Midterm elections are well-over, but the projected voter turnout of only 40 percent has become a cause of concern for politicians. Discussions have formed over whether or not voting should become compulsory in the United States.
Mandatory voting is not a new concept. It exists in about a quarter of all democracies all over the world. Australia requires it’s citizens to vote. If registered voters don’t bother to show up at a polling station they are given a fine of fifteen dollars. There are also a few extreme cases in which voters are arrested and sent to jail.
The problem with mandatory voting is that even in countries where it is the law, it is not rigorously enforced. A $15 fee? Parking tickets costs more. But despite the lax attitude towards enforcing mandatory voting, it is still a requirement that should have never been put into law and should never be enforced in the U.S.
The United States was founded on the principals of free will and the right to choose your own government. It is why the pilgrims sailed to the New World and it was why people decided to dump tea in Boston harbor. And although we no longer have a monarch ruling over us from far off Britain, the right to have a life free of dictatorship is still an essential part of living in “the land of the free”.
Despite compulsory voting being less than patriotic, it is also an impractical practice that our current court systems are unlikely to enforce. The government shouldn’t be concerned about how to get more voters to come to polling stations, but focus more on why people aren’t. Accommodating all voters needs should be a top priority. Perhaps making election day a national holiday or increasing same-day voter registration would have a bigger impact.
Abstaining from voting isn’t all because of voter apathy either. Someone who chooses to abstain from voting may have a good reason and it’s that they feel they don’t know the right answer. According to Proffesor Jason Brennan, an advocate for independent voting, “bad decisions in the voting booth contribute to bad government.” And that’s true.
Political scientists have found that most citizens who abstain from voting are much more ignorant than people who do vote. Forcing citizens to vote when they don’t know whom or what to vote for would lead to misrepresentation in government and that’s just shoddy policy.
The bottom line is voter apathy isn’t a problem we need to fix. It is the problems in our government that perpetuate voter apathy that need to be fixed. Scandals, accommodating big business and promising to fix problems and then spending entire terms raising funds for the next election are just some of the problems in politics that have voters discouraged from going to the polls. Enforcing a compulsory voting policy will only just drive citizens further into an indifference for whom or what they’re voting for.