What is Mandatory Voting Anyway?
Mandatory voting, or compulsory voting, is a universal voting system where legal citizens are obligated to vote.
Mandatory voting is a concept that stretches back as far as voting itself, however today on 13 regions have a true, enforced, compulsory voting system (the oldest of which is about 100 years old). Other regions have compulsory voting but it is not enforced. This gives us lots of data to look at to see how compulsory voting might work in America.
Below we discuss the idea of compulsory voting in America in light of recent comments by President Obama. Feel free to chime-in with your thoughts below. Please keep in mind this is an opinion piece meant to discuss mandatory voting from the view of a facts site on voter fraud.
Comparing Views on Mandatory Voting
This should help you to wrap your head around the different sides of the argument.
This video is the Conservative side of the argument against Mandatory voting.
And now the Liberal side of the argument.
How Would Mandatory Voting Work?
It sounds more scary than it is, mandatory would most likely work like this: you have to “mark” the ballot, but you don’t have to actually vote for anything.
If you decide not to vote, and don’t have an exemption, you pay a small fee. You can’t go to jail or be punished in any other way aside the fee.
Most likely options would include a mail in ballot and an opportunity to go in person.
Ideally mandatory voting would make the process of voting more streamlined, rather than add create more bureaucracy. Also, ideally the fee would not be necessary as it would most certainly create bureaucracy. Unlike with healthcare there is no direct cost associated with someone not voting.
(Side-note: I throw my hat in the ring for single .gov account for all social programs, taxes, and voting. One person, one login. Allow an option for automatic payments for things like health insurance premiums (including Medicare). Automatic payments of taxes. Auto child support, auto medicaid eligibility, auto assistance programs. Simplify things for small businesses, individuals, and agencies. Just seems natural does it not?)
Obama’s Comments on Mandatory Voting
In March of 2015 the President casually floated the idea of mandatory voting like they have in Australia. This comment was a reaction to low voter turnout in the 2014 midterm elections.
He noted that “If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country,” referring to the fact that Disproportionately, Americans who skip the polls on Election Day are younger, lower-income, and more likely to be immigrants or minorities. The President said that it would “counteract money more than anything.”
While the President makes a lot of good points, but one look at the social media comments shortly after show mandatory voting (as a concept) doesn’t sit well with the majority on the left, right, or center.
On one hand Republicans don’t like the idea for two important reasons:
- They would lose most federal elections if everyone voted as those who tend not to vote also tend to be the most liberal. This is especially important in swing states.
- The idea of being forced to do something, just doesn’t feel very American.
On the other hand Democrats are more torn:
- They would win elections like it was FDR versus Alf Landon all over again (yep Alf was actually a Presidential candidate) .
- The idea of being forced to do something, just doesn’t feel very American.
And on this we have a common consensus. As attractive as it is to give the disenfranchised easy access to voting, to ensure participation in one of the most important aspects of American life, and to prove all people are equal it just doesn’t work conceptually.
That being said there is a much more palatable and fair solution and that is Mandatory Registration.
No that is not a Kayne West album, that is simply the idea that everyone is automatically registered to vote. Something as simple as allowing people to vote based on their social security number would ensure all legal citizens one vote (although we would probably have to kick the organization of social security up a notch first). This isn’t to say that it would prevent voter fraud, but it would help to reduce voter fraud and increase voter participation.
This would eliminate the need for voter IDs and help eliminate individual voter fraud. It seems like a win-win, but it doesn’t address a major issue… there are lots of Americans who think “uneducated people shouldn’t vote”.
Other Option: Voting as A Federal Holiday would also be a non-mandatory voting solution. This is one of those that is a little harder to dismiss.
The Idea that X Person Shouldn’t Vote
The idea that a person shouldn’t vote because they are uneducated (on policy, the candidates, or in general) is arguably more un-American than mandatory voting. Who is it exactly that should decide who gets to vote and who doesn’t? How does the ability to get an ID equate to someone being qualified to have a say in who leads their country?
Ideally America is a free society and a democracy. “Every person gets one vote, and no one should be forced to vote.” If that doesn’t always happen in practice, that is one thing, but conceptually I think we can agree that this truly is the intention of the country.
Why Do Those Who Don’t Vote Lean to the Left?
The above question is kind of rhetorical is it not? Generally, the left believes in “the Great Society” where every person has access to food, housing, healthcare, education, and opportunity. They were responsible for things like ending slavery, civil rights, women’s rights, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, immigration reforms, etc.
While the right, generally, believes that hard-work equals success and their isn’t enough to go around, so they make it their primary goal to block federal spending on public programs. They were responsible for tax cuts and the rapid economic growth under Reagan that both helped to build up the economy and to almost collapse it again back in the 2008 housing crisis.
So why, if you are low-income in need of Medicaid and food stamps, a senior in need of Medicare, or a student in need of financial aid, an African-American who knows the history of the country, or a new immigrant from Mexico are you going to vote Republican? Generally, with the modern Conservative policies, you just simply aren’t.
So Then, The Perks and Dangers of Mandatory Voting in America
So the above, rather difficult to throw out there on the internet truisms, leads us to two obvious conclusions.
- If more people vote it will force Conservatives to start representing “minorities” (although when you combine all non-whites, women, young people, and seniors we hardly have a minority here.)
- If both parities focus too much on representing “minorities” we risk having no party to represent the high-earners, business owners, industry leaders, and people who help to build this country and keep it strong.
Regardless of how incompetent the 2015 Congress seems to you, or how awful Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin must appear to some when screaming about “illegals” and repealing the social safety net, we also have thousands of years of history that prove that at a point “BIG Government” can really be a danger to Democracy. I mean, we essentially came over to America (be you a recent immigrant or an OG immigrant) to be free. To escape political and religious oppression and find opportunity.
In America the arch of change happens slow and steady over time. In reality you shouldn’t expect to see an immediate call for mandatory anything.
If and when the subject does come up, we should be weary of extremes, but be confident in the idea that despite potential pitfalls, everyone is equal and every citizen deserves an equal say in our Democracy. After all, we talking about the popular vote and not the electoral college. Even our democracy has a safety net if things get too wonky.