In Brief—Want a recipe for renewed democracy? Institute Compulsory Voting, dump the outmoded 18th Century artifact called the Electoral College, and institute a Ranked File Voting system. Add some enthusiasm and activism. Shake the rancid status quo and you have a renewed America.
A Way to Overcome American Decline—
“Aw, Hell’s Bells, they’ve done it again,” says Joe Average, a potential voter. “They’ve picked Abbie Able and Bryson Baker of the two major parties to face off in the presidential election. They shut out my choice, Delia Davis, of the Earth Party and Elton Earnest of the Universalist Party, both legitimate Third Party candidates, with their undemocratic maneuvering. I might as well not vote.”
That fictional gripe illustrates the situation that exists today in America. The best example of just how outmoded the Electoral College is can be seen in the fact that Al Gore received more votes than George W. Bush and yet Bush became the president. We know where that went. Third Party candidates never have a chance because the two major parties not only conspire to exclude them, but a vote for a Third Party candidate is for all practical purposes a wasted vote.
As if that weren’t enough, because there is no Compulsory Vote in America, as there is in Australia and twenty-one other countries, Joe and too many like-minded eligible potential voters can stay home on election day as has happened in the 2014 general election that set a new record for non-participation. Is any of this right? More to the point, is any of this even sensible?
But This is About Compulsory Voting—
In recent pieces, I have pointed out the undemocratic flaws with the two-party system and the outmoded Electoral College. See my pieces The Tyranny of the Two-Party System and The Thievery of the Electoral College. Today, thanks to an aware and perceptive reader, we will take a look at the pluses to be derived from a system of Compulsory Voting.
First, some uncomfortable facts. America has one of the worst voting turnouts in the world. At 50%, and sometimes less, as happened recently, the turnout for presidential elections (and even the Midterms) is deplorable and that’s thanks to the outmoded Electoral College and the undemocratic actions of the two major parties. If there were Compulsory Voting as well as Ranked File Voting, America’s voting turnout would not only rise sharply as could be expected but, more importantly, America could be more democratic.
Compulsory Voting Defined—
So what is Compulsory Voting? Basically, it means that all citizens 18 years of age and older are required to vote or at least go through the motions at all elections. Registration is automatic at age 18. Failure to vote can result in a fine or mandatory community service. Exemptions can be given for those of unsound mind, debilitating illness or prisoners who have not paid their debt to society.
Since people are mobile, why confine voting to a polling place? A trustworthy electronic data base of all eligible voters created at the time of registration and assurance that the data are accurate would make voting easier and doable for those unable to make it to a voting place. Translated this means that computers and mobile phones would allow voters to vote. Note please that I said assurance of trustworthiness is a necessary element. These days, this can be easily accomplished.
Argument AGAINST Compulsory Voting—
What are the key arguments AGAINST compulsory voting. 1) Probably the biggest is “freedom.” Opponents claim that they should be free to refuse to vote, that compulsion is a violation of their right to personal freedom. 2) Another objection is that the electorate may be too ignorant or uninterested to cast a meaningful ballot. 3) Another is that candidates need not waste time with all voters but can concentrate on those in the “swing states.” 4) Another objection is that some ballots will be unmarked, that is, that the voter leaves his/her ballot blank thereby rendering the vote questionable.
Argument FOR Compulsory Voting (My Position)—
On the other hand, what are the key arguments FOR compulsory voting? 1) Like jury duty and taxation, voting is a civic duty that strengthens democracy. Remember that “freedom” is not free, it must be defended. 2) The total electorate is taken into consideration not merely the charged-up, single-issue voter. 3) The voter is more likely to inform himself/herself about the candidates and issues to be decided. 4) Candidates will be required to appeal to all the voters not just those in “swing states.” 5) The voter can be assured that her/his vote will be counted. 6) A box labeled “None Of The Above” permits the disgruntled voter to register his/her disapproval of the listed candidates and avoids any confusion that might arise out of a blank ballot.
Now, put together Compulsory Voting, dump the outmoded Electoral College and institute Ranked File Voting which will allow all the candidates an equal chance, and potential voters have a solid reason to vote. Pass all these and you will see a surge in interest in voting as happened in Australia. Every vote will count.
We have just survived a Midterm election in which the pundits and the statistics underline the depths to which America has sunk. This election may set a new record for absenteeism. It’s estimated that only about 40% of eligible voters bothered to vote. This means that almost two-thirds of eligible voters stayed home allowing the few who voted to determine how the country would be run until the next presidential election in 2016.
Some pundits say that the voters and stay-at-homes have sent a message to the politicians reflecting dissatisfaction with America’s political dysfunction. A much stronger message would be registered if America had Compulsory Voting with a checked box on the ballot saying “NONE OF THE ABOVE.” That is an explicit message reflecting dissatisfaction.
What are you waiting for? Get active and make some positive changes that will inject vibrancy into the body politic. Restore genuine democracy in America.