With the presidential election coming up next week, and everybody holding their breath, I want to cover what I think is an appropriate topic.
In recent years, many countries have considered and enforced the idea of compulsory (required) voting. If you want to see the list of these countries, check out the link at the end of this post!
So, un-like my last blog post, I started out with a firm opinion. Compulsory voting seemed like an extremely good idea. However, when talking about the subject with some friends, somebody asked me,
"Well, what would be the cons of compulsory voting? How is it a bad thing?"
I didn't know! That drove me to do some more research about the opposing argument and I discovered a ton of interesting information! Here is the basics of what I found:
When a nation requires citizens to vote, a couple of things happen. The first positive effect is the relinquishing of money's influence in politics.
President Obama said in a speech in March of 2015 that the people inclined not to vote tend to be lower income and skewed further toward immigrant groups and minorities. The more cash people have in today's world, the more powerful they tend to be. Mandatory voting would spread that power around more evenly and allow America to be a place where everybody gets equal say like the ideal of democracy implies.
But, often minority groups are less educated that the average voter and will not be as careful when choosing a candidate they wish to represent. The tilting effect that this principle would have on elections is what we like to call "the rise of the uninformed voter" and it's highly dangerous. I don't want the people around me to vote based upon Hillary's favorite color, Trump's haircut, or anything minor like that. We need to be listening to what is really happening, not just carelessly casting our ballots.
A second good fruit of compulsory voting is the voter turnout rate-- the number of people who actually show up at the poles. Voter turnout has been at its lowest since 1942, with less than 37% of the eligible population participating in midterm elections. In the future, we want larger numbers, representing a diverse sample of Americans, for more accurate election results. We want what the majority wants.
Simply, American citizens don't want to be capitally punished, so they follow the law, right?
Well, mostly. However, what do we do with the stubborn people who don't come and vote? This might be a major turnoff for the government in future years as they consider enforcing compulsory voting. More money will need to be spent on law enforcement and conflict could easily arise concerning the type of punishment used. Some people even argue that compulsory voting infringes on their freedom of choice and religion, as some religious sects ask their members to refrain from political activity. Could we still manage to sleep at night if we punished them?
Finally, one of the best outcomes of requiring citizens to vote is that, then, voting becomes a civic norm, therefore making it easier. The responsibility of finding places for everyone to vote shifts from the individual to the county or state governments. If somebody in this situation does not have access to political activity, it does not become their fault. One interesting example of this would be an attempt to help people in prisons or hospitals vote. Voting becomes a duty, not just a right, and it will rest on the shoulders of the government.
There is also one more negative result connected to my point here. It really roots from the word "norm" which can mean that we, as a society, take something for granted. It's not that everybody's totally politically ignorant, but sometimes we just don't care. Is it possible that voting would become like jury duty-- something most people try to avoid? Let's be honest. The answer is yes.
Compulsory voting is still a new idea to our nation and has it's bugs, just like every other political issue. But who knows? Maybe America will someday adopt this system as our own!
Now, I'm torn by all these amazing ideas and still trying to form an opinion of my own. I'd love to hear you thoughts on why requiring citizens to vote is or isn't a good idea. Let me know down in the comments and I'll try to get back to you as soon as possible.
Just remember the rules: Kindness is compulsory! Don't post anything rude or irrelevant, and check back again next month for more.
Or, if you're interested further and you can't wait that long, check out these other fantastic articles on the same topic!
Happy voting ~Paige
List of countries with compulsory voting: