A thought experiment in the election’s aftermath: What if, instead of focusing on making it harder for people to vote, we made voting mandatory? Indulge me in a rant against the phantom menace of voter fraud. The efforts to suppress it are barely disguised Republican moves to hold down minority votes that would, presumably, go to Democrats. This year, the Supreme Court allowed a new Texas voter-ID law to proceed despite a lower court judge’s finding that it amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax that could disenfranchise 600,000 registered voters, about 4.5 percent of the total. This in low-turnout Texas, with voting participation rates near the bottom of a country with overall anemic turnout. Pivot to Australia, one of 11 countries that have, and enforce, mandatory voting, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, and the nation most culturally similar to the United States.
Australia adopted compulsory voting in 1924 after turnout plunged from more than 70 percent in 1919 to less than 60 percent in 1922. By contrast, recent turnout by eligible voters in U.S. presidential election years has barely cracked 60 percent; in midterm elections, it has been hovering in the low 40s.
Australians who fail to vote can be fined (or, in theory, jailed for repeated no-shows). Interestingly, the mandate to vote is overwhelmingly popular, with about three-fourths of those polled supporting the requirement.
Let me acknowledge, upfront, that the United States is not about to go the way of Australia. The same partisan forces that agitate for voter ID laws or less opportunity for early voting hours would block any change on the assumption that it would work to their electoral disadvantage.
Full Article: A case for compulsory voting – The Washington Post.