Jury duty is mandatory; why not voting?
You might think that it would be unfair to require people to vote. But wait, and think about all of the things in your life that you are REQUIRED to do, no matter what or pay the price. Here are a few examples of things you are required to do:
- Paying Bills
- Paying Child Support
- Jury Duty
There’s evidence from the U.S., too. Democrats are more successful in presidential election years than in off-year elections. In larger turnout years, more young people and more people of color vote, which tends to swing elections toward politicians who address the concerns of those groups. As Fowler told me, “Voters are typically very different from non-voters or marginal voting populations, so efforts to expand the voting population can have big effects.”
Rather than forcing disengaged and ignorant people to vote, compulsory voting is likely to create a more engaged, more knowledgeable electorate. “People do pay more attention to politics when they know for certain that they are committed to voting,” Krupnikov told me.
There’s every reason to believe that compulsory voting will make many voters feel, correctly, that their votes matter more.
Thirty-one countries have some form of mandatory voting, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. The list includes nine members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and two-thirds of the Latin American nations. More than half back up the legal requirement with an enforcement mechanism, while the rest are content to rely on the moral force of the law.
Here in the United States, usually 40 percent of eligible voters don’t vote during presidential elections, and typically 60 percent don’t vote in congressional midterm elections.
Democracy is stronger and more just when the political system is accountable to the public. Compulsory voting would include more people in the process; like women’s suffrage and black suffrage, it would push the United States a little closer to honoring its ideals.
A bigger electorate would, of course hurt Republicans, which is why they oppose it. Nor have the Democrats taken up the issue. So yes, there’s no clear political path to adoption. But compulsory voting is worth talking about, if only to highlight the number of people in the United States whose political voices are silent because we’ve decided its not important to hear them.