Should everyone be forced to vote?

Compulsory voting limits freedom.


Person voting

Zurich Lewis, Writer

Today there is no fine for skipping town on election day, but if President Obama’s recent pontification comes true, that could change. In his interview, he claims such a reform would be transformative in that it would counteract money more than anything. According to the president, the young which skew “heavily towards immigrants and minority groups” are the lowest voting turnout subgroup.

He even goes so far as to allege that “there’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls.”


Outside of scoring political points, the president brings up an interesting voting reform. Turnout has been dismally low at the national level, where only about 37 percent of voters turned out last November and 144 million did not, and abysmal at the local level, where only 10 percent of Los Angeles voters turned out earlier this month and over 2.2 million did not. In the face of this evidence we are compelled to think about how to counteract it. Sample ballots are mailed to every voter and you must take the initiative to register since it is not automatic, so why do voters not vote? There are five major rationales — voters protest the system, protest the candidates, are content with whatever happens, forget or simply do not care.


Regardless of what the voter’s rationale is for not showing up physically or mailing in a ballot, should we as a nation compel participation? I believe the answer is absolutely not. As a democratic-republic, we ought to value the freedom of each individual to decide how to participate in our society. A mandatory voting requirement would restrain citizens from expressing their free speech by not expressing a preference to vote, and that is one of many basic Constitutional arguments that will hold water in court if the U.S. imports Australia’s law. With everyone voting under the barrel, more people will be paying attention, but does that mean higher quality representatives? Current campaigns seek to boil down complex policy to mere partisan talking points so why would it be any different when aforementioned non-voters participate?


Outside of philosophical argument, we must also consider the logistical problems. Will the nation follow Oregon’s lead in automatically registering voters in what can only be described as Motor-Voter on steroids? If so, what will we do with the massive influx of new voters? Neither state nor federal officials directly handle the counting of votes. Instead, the more than 3,000 counties of America, with tens of thousands of neighborhood polling stations, must be prepared to handle a stampede of 50 million more Americans. Without proper funding from federal or state officials, the sudden spike in per capita voting will overwhelm these agencies.If the top elections official of Los Angeles County cannot anticipate handling a few more races on the the ballot with multiple jurisdictions, i.e. county administering city elections, then how can it possibly handle that on top of an additional 4.4 million?

I mentioned in my previous article, “The disconnect within our communities” that a governing class exists and while it is disappointing to see so few participate, inclusion must be done naturally through community connection and not mechanically through authoritative mandate. Compulsory voting is the wrong prescription for America.


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