Mandatory Voting? Is This a Joke? [Updated]

President Obama, bemoaning the fact that Democrats have recently tended to stay home during off-year elections, has seriously floated the idea that Americans should be legally required to vote:

President Obama, whose party was trounced in last year’s midterm election due in part to poor turnout among Democrats, endorsed the idea of mandatory voting Wednesday.

“It would be transformative if everybody voted,” Mr. Obama said during a town-hall event in Cleveland. “That would counteract [campaign] money more than anything. If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country.”

Mr. Obama raised the subject during a discussion of curbing the influence of campaign donations in U.S. elections. The president said he had never discussed the idea publicly before, but said Australia and some other countries have compulsory voting.

It is hard to know where to begin. The idea of forcing Americans to vote is, frankly, un-American, and would have been regarded as such by every American political leader from George Washington through George W. Bush. If an American wants to stay home on election day, it is his God-given right to do so. The idea that policemen should herd Americans to the polls, or the IRS should withhold extra taxes if they don’t appear on a voter list, is repugnant.

Moreover, there are a great many people who should not vote. They have no idea who the candidates are; they haven’t followed the issues; they have don’t know what policies would best advance their interests. Happily, these people generally know who they are, and historically most of them have had the good judgment to take a pass on election day. Obama wants these people to be forced to vote because he thinks they can be propagandized into voting Democrat.

Finally, Obama’s discontent arises from the fact that many potentially Democratic voters stayed home in 2014. He wants to force them to the polls, whether they like it or not. But why did they stay home? Because they knew that Obama’s administration has been a disaster, but, because of ceaseless Democrat propaganda, they weren’t willing to vote Republican. If future Democratic presidents want a better turnout in off-year elections, they should try being better presidents.

UPDATE: I should add two things. First, forcing American citizens to vote would almost certainly be unconstitutional, as a violation of the First Amendment. Not that this has ever stopped Obama before. Second, there is, in theory, a silver lining to Obama’s proposal: to enforce a legal requirement that all eligible voters vote, you would need to have a list of eligible voters. Logically, this should imply that non-eligible voters wouldn’t be able to cast illegal votes. But this is probably a minor point: the Democrats, no doubt, would quickly come up with a workaround.


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