President Barack Obama proposed the idea of mandatory voting on March 18 at a speech in Cleveland. He explained that voting should be made easier, not harder for citizens. In theory, it’s sounds like a great idea. Compulsory voting would increase voter turnout and give a better representation of the American public’s views in government. Opposition to mandatory voting stems from the incorrect belief that Democrats would take over the government if everyone were required to vote, as well as the condescending attitudes about those who don’t vote.
At presidential elections only 60 percent of people vote, and at midterm elections, voter turnout drops to under 40 percent according to CNN. So 40-60 percent of citizens are voting on behalf of the entire country. Not to mention that the majority of the those who don’t vote are young people, minorities and the poor, according to The Washington Post. The implementation of compulsory voting would ensure that the perspectives of those demographics were represented in the election process.
Generally speaking, the young, minorities and the poor often identify as Democratic. Studies show, they’re also the ones not voting. But demographics such as age, race, and class, aren’t the only issue. Nonpartisan people that aren’t excited by either party don’t vote either. Political campaigns are designed to excite the party’s existing members rather than encourage moderates to vote. “In today’s electorate, hardcore partisan believers are over-represented; independents and moderates are under-represented,” says Time.com, “If the full range of voters actually voted, our political leaders, who are exquisitely attuned followers, would go where the votes are: away from the extremes.” This means Democrats aren’t trying to take over the government, but rather the moderates are trying to make the government less extreme from both sides of the spectrum and more willing to compromise to make decisions that would benefit everyone, which is a good thing.
Opponents of compulsory voting cry “unconstitutional” and “un-American” toward the notion of requiring the very principle that America was founded on. Voting is the most American thing a citizen can do and it should be more than a right, it should be a duty. Some believe that uneducated Americans shouldn’t be allowed to vote. This is an elitist attitude, un-American and just flat out wrong. How dare anyone tell American citizens that they shouldn’t be voting? Asking someone not to exercise their Constitutional rights is ignorant and irrational. Being represented in government, regardless of education level, is a basic American principle. The obvious way to eliminate uneducated voters is to educate the public, not bar the uneducated from their rights.
Opponents also complain that forcing Americans to do anything is un-American; The New York Times calls this feeling the, “supposed rights to apathy.” But what about taxes, registering for the draft, jury duty, or secondary education? There’s no opt-out for those aspects of American life.
Of course, getting 320 million people to vote is an issue itself. Registering citizens to vote when they get their drivers license and same-day registration at polling places would make voting more accessible to those who don’t know how to register. More polling places and an extended voting period would solve the issue of being busy on voting day or not being able to make it because the polling location is too far away. Any form of photo ID should be accepted as a form of identification to prevent voter fraud. Those who don’t vote could be fined or possibly jailed for refusing to vote.
Compulsory voting would make for a more representative government that’s willing to compromise on issues and promote good for everyone in the country, not just the 40-60 percent that vote. Opposition to compulsory voting comes from those that are opposed to the “uneducated” and “ignorant” voting. Creating a system of mandatory voting would be good for all of the American people.
Liv Reeb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.