Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Should Voting Be Mandatory?

There was a minor stir last week when President Obama suggested that one way to help minimize the influence of big money donors on our electoral process would be to make voting mandatory, as it is in at least 26 other countries, among them Australia and Belgium.

Should voting be mandatory? I don't think so.

For one thing, there are those on the far right who would refuse to vote just on principle, because they object to laws requiring them to do anything.

For another, I was always taught (and firmly believe) that voting is a civic duty - one of the foundations of our democratic society that allows us to choose our leaders, rather than submitting to rule by a family* represented by the reigning king or emperor.

And from a practical standpoint, how would you administer such a law? Who would be responsible for tracking down and arresting those who didn't vote? What would be an appropriate penalty - a fine, jail time, community service, or - what we might call the Saudi Arabian approach - chopping off the finger that should have been used to push the "vote" button on a machine, or the hand that should have wielded a pencil to place an X in the right block?

On the plus side, it might require rabid partisans at both ends of the political spectrum to finally agree on a fair and workable system for voters to identify themselves at the polls, minimizing the ludicrous spectacle of "poll watchers" practicing gotcha politics ... scrutinizing every voter in the hopes of maximizing their party's advantage while undermining the other party.

We live at a time and in a country where our most important civic duties are less important that what we demand as our rights. How many of those who - for example - demand totally unrestricted gun ownership because they feel threatened by the government nevertheless ignore their responsibility to vote for those who represent them in that government? And how many people who actually do vote cast their votes on the basis of a single issue or belief (no gay marriage, no abortions, no restrictions on gun ownership, get rid of unions/support unions, etc), without looking at the larger responsibilities of government or the interests of other citizens?

No, we don't need mandatory voting. We need citizens who are responsible enough to fulfill their duty to the country, rather than sitting at home on election day and then bitching about how awful the government is that they didn't bother to help elect.

Have a good day. Remember that your responsibilities are every bit as important as your rights ... if not more so.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* Such as the Bush, Clinton, Adams, Roosevelt, or Rockefeller families, no?


eViL pOp TaRt said...

I'm afraid that mandatory voting might result in a lot of people who otherwise might not have voted casting their ballots for trivial or single-issue reasons.

Grand Crapaud said...

If voting is mandatory, will it result in another government agency that is costly and employs a lot of expensive bureaucrats? And what would be done with the non-voters, put them in jail with the people who tear the mattress tags off?

Linda Kay said...

Sounds like another disaster of government mandates that create departments that are inefficient and ineffective because there is no real definition of consequences. Maybe we need to go back to the schools and teach the children about patriotism?

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

You know I don't think this is a good idea either.
I also don't think I should have to wear a seat belt, a helmet, drive 55 on the beltway. Yet I am forced to. Okay I don't drive 55 or wear a seat belt often. I hate seat belts and if I die, it's my own fault. I say, natural selection. I am tired of being told what to do, yet I must obey these laws or pay a price either life, or money. There must be something in the middle. I find it funny though that voting is what has everyone up in the air. Gov't wants to tell me who I can and can't marry, what I can and can't do with my body,how to live and how I must die etc. But yet this sets everyone's panties in a twist.

Gonzo Dave said...

One thing that would help increase the voter-participation rate would be to have candidates who are worth voting *for*. I have too often felt as though I were voting *against* a candidate, rather than voting *for* one. Sadly, the people who I think would be good candidates - and, thus, good "elected officials," have absolutely no desire to run, or wouldn't be able to raise the required gazillions of dollars if they did run.

Duckbutt said...

Making voting mandatory should have the effect of making it a chore, rather than a privilege. Do we really want to cast voting in the same category as paying taxes?

Mike said...

The "you can't make me vote" people would just turn in a blank ballot.

Sinner Bob said...

I thought it was a strange idea at the time. A legal penalty for not voting is like a poll tax in reverse.