Compulsory voting in the us

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Issue : Compulsory Voting in the United States


As another Presidential election nears, and the Republican Party starts its primary process to choose the nominee who will face President Obama in what is shaping up to be another bruising and combative national election, a critical issue faces America. Beyond the economic and international problems facing America currently,there is the deeper, continuing problem of low voter turnout.

While many may consider this to be an unimportant issue to worry about when weighed against all the other, much more important issues on the table (unemployment, deficits, European financial crisis, etc.), one could argue that having only little more than half the country choosing arguably the most powerful leader in the world is anational travesty, especially given the myriad problems the country is facing. How can half the country be so jaded or uninterested as to sit on their hands when it is time to choose the leaders who will have a large hand in shaping their future and that of their children?


The objective of our single-issue campaign will be to make compulsory voting a reality for Federal electionsin the United States. While, at first glance, compulsory voting may appear to be an inane and irrelevant issue in today’s world, I believe that given the unsettled political climate the idea of compulsory voting may be appealing to segments of the population which are disconnected to the “political life”, dissatisfied and clamoring for different, out-of-the-box ideas in order to change of thepolitical process that currently operates in the U.S..

The benefits of compulsory voting are manifold: not only a higher turnout but also that a winning candidate or party is clearly supported by large majorities of the population, rather than their smaller, partisan bases. Second, compulsory voting prevents any interference with access to the vote since all segments of the population will beimplored to vote. In addition to increased turnout itself, increased voting participation stimulates stronger participation and this, in turn, may stimulate greater civic involvement and other political activities. (1)

Context for Compulsory Voting in the U.S. Today

While it is true that the turnout for the 2008 Presidential contest improved dramatically upon that of recent cycles (56.8%), itstill remains historically low compared previous elections such as the 1960 election, which saw a voter turnout of 63.1% of the voting-age public.

These numbers don’t even take into account the even more disappointing numbers from the midterm elections which have historically trended in the high upper 30’s since 1974, with the 2010 midterm elections, which were characterized as a Tea Partylandslide, having a 37.8% turnout. (2)

How can it be possible that a little more than a third of the voting public can decide the fate of the U.S. Congress and just over half choose the leader of the country?

While several groups and organizations have spent large amounts of money to motivate people to go out and vote over the decades, it is evident that these campaigns have produced onlylimited results. Perhaps they bump up the numbers for one or two election cycles but it is obvious that many ‘eternal’ non-voters go back to their apathetic ways and stay away from the polls in following cycles. This clearly signals that it is time for America to try something different; this new something might just be ‘compulsory voting’.

Legal considerations:

Our ´compulsory voting´ campaignwill concentrate primarily in motivating people to lobby their Congressional representatives to pass and the President to sign a federal law which would establish ´compulsory voting´ for Federal elections only, in which absenteeism would be punished by a small fine similar to a traffic ticket (around $50).

Passage of a law is the intended goal because the bar is much lower than attempting to...
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