If everybody votes, more people will benefit, but could this work in America?
This week, President Obama came out swinging when he gave an unexpected speech Wednesday night supporting the Australian mandatory voting system. Republican heads would explode! After years of GOP gerrymandering, all of their efforts would be wasted with this system.
Mr Obama told the audience “we shouldn’t be making it harder to vote, we should be making it easier to vote.” Obviously there are differences between Australia’s motives and President Obama’s, but democracy does require voting.
Under Australian federal law, all citizens must register and vote in federal as well as bi-elections. The fine for not voting is $20, but if not paid, this could result in a higher fine and a court appearance. Voters are notified by mail and if there is a valid reason for not voting the penalty is waived. The absolute opposite of a poll tax.
President Obama touted Australia’s election laws, saying they were adaptable to the United States. He said mandatory voting would empower the disenfranchised and counteract the influence of big money in elections. “More than anything. There’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls. We should want to get them into the polls. So that may end up being a better strategy. If everybody voted, it would completely change the political map in this country,” he said. Sounds good to me!
Right now, 22 other countries have compulsory voting laws. The problem is that some people see voting as a civic right rather than a civic duty. Free Speech factors in as well, in that voting is speech. If non-interested voters only have two parties to choose from, perhaps the best candidate would not win. There are certain factions of the Electorate who do not participate in elections due to religious reasons.
On the upside, mandatory voting levels the field on legislative process. Having a higher voter turnout is a win-win for everyone. Voting would be seen similarly to jury duty, taxation or compulsory education. Another benefit is that special interest groups have a harder time herding their followers. Unlimited campaign contributions become less important and don’t have as much sway with less informed voters.
No wonder conservatives are outraged at the suggestion of mandatory voting. After all, the more Americans who vote, the worse it will be for them!