The Right to Vote is a Freedom, not a Requirement
The right to vote may well be the most famous American right. But there are many who think it should be more than just a right; a requirement.
It has been brought up recently, not for the first time, that the United States should adopt compulsory voting, that is making a legal requirement to vote. We would not be the first to adopt this. Countries like Peru, Brazil, and Australia have already made voting mandatory.
Now, this doesn’t mean that if you decide not to vote in one of these countries, the police will storm your house, it’s usually more like jury duty where they request a reason for your absence. Some countries do impose fines, however, and some exclude those who abstained from some public services, such as obtaining a passport.
The reasoning, for the United States at least, is that many non-voters are in the lower class, and poverty category and that voters tend to be middle and upper class. The idea is that by forcing people to vote we may see a power shift, or more accurate elections.
The problem I see with the idea is this, if a person doesn’t vote, they tend not to care. When people decide not to participate in deciding who will represent them, or even run the country, they tend not to care who wins very much. So when we force these people to vote, we aren’t making them care anymore than they already did. So what is to keep them from casting a blank ballot, or worse, casting a ballot randomly marked for or against things they don’t truly understand.
It could also be said that some who abstain from voting are still showing their opinion. They may be showing that they won’t participate in a system that no longer works. Or perhaps that they don’t want to vote because their vote doesn’t really change much, with the Electoral College being the true determining factor (there has been more than one election where the president lost the popular vote but won the electoral.)
Another point of contention is that some of the people this would target specifically is the poor and elderly who often don’t vote, however these people may not vote due to limited mobility or lack of a vehicle. These people may not be voting because they can’t easily get to a polling facility, so would people in this category be punished.
It should also be considered that enforcing laws costs money. There would have to be a group dedicated to finding people who didn’t vote, then the issue of contacting these people and how much that would cost just to get ahold of them, not to mention the cost of actually carrying out whatever punishment they may have “earned.”
It can be agreed by most that the United States has quite a few issues. With government shutdowns, massive deficits, and a seeming inability for the government to actually accomplish anything important. But forcing people to vote is not going to change anything. There are other much more glaring problems with our political system that we could look at first that may help (Term limits for congressmen perhaps.) Forcing citizens to vote is not the answer to any problem, and it is not a fix. Voting is a right, not an obligation.