more today when Americans go to the polls to vote for our next President.  I thank IFES for pulling together this robust program to provide us an opportunity to reflect and discuss how Americans exercise our franchise.

I would like to contribute two observations based on some recent statistics leading up to today’s U.S. elections, which I think are germane to our discussion.

First, voter participation appears to be trending up in the United States.  According to the U.S. Elections Project run out of the University of Florida, as of October 30, over 81.3 million of the 240 million eligible Americans have already voted in the Presidential election, both through mail-in ballots and early in-person voting.  This suggests that 65 percent of early voting occurred through the mail.

The same research predicted in 2019 that 150 million people would vote in 2020’s general election, which would be a turnout rate of about 65 percent — the highest since 1908.

Second, youth continue to be the foundation upon which our countries’ successes will be based.  A national poll of America’s 18- to 29-year-olds by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School found that there is historic interest in this election, with a higher proportion of respondents indicating they will “definitely be voting” than has been observed in the 20 years since the poll has been conducted.

This suggests there will be higher turnout than has been observed in this age group in several decades.  Young Americans are increasingly engaging in the democratic process, just as we see in Nigeria, where over half the 84 million registered voters in 2019 were between the ages of 18 and 35.

So whether youth increasingly show up at the polls today in the United States, or continue to increasingly run for public office as was evident following the successful passage of the Not Too Young to Run campaign in Nigeria, which lowered the age at which candidates can run for office, they continue to be the foundation upon which our countries’ successes will be based.

I hope these reflections help inform today’s discussion.  Again, on behalf of the U.S. Mission, I thank you for the opportunity to participate.