In politics, voter fatigue is the apathy that the electorate can experience under certain circumstances, one of which could be (in exceptional circumstances) that they are required to vote too often, or that they feel disengaged. Voter fatigue and voter apathy should be distinguished from what arises when voters are not allowed or unable to vote, or when disenfranchisement occurs, or voters are engaged generally but repelled by the options available.
Voter fatigue can be used as a criticism of the direct democracy system, in those specific situations in which voters are constantly asked to decide on policy via referenda (though it should be borne in mind that such situations may be practically rare) or an out-of-cycle recall election. The latter was seen in 2012 for instance, when the electorate of the American city of Sheboygan, Wisconsin had to vote two times out-of-cycle early in the year due to a mayoral recall primary and run-off election, and then an additional two times in mid-year due to the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election. This was in addition to the usual winter primary and spring general election/presidential primary, and later fall primary and that year's United States presidential election, for a total of eight elections for the city in one year.
However, proponents often counter that voter fatigue may be lessened by direct democracy as voters will feel their vote has more effect.
- voters are not interested in the issue.
- voters are bothered by the inconvenience of physically voting.
- voters feel their vote will not count / the election has "already been won" by one side.
- voters feel that it is not worth their while to educate themselves as to the issues and hence their vote would not be worth making. This is related to the concept of rational ignorance.
- voters have to vote for too many institutions (too often).
Amongst the methods that can be used to combat voter fatigue are:
- Making it mandatory to vote, as e.g. in Australia, Belgium or Brazil.
- Using sortition to choose those eligible to vote (thus increasing the worth of a single vote).
- E-democracy, proxy voting and delegated voting.
- Legislating that there are fixed terms for elections, to ensure that elections are not held too often, such as the United Kingdom's Fixed-term Parliaments Act with decrees that elections must be held every five years.
- Donor fatigue, increased apathy about giving to charitable or humanitarian causes