Mandatory Voting Is A Stupid Idea

President Obama thinks a law mandating that all eligible Americans vote is a “transformative” idea.

Obama floated the idea of mandatory voting in the U.S. while speaking to a civic group in Cleveland on Wednesday. Asked about the influence of money in U.S. elections, Obama digressed into the topic of voting rights and said the U.S. should be making it easier for people to vote.

Just ask Australia, where citizens have no choice but to vote, the president said.

“If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country,” Obama said, calling it “potentially transformative.” Not only that, Obama said, but universal voting would “counteract money more than anything.”

The idea that President Barack Obama, who ran two of the most well-funded national campaigns in our nation’s history, wants to counteract money in politics is ridiculous. He doesn’t want to counteract money from people who support him. He wants to counteract money from people who oppose him.

But whatever.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]I think we can all agree that a society full of healthy citizens who make responsible choices and who are engaged in democratic governance is a noble goal. But what’s a better way to achieve that goal? Forcing people to behave a certain way by law, or inspiring them to behave that way of their own free will?[/mks_pullquote]

Here’s a question for those who think mandatory voting is a good idea: What if you don’t like any of the candidates? Should you be forced to show up and turn in a blank ballot? Should you be forced to show up and mark a “none of the above” box, though that’s not an option which exists on most ballots in the country (Nevada is the only exception, I believe).

I don’t understand how this is in keeping with the ideals of a free society. I’m all for everyone having the same opportunity to vote, but if people choose not to exercise their franchise so be it. That’s their choice, whatever you or I may think of it, and they should be free to make it.

And besides, do we really want people at the polls who are so ambivalent about the way we’re governed that they wouldn’t vote unless forced to do so at the point of the government’s sword? Why should our considered votes for Republicans or Democrats or  independents or whoever be canceled out by some idiot who is voting randomly just because the law requires it of them?

But this sort of thing isn’t surprising coming from a progressive liberal, given that ideology’s long history of trying to enforce a better sort of lifestyle through legal mandates. Whether we’re talking about the progressives who pushed alcohol prohibition in the Franklin Roosevelt era or modern progressives who are trying to crack down on unhealthy foods and tobacco, the progressive left likes the idea of using the law to enforce certain behaviors (many on the right, notably the drug warriors, have this same problem though with different behaviors).

I think we can all agree that a society full of healthy citizens who make responsible choices and who are engaged in democratic governance is a noble goal. But what’s a better way to achieve that goal? Forcing people to behave a certain way by law, or inspiring them to behave that way of their own free will?

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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