Voters would be more adequately informed about the decisions they are asked to make.
BY ARI BENNETT
The United States and other democratic countries should implement mandatory voting.
Perhaps the strongest argument against mandatory voting is that every individual has a right to simply not express his or her opinion. If a person does not want to contribute to the political process and is okay with others doing that for him or her, then why should the government interfere? But people should not be shocked by the suggestion to impose requirements on our citizens. There is some precedent for this, with the ultimate good of a working society.
It seems ironic that many people who do not vote still feel they have a right to complain about policies undertaken by the government. I see nothing wrong with requiring this slight but very meaningful investment into the political process. Mandatory voting, having the whole of the public’s voice heard, would be good for the health and progress of a nation.
Mandatory voting is a rather liberal idea that many Republicans and Democrats in America might reject. However, we should not be offended to be required to do something when it will improve our society. It is often forgotten that the United States government already requires its citizens to contribute to America in various ways. From filling out the census to paying taxes to registering for the draft to mandatory education, the United States has in many ways forced citizens to be active participants in the betterment of America.
In the United States, citizens are legally required to fill out the census form every ten years. Someone not filling out the census is subject to a fine of $5,000. The primary purpose of the census, written in the Constitution, is so that every ten years we can adjust how many members of Congress each state receives so that each state is properly represented. Knowing the population of each state helps maintain our democracy, and lets us know how the government should allocate its funding.
In addition, every state requires that all people are in school until at least the age of 16. While perhaps parents might want to raise their children differently, without a formal education, the government requires one to learn certain material so that he or she can become an educated citizen who can be more capable of contributing to society.
While these comparisons are not perfectly analogous, each asks citizens to do something in exchange for what the government provides them. Ideally, we would like universal voting among citizens, but we would also like to see those voters to be adequately informed about the decisions they are asked to make.
I would suggest that the requirement to vote be coupled with programs that increase the knowledge of all voters, particularly new voters who may have felt ill-informed in the past. This can be accomplished by widespread informational sessions held at public places such as libraries prior to major elections. Further, candidates could be required to send out mass mailings with a set of bullet points outlining their stance on important issues of the day.
I have heard, from many people my age, that they do not vote because they do not feel educated or informed enough to make such decisions. Certain groups are less likely to vote than others, and two of those groups include the less educated and younger people. It is true that the government can still function without a large voter turnout, but it creates an environment in which the government does not work for all people in mind. The groups who tend to have lower voter turnout will lose out in influencing the adoption of policies that might help them. I believe all citizens should have a moral obligation to actively inform themselves.
Additionally, campaigns spend a lot of money on issues directed towards people who intend to vote, and this has created a polarized political atmosphere that is unhealthy for democracy in America. The benefits include a higher level of discourse and understanding.
By requiring Americans to vote and educate themselves, we foster a more informed electorate.
Ari Bennett is a junior at Union College studying Studio Arts and Statistics.