Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Should Voting Be Mandated?

***This post was updated on 12/23/12

I posed this question on my Facebook page recently and was surprised with the answers.

Most people said “no” and asked how it would be enforced. The reasons for the “no” answers were: “It would be like a dictatorship,” and that “We have the right to free speech and mandating the vote goes against that.”

Before I go on, I realize that voting will probably never be mandated, so this discussion/debate is purely hypothetical. I have made up my mind about it but am willing and interested to hear constructive arguments against it. I have been known to change my mind and can be convinced to look at things differently. I ask that if you choose to weigh in, you keep your point constructive.

Daily Kos came out with this article on 12/20/12. The fact that  Conservative George Will, is at all concerned with mandated voting only re-enforces my argument (in my eyes).

"George Will is very concerned that the Obama administration is talking about trying to make it easier to register to vote and vote, which Will sees as a slippery slope toward mandatory voting, which would be bad because "As indifferent or reluctant voters are nagged to the polls—or someday prodded there by a monetary penalty for nonvoting—the caliber of the electorate must decline." Along the way to that concern for the caliber of the electorate, Will quotes longtime bad guy Hans von Spakovsky and cites the example of Nazi Germany. Which should tell you pretty much all you need to know about this argument."

Opinions are like assholes and everyone has one, including me and frankly, I see it as a beautiful thing when people can debate without anger. So here's my argument in favor of mandated voting.

1. Free Speech.
I see voting more as a civic duty. We all live in this country and we owe it to each other as a national community to do what’s best for everyone. There are rules in place in school, your job and other organized groups. We accept these rules because we understand that when left to our own devices and lack of motivation, anarchy can ensue.

2. Dictatorship.
Right now, if you are called to jury duty, you have to go. Period. If you want to drive a car, the law says you need a license and requires a test that you must pass in order to drive. You have to pay taxes. Do you feel that this is a dictatorship? I don’t.

It would be quite easy to enforce mandated voting. Provide proof of voting when you pay your taxes. If not, pay a $50 fine. Those who wish not to vote—but insist on bitching about what the ELECTED officials do— would be contributing rather than just complaining about the state of things. I have heard some agrue that $50 is a lot of money for people who have low income. My answer - vote and save the $50.

44% of Americans DID NOT VOTE in 2008. Think of how much money could go back into the economy from people who choose to not vote and pay the fine. The money should be regulated to the benefit of our nation. Education, health care, infrastructure etc. and not go to gold toilet seats in the White House. In other words, rules in place so the money is not abused.

For those who complain about having to vote the lesser of two evils, consider this: You may not like your choices for president but one of them WILL win. The one who wins nominates Supreme Court Judges. These judges have a direct impact on your life. By giving up the right to vote, you throw away your shot at having any say in the rules you will be required by law to follow, as well as decisions like the 2000 election. SCOTUS decided George Bush was president.
The flaw: People may vote in order to avoid the fine but remain uneducated about the politicians and their policies. This happens anyway. Granted, there may be more uneducated people who vote but it also might make more people choose to actually understand what’s really on the table. And for the ones who choose not to vote, let them contribute instead of only whining about what terrible system we have.

No system is perfect and we already have too many flaws. Anything we do will come with problems and hopefully, as we see what those problems are, we can work to fix them in a way where everyone benefits.

I like to think of it this way: If you were a business owner and you needed to fill a position that pays $100k a year, vacation pay and health care, wouldn’t YOU want to be the one in charge of hiring?  It’s YOUR company. (I realize that bigger companies have managers who hire but they have been vetted by the higher-ups to make the “informed” decision so that the most qualified applicants be considered seriously.)

We are the ones paying the politicians. We allow them to collect healthy pensions. We allow them to create laws that we must live by. I believe it’s our civic duty to participate in employing those who will be our civil servants.
So there you have it. If there are holes in my argument, bring it. I am genuinely curious to know what you think.

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  1. If we call it a mandate maybe the Republicans will refuse to participate wouldn't that be nice. I think everyone who wants to donate to a candidate should send their money to one place for each election. The money raised should be put into one account and split evenly between the candidates. After they receive their share they all buy the advertising they want with the money they are given. Any candidate who runs an add with lies or distortions has their name removed from the ballot. Once everyone has had a chance to see the truth about the candidates and their ideas everyone is required to vote. It will never happen this way but it would be nice.

  2. And people will have the choice to vote for "none of the above", correct? It would be a nice option because eventually, I think, more people would want to make their vote count because they're going through the trouble of going to the poll anyway.

    But overall you lost me when you acknowledged that mandatory voting is an unrealistic idea. I prefer other options, because I prefer something with a real chance.

  3. Yes mandate that everyone must vote. But make it a process incorporating a version of an absentee ballot.
    Ballots will be emailed with the candidates and all the proposals.
    A Voting Site would be established with links to significant information sources and of a similar amount for each candidate:
    1. Candidate background info; positions held, other elections won or lost; past positions on relevant topics; education; income, etc. For proposals a similar summary of the proposal's impact, its supporters and detractors; costs if passed or not passed; impact if passed or not passed
    2. Links to relevant/significant news organizations that show RSS feeds of related stories concerning the candidates or proposal. Also provide a summary of the person or organization that is supporting or opposed to the candidate/proposals.
    3. Links to persons or organizations showing the amount of money provided in support or opposition to the candidate or proposal.
    4. Link to candidates or organizations supporting or opposing the candidate or proposal where voters could submit questions. An ongoing FAQ list would be updated regularly.
    5. The voting site would have links to online discussions about candidates and proposals
    6. The Voter's time at other sites with relevant information about candidates & proposals would also be counted.
    7. If the voter does vote and does show a certain level of activity using the Voting Site or other sites related to the candidates or proposals, they will be able to claim a specified amount to be deducted from their state and/or federal taxes. NOTE: Every person would be required to pay an amount of federal or state income tax minimally equal to the maximum level of voting tax deduction they can claim. Will be complicated calculation if there are a large number of candidate races and proposals, state and federal.
    If the person does not vote or only votes on some of the races or proposals, they will be able to claim a smaller, prorated tax deduction.

    I think a tax should be included that will cover the costs of the voting process. Also, data mining of the Voting Site would be prohibited or limited. The Voting site would have a help desk re technical problems.

    There would be a specified Voting education time - say a month before the election.

    There would be voter eligibility requirements: Age, residency, ability to be able to participate in the process - exclude persons with certain level of mental deficiency (example: advanced Alzheimer's disease or other disqualifications - in prison).
    Straight party voting would not be allowed

  4. It would be nice if people voted intelligently but for too many, it's just too much trouble. Fining them will get many more of them to vote but on what basis are they going to pick a candidate. My guess, and it's only a guess, is that there is a higher percentage of intelligent people among those that already vote than those that would have to be paid to do so. And if intelligence testing is required I suggest we start with the candidates.

  5. Australia has mandatory voting, and has for years. Something like 98% vote, the rest pay a $50AUS fine. But here's why conservatives are staunchly against it: If everyone votes, the country would overwhelmingly vote for liberals, every time. Study after study shows that a rather big majority of those who "seldom or never vote" would generally vote liberal if compelled to vote.

    Other data point: The current Australian PM is a liberal, atheist woman living with a man in an unmarried relationship... doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why the conservatives would oppose anything that could produce such a winner.

  6. voting should only be mandated if 'none of the above' was included on every ballot. there are too many bad politicians, making impossible promises, guilty of graft, hypocrisy, etc.

    it would be a real eye opener to some politicians if "none of the above" beat the political choices!

  7. If voting is mandatory then make it even easier to vote. Instead of election day make it three days. Then there will be little excuse for people not to head out and vote.

    This most recent election highlighted the problem with our politicians. Paul Ryan lamented the fact that the DNC was able to get "minorities and urban residents to vote."

    Okay...isn't that what you wanted Mr. Ryan? NO! He and the GOP (and even the Dems) were not interested in winning the American people. They were interested in winning the most voters.

    There's a difference and it's one I'd like to see eliminated if possible. When we hear about disenfranchisement and intimidation at the polls we realize that one party or the other wants to silence specific groups of people. That's just wrong and un-American as far as I'm concerned.

  8. I have always said that voting is a sacred duty. I vote in every election & frankly I believe everyone should. Everyone feels stronger about one candidate than another. The two reasons I've heard for not voting are these -1.) They're all crooks so what does it matter and 2.) If I vote I may get called to jury duty and I would lose so much money because the amount they pay for jury duty is so much lower than my wage. I agree there should be a "none of the above" choice and if "none of the above" outnumbers any candidate when the votes are calculated the candidates should be banned from running for that office and a new special election should be held.

  9. Mandating a vote is forcing someone to form an opinion, to take a side. It tuns the campaign process into the Super Bowl, with both candidates vying for the slob vote. All of a sudden, the apathetic become an asset and actual issues slip further into irrelevance. We do not need a further dilution of intelligent discourse.