Debate Over Mandatory Voting
Compulsory voting takes place in 26 countries, in which all able citizens are legally required to vote, according to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.
PRO: Voting Requirement Fosters Democratic Ideas
Compulsory voting would benefit the American people and democracy in many ways.
This kind of voting system would make elections much more democratic. After all, is a government really a democracy if less than 53 percent of people vote?
The Pew Research Center found that in 2012, the United States had 53.6 percent of voting age citizens actually vote. This poll puts us behind France, Mexico and Canada, among many other countries in voter turnout. In presidential elections the voter turnout is highest, but in the smaller elections, that people still need to care about, the turnout is laughable.
In a compulsory system, leaders who wish to win have to become more compliant and understanding of both parties and to many more voters. Reasonable candidates would lead to less extreme policies and platforms and would garner more support from the people.
Compulsory voting would also eliminate rule by the minority. The entirety of the country would be represented in the vote, and the broadest issues would be the focus, benefitting the most people possible.
It would also involve every U.S. citizen in the government, and people would be more inclined to take part in other aspects of government if they understand the impact of their decisions.
Being involved unites people, and a country united can do many things an unstable country cannot do.
People complaining about a bad Congress would have no one to blame but themselves. Unhappy with your elected officials and you do not vote? That is your fault. In this system, all voters are responsible for elections.
CON: Mandatory Participation Encourages Ignorance
The right to vote is a basic fundamental of modern democracy, available to all of its eligible citizens; however, recent election data has shown low voter turnout.
According to “2012 Voter Turnout Report,” on bipartisanpolicy.org, the 2012 presidential election brought only a 57.5 percent voter turnout.
The reasoning behind compulsory voting, mandating voter turnout, stems from the basis that higher voter turnout, whether forced or voluntary, is reflective of heightened political awareness among the population.
Dr. Lever, of The London School of Economics and Political Science, dismisses this reasoning in an article entitled “Is compulsory voting justified?” on the school’s website, explaining, “The supposed benefits are more speculative.”
It has not been verified that citizens who are obliged to turnout for elections further educate themselves politically. A direct result from compulsory voting, then, is an increase in uneducated votes, which drowns out thoroughly researched, considerate votes from politically-involved citizens.
Dirty Jobs star, Mike Rowe, responded to a fan requesting him to encourage his fanbase to vote on qpolitical.com.
Rowe said, “The country doesn’t need voters who have to be cajoled, enticed or persuaded to cast a ballot. We need voters who wish to participate in the process… None of the freedoms spelled out in our Constitution were put there so people could cast uninformed ballots out of some misplaced sense of civic duty.”
Any citizen’s obligation to vote should be preceded by an obligation to get informed: read, debate and reflect on political issues.
Without mandating voter awareness, mandating voter turnout is a recipe for less-informed political input from the general population.