Obama champions mandatory voting
Make it mandatory. Because if there’s anything that Americans respond to positively, it’s being told what to do.
Obama floated the idea of mandatory voting in the U.S. while speaking to a civic group in Cleveland on Wednesday. Asked about the corrosive influence of money in U.S. elections, Obama digressed into the related topic of voting rights and said the U.S. should be making it easier — not harder— for people to vote.
Just ask Australia, where citizens have no choice but to vote, the president said.
“If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country,” Obama said, calling it potentially transformative. Not only that, Obama said, but universal voting would “counteract money more than anything.”
Disproportionately, Americans who skip the polls on Election Day are younger, lower-income and more likely to be immigrants or minorities, Obama said. “There’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls,” he said in a veiled reference to efforts in a number of Republican-led states to make it harder for people to vote.
There are a few reasons why mandatory voting won’t work, aside from the fact that it still only produces about a 66 percent to 70 percent turnout, depending on country (though, that’s an improvement over our current system, I suppose). One, it would embroil people who already fear authority and are often the subject of abuse at its hands, into yet another system that penalizes them in a disproportionate way to the crime they’ve committed: simply not caring about elections. Two, holding mandatory elections assumes a fallacy that is at the heart of almost everything Obama proposes: that people will automatically avoid something just because they hear it’s illegal. Three, encouraging more people to vote doesn’t necessarily mean that less money would be spent on politicking, just that the direction and flow of money would change.
And lastly, he’s vastly underestimating the power of stupid people in large groups. While urban centers can and do vote reliably Democratic, there’s a lot of flyover country to contend with.