General Question

Strauss's avatar

Should voting in the US be changed from an optional right to a mandatory requirement?

Asked by Strauss (21170points) March 19th, 2015

In some 22 countries voting is a requirement rather than a right. In the US it is not required. In this CNN report, President Obama suggests it might be time to consider changing it to a requirement. Here are a few pros and cons, digested from this Wikipedia article:

Arguments for compulsory voting: Voting is a “civic duty”; it would confer a high degree of political legitimacy reflected by high voter turnout; it would prevent disenfranchisement of the socially disadvantaged or politically undesirable voter; it would become more difficult for extremist or special interest groups to get themselves into power or to influence mainstream candidates.

Arguments against compulsory voting: Voting is a “right”, not a duty; it would compel members of certain religious or moral beliefs to violate those beliefs; it would violate freedom of speech, because compelled speech is not necessarily free speech.

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70 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

Compulsory voting would only morally work if a “None of the Above” choice was available. Having to choose between two scoundrels is not a free choice.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I don’t think it will improve the election results to compel ignorant voters to go to the polls. And how do you enforce it?

cazzie's avatar

@zenvelo my mother used to call that ‘An evil of two lessers’..... But, honestly, we need to encourage voting and interest in the system and the only way that will happen is if people feel somehow like they matter and have some empowerment. The current ‘Money rules all’ in the US will never accomplish that. Serious Electoral reform needs to happen before you make people stand at gunpoint to decide between two ‘lessers’.

josie's avatar


Agree. I don’t agree with making voting mandatory in the first place.
But if it comes to pass, it would have to include a protest no vote or I would not vote for it.

cazzie's avatar

voters in Australia can drop an unmarked ballot in the box or even a completely blank sheet of paper. so… there is ‘mandatory’ and then there is bullshit… but mostly bullshit. Because voting is still anonymous. So… stick that up your arsehole… fascist pig. heee heee

sahID's avatar

@zenvelo Good perspective. Even worse are state & local elections in which only one candidate is officially running. This is the case in the state I live in, where the Democratic Party is weak, running few candidates. Idaho does allow for write-in votes in which a voter can opt to not vote for the one candidate by writing another name on the provided line. If voting was made manditory, this would need to be the practice nationwide.

At the same time, I love the idea of being able to vote “None of the Above”, particularly in Federal level elections.

johnpowell's avatar

Or vote by mail like we do in Oregon. They mail you a ballot and you stick it in the mail once you fill it out. We have done it for over a decade and no reports of fraud. We have high voter turn-out along with all the other states that employ a similar method. There are still normal places to vote. Mail is just a additional option. If the homeless want to vote they can.

And the voter ID crap. My state issued ID expired in 2006 and just last month I had it replaced. I will detail this ordeal.

I have my old expired state issued ID and a expired passport. Also tons of mail with current address.

So I go to the DMV near my moms house in Eugene. Thinking I should be in good shape. They wanted a birth certificate. Okay, I got one a vital records at the court house when I needed my passport. Shouldn’t be a problem. PROBLEM… You can no longer get one in Eugene anymore. You have to go to Portland for one. So 60 bucks for a round-trip bus ticket.

I am now in Portland… Time to get a birth certificate. I go in and they have these kiosks to process your info and take your credit card. It rejected my card so I have to go and pay cash. So 23.50 for the birth certificate. But it actually did charge my card. I found this out when I got home. Multiple calls have not resolved this. And I fear issuing a chargeback against the state of Oregon.

So I have paid. Birth cert is printed and sitting at the counter. I can see it. But then she checks and oops. My ID is expired so I am fucked. But hey, my mom can come in and show her ID and they will give it to me. She just needs to drive 250 miles and we will be set.

Luckily my sister lives close and they accept siblings IDs.

So. To get a valid ID it cost me 47 for two birth certificates. 60 for bus fare. 44 for ID and probably about 50 for food and local public transportation during this whole ordeal.

So that voter ID thing. It isn’t that cheap to get a valid ID card.

Buttonstc's avatar

And what happens to those who don’t participate? Jail? Hefty monetary fine?

Aren’t the jails full enough already?

And how would this solve the prevailing problem? If there were candidates worth voting for, people would show up in droves. The problem is not with the citizenry, but with the system. Fix that and people will vote because their votes will truly make a difference.

After that joke of an election where the Supreme Court forced Bush down our throats it’s a miracle anyone shows up at all.

rojo's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe if you listen to the grousing of both major political parties there are already a high percentage of ignorant, ill-informed voters even without having mandatory voting.

@Buttonstc What if we have a policy that fines (lets say $150.00/year) those who don’t vote and the money goes into a general election fund that is split among the candidates and this is the only source of money available. And we can offer an option of Buying Out (lets say $75.00/year) of voting and that way you will not be fined. These funds would also go into the election fund

elbanditoroso's avatar

Sure, but as others have asked – how do you enforce it?

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@Buttonstc, in Australia you get fined if you don’t vote. I’m opposed to compulsory voting. I’d rather people who don’t want to give their vote any thought refrained from participating. As @cazzie said, you can drop a blank paper in the box but I’d still rather people voted because they want to influence who governs their country/state. I would prefer to see a ‘None of the above’ category as @zenvelo suggested than either donkey or informal voting.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I don’t think compulsory voting will ever go over in the US, but I think compulsory and automatic registration to vote should be implemented.

trailsillustrated's avatar

We get fined and its a pain in the arse. Still it gets people voting.

Mariah's avatar

Hell no. I don’t want people who don’t bother to get informed to be forced to weigh in.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

IMO not voting is sometimes the equivalent of voting with your feet and the only rational “vote.” I think if voter turnout is below a certain percentage all candidates should be disqualified.

cazzie's avatar

‘Not voting’ looks no different from apathy. We ended up with a crazy government in the last election because a third of our population didn’t vote. Lowest voter turn out since Germany occupation.

trailsillustrated's avatar

Ps I don’t see how a blank paper would work it’s all electronic push button?

cazzie's avatar

@trailsillustrated They only count you when you show up… you don’t have to push any button when you get in the booth. In New Zealand, you have to register to vote, but you don’t have to actually vote. They always have ‘throw-away’ options, like The Mugillicutty Serious party. Doesn’t Australia have something like that as well?

dappled_leaves's avatar

@cazzie ”‘Not voting’ looks no different from apathy”

Yes, I wish more people understood this. No elected government gives a shit about spoiled ballots. They accomplish nothing.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@cazzie, you have to be registered on the electoral roll. Then you show up, they tick off your name on a long list, and you’re handed ballot papers. You go to a booth, mark the paper and drop it in the ballot box. We don’t have electronic voting and it’s unlikely to be implemented for a long time. They did a study on it recently (I seem to recall) and rejected the idea for now.

In Queensland, they’ve brought in a requirement to prove your identity at the booth. This has caused a lot of argument because some people may forget, not have the required paperwork and therefore may be prevented from voting. It only applies in State elections.

cazzie's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit I know, I voted in New Zealand, I was referring to the comment by our resident Australian, @trailsillustrated .

jerv's avatar

Let me think….

If voting were made mandatory, then most of the types of people that put extremist candidates in office nowadays would suddenly stop voting so as to opposed to having government be so coercive….

That would lead to more moderate/Centrist government as candidates started catering to those that actually voted….

The depolarization would lead to increased willingness to compromise in stead of spending more timing stalling and blocking their opponents… which would result in more effective and efficient government…

So yes, I think making voting mandatory would be an overall good thing.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@cazzie, I’m in Australia and was responding to your “Doesn’t Australia have something like that as well?”

cazzie's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit OH,,... when I asked if Australia has ‘something like that’ I meant the ‘throw away’ candidate, like the Magillicutty Serious party vote.

Jaxk's avatar

In a totalitarian regimes, what isn’t forbidden is mandatory. Are we there yet?

dappled_leaves's avatar

@cazzie @Earthbound_Misfit I love that Wikipedia has an article about frivolous political parties. Apparently, Australia has not had a Magillicutty Serious Party, but it has had a Deadly Serious Party and a Party! Party! Party!. I have to respect that.

Here in Canada, we had the Rhinoceros Party which got up to all kinds of shenanigans, including running a candidate against longtime politician Flora MacDonald under the slogan of “Fauna, not Flora!”

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Or Great Britain’s Monster Raving Loony party. We have the Sex Party. However, they’re quite serious.

Brian1946's avatar

^^ Those parties look like they’re inspired by the hippies and the Yippies of the 60’s.

cheebdragon's avatar

If the voters were really as informed as they should be, I don’t think they would be voting at all.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Why in the world do you say that @cheebdragon?

rojo's avatar

Well, you know, Jury Duty is a civic duty and is mandatory (at least for those registered to vote) so why not?

Mariah's avatar

Jury duty forces you to be present for the process of becoming informed on all the relevant facts.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You know, mandatory voting isn’t all that unappealing to me. I just don’t see it happening.

reijinni's avatar

I’m not sure that mandatory voting is a good idea. There are some people that have no business being anywhere near a voting machine. They usually vote conservative.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@reijinni Yes, but it’s the conservatives who diligently show up at the polls (informed or not). The common wisdom is that increasing the voter turnout will provide better representation of the overall leaning of the country – predominately liberal. Conservatives are thought to be over-represented in government because their turnout is higher.

cheebdragon's avatar

Yeah, because there were just soo many conservative voters in the last 2 elections. That totally explains why we have a democrat in office.~

dappled_leaves's avatar

@cheebdragon You don’t think conservatives have been voting for Obama? Of course they have. You don’t think conservatives will vote for Hillary? Of course they will.

Who has control of both the congress and the senate again?

rojo's avatar

@dappled_leaves Who has control of both the congress and the senate again?

Control: Verb – exercise restraint or direction over; dominate; command.
2. to hold in check; curb:

Um, it appears that the answer is nobody.

rojo's avatar

Oh wait.

My mistake. Evidently you meant this definition of control:

3. to eliminate or prevent the flourishing or spread of

dappled_leaves's avatar

@rojo They certainly qualify for the “exercise restraint” definition! They restrain everything.

cheebdragon's avatar

You don’t think conservatives have been voting for Obama? Of course they have. You don’t think conservatives will vote for Hillary? Of course they will.
Exactly! So why encourage even more ignorant voters? lmao
I’m just kidding.

But seriously, why does it matter how many conservatives show up to vote?

dappled_leaves's avatar

@cheebdragon It matters because the government is supposed to be representative of all of the citizens of the nation, not just of those who show up to vote. I know this seems to be an unpopular view among Americans, who appear to believe that the citizens who work the hardest to vote deserve representation more.

Hence voting restrictions being introduced by Republicans wherever they are not prevented by law from doing so. And, in some cases, even where they are.

Strauss's avatar

@cheebdragon ,,,why does it matter how many conservatives show up to vote?

Judging from recent elections (don’t have time right now to cite statistics, sorry) it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is how many non-conservatives can be prevented or encouraged to show up. There are statistics going all the way back to the eighties that shows when turnout is high, liberals tend to win; when turnout is relatively low, conservatives usually win.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Yetanotheruser Exactly. The population as a whole is more liberal than election results reveal. Thus, people are being misrepresented.

Jaxk's avatar

In other words, the more idiots we can force to vote, the more Democrats will be elected. I wonder if that will fit on a bumper sticker.

cheebdragon's avatar

My thoughts exactly

rojo's avatar

I predict that the first link with be discounted because it contains the words “Huffington Post” even though the article is in reality referencing the second link, a scientific journal, which will in turn be Pooh-poohed because the data has been “misinterpreted” by the authors of the study.

cazzie's avatar

I was trying to link to an easy to understand article…..

rojo's avatar

^^using small words huh? ^^

Strauss's avatar

@Jaxk, @cheebdragonthe more idiots we can force to vote, the more Democrats will be elected.

According to proto-neocon Paul Weyrich, right-wingers don’t want everyone to vote because …(right-wing) leverage in the election…goes up as the voting populace goes down.. It was true in the 1980’s, and it is even more true today.

cazzie's avatar

They refer to people who don’t adhere to their politics as idiots, demeaning their rights and worth. It is a common theme. They have been doing their damnedest to even limit their access to the polls to vote when, point in fact, they have been the ones committing the fraud.

Jaxk's avatar

Wow, a liberal study to show liberals are smarter, I’m surprised. Sorry folks, that’s not what it shows. Actually it shows that liberals will do anything to try and make themselves look better. The old ‘make yourself look better by making others look bad’ tactic. Not surprising.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Jaxk Why do you call it a “liberal study”? Oh yeah, all academics are liberals. Oh, wait – that kind of proves the point, doesn’t it?

Dutchess_III's avatar

”...socially conservative ideologies, which stress resistance to change and, in turn, prejudice…”

”“Reality is complicated and messy,” he told The Huffington Post in an email. “Ideologies get rid of the messiness and impose a simpler solution. So, it may not be surprising that people with less cognitive capacity will be attracted to simplifying ideologies.””


Jaxk's avatar

Only liberals are obsessed with trying to prove they are smarter than everyone else. A manipulated study such as this only shows their desperation.

cazzie's avatar

Only conservatives refer to people who would further the Democratic cause as ‘idiots’..

Jaxk's avatar

Currently only about half the eligible population votes. The rest either don’t know enough or don’t care enough to vote. That means that if we force everyone to vote, the elections will be decided by those that either don’t care or don’t know enough. Only an idiot would think that will give us a better outcome. The people pushing this are not looking for better outcomes but rather expecting those that don’t know or don’t care will vote for them. Call them what you want.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Jaxk Yes, I predicted your response in my comment above:

“Americans, who appear to believe that the citizens who work the hardest to vote deserve representation more”

That’s not a very democratic view.

Jaxk's avatar

@dappled_leaves – I’m struggling with your interpretation of the issue. Everyone has representation whether they vote or not. Whether they choose to say anything or not. The representative I have is not what I voted for, my guy lost. Still I have representation. If I had not voted, I would still have a representative. Forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do runs contrary to freedom. Voting is not difficult but keeping yourself informed is.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Jaxk There is a difference between representing someone’s district and representing someone’s views. But don’t struggle too hard in trying to distinguish them.

Jaxk's avatar

If they felt they weren’t being represented, they would vote. Those not voting don’t seem to have any complaints. You seem to be trying to decide for them. Complaining for them as well.

dappled_leaves's avatar

And, naturally, you’re content with the status quo. Because your views are over-represented.

Jaxk's avatar

I certainly don’t see it that way. In fact my views are under represented since 38% of the country self identifies as conservative and only 24% as liberal It would appear that it is the liberals that are over represented and running roughshod over the country.

rojo's avatar

@Jaxk says

“Wow, a liberal study to show liberals are smarter, I’m surprised. Sorry folks, that’s not what it shows. Actually it shows that liberals will do anything to try and make themselves look better. The old ‘make yourself look better by making others look bad’ tactic. Not surprising.”

Why did you reference an article that is not the one @cazzie originally referred to and, not to mention, is authored by someone who has a conservative bent? He is “the author of Bearing Right”? You don’t think he has an agenda? And, did you notice that while he point to items he things he feels negate the study, at no point does he explain why it is that liberals scored better than the conservatives. He only derides the original criteria.

You/he in no way showed that the study @cazzie referenced was flawed, you simple chose another completely different study and implied that since this one, in your opinion was flawed and so, therefore, the one @cassie posted is also.

cazzie's avatar

To get back to the actual question, making voting mandatory is the least of the reforms the US electoral system needs. They need to fix how the whole system is funded for a start and then, perhaps actually teaching and funding a decent education for their population could go a long way into making better choices and also producing better candidates.

rojo's avatar

I disagree with @Jaxk about having a representative in office. I do not and I don’t believe that he does either. When your so-called representative has, and expresses through voting, opinions that in no way reflect your beliefs or values, how can he be representing you in government. I am a liberal in a conservative state and, partly because of manipulation of voting districts, it will be a conservative state for a long time.

I have many times over the years contacted all of my representatives and senators in both state and national offices to express my concerns and opinions on matters. Not a single time have these people voted the way I think they should have. Not once. And the letters (all form letters by the way) that you get in response are extremely condescending.

The most offensive were the ones from John Cornyn, the senior senator for Texas. I don’t know who was writing them for him but they were extremely insulting, implying with very little subtlety that, while my views were “important” to him, I did not know what I was talking about; that because he had been a lawyer he was obviously smarter than I was that I and should just sit back and let Mr. Cornyn handle the business of government and not worry myself with such weighty concerns.

When I complained and told them a simple response acknowledging receipt of my view would be sufficient without all the condescending pap the responses stopped coming.

So much for my being represented.

We have the technology, perhaps it is time to think about modifying our system of representative democracy to allow direct voting on all matters with our representatives only task being to propose, discuss and write bills.

Of course we still have the problem of having the best system money can buy. The large sums of money donated by the few must be stopped, maybe with a limit of $100.00 per person, per candidate being the maximum amount that you can give and that only in races that are in your district. No outside funding allowed. And once in office this autonomy needs to be maintained. It need to come with a caveat, something basic like “you receive a paycheck from We The People, that is what you get. Anything else constitutes a bribe and will get you kicked out of office”.

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