General Question

MarcIsMyHero's avatar

Do you think voting in the US should be mandatory?

Asked by MarcIsMyHero (650 points ) September 13th, 2008

The voting system is obviously a mess here. Not including scandals and problems related to voter fraud or electronic voting debacles. what can be done?

The majority of voters do not seem to represent the majority of the people. How can this change? If there was a mandatory vote, how could it be enforced?
i have heard of fines in other democratic nations for non-voters. You dont need to be American to offer your opinion or advice.

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45 Answers

Nimis's avatar

No, sorts out the lazy fuckers.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Yes. It is your civic duty. I think you should be allowed to vote “present”, but I think it should be mandatory.

MarcIsMyHero's avatar

The American youth somehow seem to somehow not realize the importance of their voting power…even after 8 years of Bush. Youth targeted campaigns such as Rock the Vote aren’t nearly as successful as they should be at achieving voter awareness.

MarcIsMyHero's avatar

@ empress, the present option is a good idea for those who truly wish to not make a choice. also i like your avatar. huge Gaiman fan.

bluemukaki's avatar

It’s compulsory to vote in Australia, but if you can’t for some reason you can write to the electoral commission after the election and apologize and you may be able to avoid the fine that is issued if you fail to vote.

Every person in the country must enroll to vote at the age of 17 and can vote from the age of 18. You have to go to a voting station in your electorate and they cross your name off a big list like a phone book!

The lead-up to the election takes 6 weeks so people aren’t so bored of the election that they can’t be bother to vote. Even the Australians are sick of hearing about your election!

Because everyone has to vote we have Barbecues, jumping castles and all manner of entertainment at the polling stations, we have fun!

The other thing is that you don’t have to vote you just have to fill out a ballot. Many people who do not want to be part of the democratic process void their ballots by putting a cross through the entire ballot, or not filling out anything at all.

The great thing about compulsory elections is that when someone complains about a politician or the way things are running in the country, not one person can avoid having some responsibility in having elected that person- everyone is accountable because everyone has to vote and they should make their vote count. The concept that someone doesn’t vote in an election and then complains about the government is completely moronic!

MarcIsMyHero's avatar

@bluemukaki, that sounds like such a great voting system… i love the notion that everyone is responsible. here it is the irresponsibility of my fellow citizens that put Bush in office for two terms. i also love the idea that voting and taking part of the democratic process can be a fun and festive event. no one in the US can relate to that. what a great idea and way to relish in that fact that we are citizens of free nations- throwing parties at the polling stations! brilliant!

Indy318's avatar

Why, so all the airheads can place a ballot without even taking a peep at the candidate’s platforms. Voting is a right, I praise those who utilize it for righteous change but also tolerate those who consciously choose not to. Making it manditory gives me a feelings of a diluted election—people vote because they have to, and with a lack of passion and heart. who knows, another Dubya could be elected because of some carelessly placed ballots.

I would only agree with compulsory voting only if it’s similar to Austrailia’s (as bluemakaki shared with us). Those who feel that they aren’t as enthusiastic as others for the election, have the option to leave their ballot blank.

Les's avatar

No! I’d rather have people not vote than vote for the wrong person.

MarcIsMyHero's avatar

@ indy and LES, but don’t plenty of airheads vote as well? how many times have you heard of people who vote based on a candidates looks or personality and not their actual platforms. it was often said that Bush defeated Kerry because people felt they could relate to him and not Kerry. the same went for Gore. I think i’d rather everyone vote and make right or wrong decisions than only some people voting and making uniformed decisions. In a system where everyone votes it will be just as important if not more so for the candidates to make their positions known and accessible. You cant stop people from being ignorant but getting them involved is at least a step in the right direction for a democracy that has lost a little of its luster.

Nimis's avatar

Marc: Getting people to be less apathetic…good.
Getting apathetic people to vote….bad.

Les's avatar

@marcis: Just my opinion. What I would like to see is more voting based on party policy rather than on candidate personality. I had a conversation a couple weeks ago with a German born woman who just got her US citizenship, and she was telling me how in Europe, people vote in a party, not a person. I think the problem we have here in the US is that people get all mixed up with what they think of the person who is running, but not the issues.
For example, I read some comments yesterday on Reddit, and someone suggested that the next time someone told the writer she was not voting for Obama because he is a Muslim, the writer would respond with, “Well, I’m not voting for McCain because he has long, red hair.” And then the writer continued with:
They will, of course, be completely taken aback. That’s when I’ll say, “What, you mean that you’re confused that I’m basing my voting decision on something that is not only a complete, verifiable lie, but that shouldn’t even affect my decision if it were true? Now you know how I feel.”’

I think this statement highlights the problems with elections perfectly. It should make no difference what religion a candidate practices, or what his pastor said, or what the color of his skin is, or what gender the candidate is for that matter. We are a nation of “one or two issue voters” who get so caught up in race, religion and character that they can completely disregard the economy, world relations, military, health care and education.

And until all these people start voting for the issues rather than whose eyes are nicer, I would rather less people vote than everyone vote for the wrong candidate.

marinelife's avatar

I would rather not have people voting who have paid no attention to the issues or candidates. On the other hand, I think that there are things that could be done to increase turnout and interest that are not being done short of making voting mandatory.

I think the importance of voting should be taught in schools. I think parents should be encouraged to take children with them when they vote. I think mock elections and straw votes should be done in schools. I think the importance of how poiliticians and political issues impact our everyday lives should be taught.

MarcIsMyHero's avatar

@ marina and les. Great answers. That’s more of what I was hoping this question would elicit. I was curious to see what kind of discussion the question would prompt rather than yes of no answers. In all honesty I may be playing devils advocate a bit. Our system needs help. Discussing the problems is one thing. Suggesting solutions is the next step. Thank you.

Les's avatar

@marcis, No problemo. Great question.

breedmitch's avatar

@MarcIsMyHero: Listen to Marina and Les. They are very wise.

I was taken into the voting booth with my grandmother from the time I was able to read. It certainly helped me appreciate the voting process and its importance.

MarcIsMyHero's avatar

@everyone, this was my first question asked on fluther! thanks for making it a great discussion. please keep it going.

augustlan's avatar

I have always taken my kids with me to vote. I love the idea of making a “family day” of it, with moonbounces and such. You might even have people’s children begging their parents to take them! “Let’s go vote, Mommy…please!”

XrayGirl's avatar

no, it should not be mandatory….....freedom ;)

Les's avatar

@augustlan and breedmitch: One time I went to go vote with my dad (when I was about 5). I loved it because we had the punch ballots where there was a special book with holes in the middle that you had to punch out for the candidate you chose (the whole Hanging Chad fiasco…) and I liked punching the holes out. Well, this woman working the polling place told my dad that I was not allowed to go into the booth with him because I might “influence” his vote. I was five!! So I had to stand on the other side of the curtain the whole time. I always thought that was weird.

cyndyh's avatar

For a while in Tucson (maybe all of Arizona, I’m not sure) they had separate booths for Kids’ Voting and the results were actually tallied separately and reported on separately on the news. It was pretty cool to see how the kids were leaning.

We didn’t make a whole day of it, but we would get a bagel together on election day before they went to school. They always liked getting the “I voted” stickers at the polls and wear them all day during school.

On the actual question: I think it’d be a great idea to have voting be something that everyone had to either do or do something to actively make the decision not to vote. I like the idea of the Australian system.

galileogirl's avatar

We actually do a Kid’s vote in San Francisco through the schools.

I would hate to see the outcome if we were required to vote. Americans being natural contrarians we might end up with Steven Colbert or Larry Flynt as our next President.

chromaBYTE's avatar

A friend of mine was over in the US when Bill Clinton was the president. He was at a formal dinner party with many VIPs and listened in to a conversation about the scandal behind Clinton’s affairs. They kept saying that it was such a disgrace, he should never have been president, etc.
So my friend asks the entire party, “well did any of you actually vote for him?”.
Not one person there had voted, and yet they felt they had every right to complain about their president, as if they had no choice in which president they had.

I’m Australian and agree with bluemukaki’s post. At the very least, compulsory voting ensures that the entire population is responsible for their leader, not just the ones that can be bothered getting out of bed on voting day.

Why is it such a big deal making it compulsory to vote? It’s only one day, you fill out a piece of paper and you go about your business. Since we’re talking about the fate of an entire nation, I think it’s important that everyone is responsible for who runs their country.

wundayatta's avatar

I recall hearing some political scientist tell me once that it doesn’t matter whether you have mandatory voting or not. The outcome is the same. I don’t know how they determined that, but it makes sense to me.

I think mandatroy voting is a waste of time. In my state, we have elected judges. There are, sometimes, hundreds of candadates running, and no one knows who anyone is. So we choose based on name, or gender or something. Great system! (that was sarcasm).

Still, while we are trying to change to a system where judges are appointed instead of elected, there are folks who are against it, because they think that the appointments will be made by white men in the state capital, and leave women and minorities off the benches of the state.

Personally, I’d rather not have to vote for judges. I know nothing about them, and it is really difficult to find out about them. My knowledge extends to state reps and local council reps. Beyond that, it’s too much.

I understand that for many people in this country, even the Presidential election is too much. Should they be forced to vote, when they think it doesn’t matter, and there’s no difference between the candidates? Should they be forced to vote when they know nothing about the candidates’ positions? Should they be forced to vote when they have better things to do?

I think it would be counterproductive. It wouldn’t change anything. It would also be an administrative nightmare. The only way to make voting work, is for the candates to excite the electorate, and get them out to vote. That’s what the candidates are trying to do, and there are signs that a lot of people who never voted before will be voting in this election, because of that excitement.

steelmarket's avatar

Voting is a privilege, like a driver’s license. You want to vote, you have to apply. If you meet the criteria (citizen, not a minor, non-felon, etc.), you get a voting license.
I am not worried at all that many people do not vote. I am worried that the people that do vote are not informed on the issues, are voting instead based on TV images and soundbites. Making people vote would just encourage frivolous voting and a frivolous attitude toward the election process.
I don’t think that most people are concerned that their vote will not be counted. They are concerned that their vote will not count for something in the governmental process.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I don’t think it should be mandatory. As a few other people have pointed out, you can’t make people care, even if they’re forced to vote. I would rather have passionate people voting for things they believe, compared to people that just randomly fill out a ballot.

allengreen's avatar

No, because voting is just a bullshit excercise that creates the illusion of democracy.

If everyone decided to stay home on Nov 4 and masterbate all day, the results would not appreciably change.

@chromaBYTE—- Ask any Republican if they feel any sense of responsibility for the disasterous policies of the last 8 years—they feel none even though they trumphet personal responsibility.

So making folks vote will not increase their sense of responsibility, since most American’s are not educated enought to research and weigh options—we vote for who we wish to have a beer with.

critter1982's avatar

No I agree with DrasticDreamer

allengreen's avatar

if we forced Americans to vote our next president would be “None of the Above”.

MarcIsMyHero's avatar

@steel and daloon, great answers. I disagree w allengreen though. I love the people who take their kids or were taken as kids to vote.

cyndyh's avatar

@allengreen: I think it depends a lot on how “none of the above” gets handled. I have heard of disastrous results of applications of that in Nevada(?) in the late eighties or early nineties. I think “none of the above” was elected for some office, and I don’t know how that got handled. I don’t know the details of that anymore.

marinelife's avatar

Would Stephen COlbert be worse than Bush? Worse than McCain? I think not.

critter1982's avatar

COLBERT for President!!!

big3625's avatar

How about the idea that this is all a big hoax and illusion. Do you really even think we need a so-called leader telling us how to live and to “take care of us”. Think about it. Look at the playing field. It is all a bunch of bullshit. The same issues come out every time there is an election and only when there is an election and we eat it up like flies on shit(I always wanted to use that in a sentence – yay!). Those who want to take government back to the government that follows the constitution and is there for protection from fraud or force aren’t even allowed to debate and are attacked vigilantly. This sucks bad. I know that more and more people are starting to come out of this hypnosis and will stop taking this shit. I am one of them. “Who’s comin’ with me?”.

deaddolly's avatar

Yes. I like Australia’s method. Especially the 6 week campaigning part. So sick of the name calling and side stepping of the issues.

And, this year, I really think more young pl than ever will come out to vote and realize the importance of it. Let’s hope I’m right.

MarcIsMyHero's avatar

what does everyone think of the idea that at the age of 18 all citizens should be automatically registered to vote? it almost seems too obvious. this would not make voting mandatory… it would just take out some of the bureaucracy that may detract people from getting out there and voting. Why should you have to fill out a bunch of paper work and register. it almost seems like the system was set up to discourage people from voting.

If you are not a convicted felon you should automatically at the legal voting age be able to walk up to a polling place in your district and vote.

Bri_L's avatar

They require you to register for the armed forces. Why not to vote! Make it automatic.

galileogirl's avatar

They may make 18 yo males to register, they never made me!

jvgr's avatar

Seems odd:
Requiring someone to exercise their freedom of choice.

Bri_L's avatar

If by freedom of choice you mean to vote then I said to register to vote. There is a difference.

I think it would be useful information in determining who votes, at what age etc.

jvgr's avatar

Bri_LIf :by freedom of choice you mean to vote then I said to register to vote. There is a difference.

You are correct: there is a difference between register and vote.
You are incorrect in assuming that my post was related to yours when it was a direct answer to the original question.

Bri_L's avatar

jvg: Sorry jvgr. My mistake.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Ssshhh! Don’t tell my daughters. In our family it is mandatory.

bolwerk's avatar

I prefer carrots to sticks. If a certain number of voters don’t show up (say, 80%), leave the seat vacant.

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