Republicans in red states continue to churn out policies designed to limit access to voting, while Democrats look for ways get more people to turn out. Political pundits usually agree that money is the biggest evil in American politics. They are wrong. The real secret to securing political power is, and always will be, voter turnout. Democrats win when there is heavy turnout, and Republicans win with lower turnout. It is just a fact.
But what if voting wasn’t just a right for American citizens, but rather a requirement? President Barack Obama recently noted the successful system in Australia, which provides for compulsory voting.
Republicans utilize their resources to suppress voting—especially among growing minority populations. Moreover, they engage in negative campaign tactics that tend to depress voting figures. Democrats have foolishly engaged in similar behavior, believing that negative campaigns “influence” voters. They do, but not in the way one would hope.
It really is a simple math equation. There are more Democrats than Republicans, both in registration and philosophy. Most people who are unregistered are at the lower ends of the economic scale. Traditionally, they would more likely vote Democrat. Independent voters used to be more conservative, but that has changed. Disdain for both parties, especially among young people, has given rise to a larger universe of liberal, independent voters.
About 130 million people voted in the last Presidential election. The population of the country is greater than 300 million—the difference does not consist of children and undocumented immigrants. Thus, the majority of the non-voting population—those who are unregistered and those who are registered but choose not to participate—are Democrats based on demography.
If people were required to vote, all the Koch money and all the Koch men could not protect the Republican Party. In Australia, they have imposed compulsory voting. The penalty is a $20 ticket, unless a sufficient reason for not voting can be provided.
This poses the question: Should voting be a right or a duty? A case could be made it is both, preventing compulsory voting from being antithetical to freedom. We currently require our citizens to serve on juries. We force people to pay taxes and require them to sign-up for military service, if ever required. All of these are duties we have placed on citizens, whether they like it or not.
Voting is an extension of this principle of civic participation. Voting should be seen at least as important as serving on a jury.
The penalty for not voting could be as simple as a fine or community service. If a person refuses to vote should they really receive any entitlements from the government? This economic argument could even appeal to some Republicans—though a turnout of all the people would likely remove hardline Republicans from power.
Of course, Republicans could then resort to their strategy from 2000, when those who counted the votes, especially in Florida, became more important than the votes cast.