This Week’s Mtg: What If Voting Were Mandatory? (10/28/10)

Linda’s idea.  Of course, adapting compulsory voting is unlikely.  Conservatives are dead set against it, in part because they don’t believe that people should be forced to participate in the political process, but also because Republicans would lose more elections if everyone voted.  Also, as far as I know there’s no great public clamoring to be forced to cast a ballot.

Still, I think this is a great topic because we can discuss three sub/related issues:

  1. Why do so few people vote? 
    —  Barely 60% of eligibles vote in presidential elections, less than one-third in some off-year elections (like next Tuesday), and in primaries turnout can fall below 20%.  I’ll post some information later and give a few numbers at the meeting.  
    — But, why do so few vote?  This is key.  If they just don’t want to, should we force them?  If instead voting is too difficult (on a weekday, long lines, etc.), then should we try to make it easier? 
  2. How might election results — and politics — change if everyone voted?  Those who vote are richer, older, whiter, and more educated than those who don’t.  What if “The Voters” were all “The People?”  What happens in those few countries that require voting? 
  3. What are the pros and cons of mandatory voting, both philosophically and practically?  Regardless, should we try to increase voter turnout in other ways?

Tomorrow I’ll post a few links related to these topics.  If any of you like to pull numbers out of reports, here’s a Census Bureau report I’ll use to pull my numbers.  Some of the charts and figures are interesting.

Updated Links

  1. Graph: Voter turnout in presidential elections, 1948-2008.  Trend up recently after decades of falling turnout.
  2. An advocate of mandatory voting makes his case. 
  3. Pros and cons and basics from Wiki, along with a list of which countries do it..
  4. What would happen if all income levels had the same turnout (i.e., if the same percentage of poor people voted as middle class and rich)?  Answer: Democrats gain a little, but not a huge amount.
  5. Early (absentee/mail) voting does not change outcomes much, but it does change campaigning.  Oddly, early voting does not raise turnout.

UPDATE:  Lordy, fake claims about alleged Democratic and illegal immigrant voter “fraud” have already begun.  See this and this, among  recent posts. A zillion studies with overwhelming evidence have been done showing that widespread polling place fraud is just made up.  But, since they were done during past election cycles, since this “issue” mysteriously surfaces every two years, I’m too lazye to look them up.


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