Mandatory voting: cure for political ills
The polarization of politics and the resulting policies, at all levels of government, is the direct result of citizens choosing to not vote. For this reason, mandatory voting laws are needed to end the bickering of uncompromising politicians.
Elected officials no longer speak to the needs, or perspectives, of many Americans. Instead, they only seek to charm the favor of the most extreme members of their party in order to win.
As a result, moderate citizens who still voice their opinions at the polls are left having no choice but to vote for the lesser of two evils on the ballot, while non-voters feel that their vote wouldn’t matter.
The unfortunate truth is that their vote really doesn’t matter, because so many other people have the same attitude. It creates a cycle that causes the political landscape to become more polarized and therefore more discouraging and toxic, which results in further apathy on the part of the average citizen who doesn’t connect with their elected officials.
The only effective way to break this cycle and bring non-voters back into the fold is to require them to vote in all elections, from local to national, by law.
The result would be less polarization among elected officials, because politicians will be forced to speak to the needs of all Americans, as opposed to the needs of their base that shows up at the ballot box on election day.
The effect will be more moderate politicians that may be more likely to compromise on issues that until now have been stalled due to deadlock.
There are various reasons people disagree with any attempt to make voting mandatory in the U.S.
One criticism is that Americans are free to choose how involved with government they want to be, and requiring citizens to vote would tread on that freedom.
The problem with this idea is that Americans are already required to interact with government in different ways. Two examples of this would be jury duty and income taxes, both of which are required by law and tend to be more unpleasant and time-consuming than voting.
Jury duty and income taxes are examples of tasks required of Americans for the sole purpose of maintaining social order or proper function of government. Voting should be one more required task.
Another argument is that it will force misinformed, unreliable or plain ignorant people to vote, which will lead to substandard politicians being elected to office.
To this argument, one can only respond: How is this not an issue without mandatory voting laws?
The reality is that many current voters, and often the loudest voters, belong to the extreme right or left of a politician’s base, and have distorted or biased views that leave these voters equally misinformed as some non-voters and results in substandard officials being elected.
This is how American politics at all levels of government, from all over the country, have been plagued with dysfunction that leaves the greater public discouraged with the entire process.
Nationally, this dysfunction can be seen in the government shut down last year and the continued stalling of efforts to solve major issues in Washington, such as the current immigration debate. On a more local level was the controversy over the passing of Senate Bill 1062, which was seen as an anti-LGBT bill, subsequently vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer.
Obviously with any law there needs to be some type of punishment to ensure its intended purpose has an effect.
While failing to vote shouldn’t land a person in prison, there should be a substantial fine levied against those who don’t meet their obligation, with an increase in the fine for multiple offenses, which could be assessed during income taxes.
Requiring all citizens to vote would cause more moderate and less partisan voters to cast their ballots. Politicians will likely become more moderate as a result, and would bring more bipartisan cooperation to politics. This should be welcomed by all politicians who are confident in the policies they champion as truly being in the best interest of everyone.
- Jorge Encinas is a junior studying journalism. Follow him @DailyWildcat