What do you think about mandatory voting?

What do you think about mandatory voting?

ITS ELECTION DAY! Everyone get out to the polls and please make your voice heard. Regardless of who you vote for, I view voting as an obligation of the citizen. 60 percent of eligible voters participated in the 2016 presidential election and only 40% of 18-29 year olds votes. WHY?

Voting is a free way to give your opinion on your government and the state of affairs. The numbers only get worse for off years (like this one). The voter turn out for 2015 was only 40%. White americans are the demographic most likely to get out to the polls, followed by Blacks, Hispanics and other minorities. Individuals with Post-Grad degrees are most likely to vote so hopefully all of you keep this up.

I wanted to look at how other countries encourage democracy (or voter turnout to elections) and a few really stand out. The first idea is making the first Tuesday in November a federal holiday. “Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, India, New Zealand, and a number of other countries, for example, facilitate voting with an extremely simple, low-cost innovation: They hold elections on either weekends or holidays.” This is not a unique idea and I feel it would fundamentally encourage voters if that was your one responsibility for the day.

Other countries such as Australia, have compulsory voting. This means that on election day, you must vote or you face a 20 dollar fine if you don’t have a legitimate excuse. While this approach seems a bit aggressive, we already force men over 18 to sign up for the draft and to serve if called upon. Now I know thats not a regular occurrence but we also have mandatory jury duty. Mandatory elections I do not think would place undue burden on the citizen and the benefits of a more representative government can’t be understated.

The United States is 139 of 172 when it comes to voter turnout. For a country that spread freedom and democracy like no one’s business, this is a sad statistic. Sweden, one of the best voting countries in the world with 96% voter turnout, doesn’t have secondary registration ( which makes a lot of sense to me), instead they have a national database that uses public records to send out voter’s appropriate polling stations before each election.

Why don’t Americans vote? I’m not sure, but there’s definitely room for improvement.


3 Responses

  1. Matt B says:

    To play the devils advocate I think the larger problem with the voting climate is how do you make people politically active and educated? In the current political atmosphere I would almost certainly be against mandatory voting IF political understanding continues to remain so limited. With the amount of uninformed opinions and misinformation circulating in the social media age (people that primarily get their political opinions/information from memes) I would be worried about the outcome if we had mandatory voting since mandatory voting doesn't guarantee universal understanding. Personally, if 60% of Americans didn't feel qualified in their knowledge/understanding to make an informed decision about who should best run whatever position then I do not feel that they should vote. Like I said before, I think the more important thing is to find a way to get 100% of the country to be politically engaged and educated (whatever that means for the individual and their interests) and voter participation will naturally increase.

    At the same time, if 60% of people do not vote because of various institutional barriers then that (obviously) needs to be rectified.

  2. Marina says:

    Thanks for your post. You are right to compare American's practices to European's and others. I am from France and voting is extremely important. We vote on Sunday and for each elections, there is two rounds. In the final round, we elect one of the two candidate that received the most vote in the first round. Couple of differences I noted between the U.S and France are: One vote is equal no matter where you live (direct democracy), we have more parties and therefore are more representative of people's diverse values, we do not have the tv advertisement's war that exists in the U.S, there are multiple elections spread over period of seven years to elect, maires, representatives, senators, president… we elect one position at the time. I believe my country's effort to involve the public in politics is for the most part a success. The process is working well and maybe the reason I just mentioned have a role to play in why the France's system is performant. The only thing hurting my country's voting practice are the corruption that is being uncovered throughout the years that tarnish the trust between the politicians and the public.

  3. moonarc says:

    I have always been shocked with the low turnouts for elections in the US. I have been wondering for years if making voting mandatory really would be a viable solution. Although I understand your reasoning for such a solution, I simply do not believe it would work in the US. This country is built on people believing that they have a right to vote, a privilege to do so, and not a requirement. Major conflicts, especially violent ones, occur when people, who, to some extent, force others to do something against their will, when they literally have no business sticking their nose there. Of all the countries you listed with high turnouts, I believe US has the largest population, likely meaning that the probability more people are unable to vote essentially rises significantly. Plus enforcing such a policy would be very difficult for the government, especially since not everyone updated their addresses, or are present in the region they’re registered in, on the Election Day. I also think, in some circumstance, mandatory voting could result in people voting for the least worst person on the ballot, instead of the best option. It could also mean elections getting skewed because those who didn’t want to vote just randomly picked someone on the ballot because they had to. I also believe the reason people, at least in the US, don’t vote is because it requires them to physically go to a location, wait in the line in some cases, and then finally vote. If the ballots were sent to each person’s home, it will be significantly easier for them to check off their pick, and have the post office, or another agency, pick up the sealed ballots from everyone’s home. I know this process would mean more work for the government, it would make the process easier for the citizens of the US, and probably would result in a higher turnout.

Comments are closed.