Compulsory Voting Make Sense for Democrats

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.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.

17 Comments

  1. In other words, the less people pay attention, the more likely they’ll vote Democrat.
    True, but not much to be proud of. But it IS an angle that can be exploited. And that’s what Democrats do best.

    • That’s an odd conclusion… that people who don’t pay attention are more likely to vote Democrat. What makes you think they don’t pay attention? Maybe they pay too much attention. Maybe they’re disgusted.

  2. North Korea had a pretty nice turnout in last year’s “election” with 99.98% of eligible voters.

    Damn you evil Koch Brothers! Long live George Soros! Thanks Ross Perot!

  3. Mandatory voting means mandatory form of identification. It’d be a lot easier to get people to vote if;

    1. Politicians actually came through with their promises
    2. Voters didn’t feel like, “My vote doesn’t count”
    3. If we declared voting day a holiday.

    • > Mandatory voting means mandatory form of identification.

      Don’t be so sure.

      The moonbats have been objecting to mandatory voter ID laws because it’s “rayciss” and “dis kim inatory” and oppresses (insert victim minority here).

      My understanding is that there is no meaningful voter identification now, only the meek request that the voter sign their voter registration form, and then sign the voter role. No other ID required.

  4. > Most people who are unregistered are at the lower ends of the economic scale. Traditionally, they would more likely vote Democrat.

    > 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.

    So, Rich, you seem to be a fount of voter demographic information.

    Based on the points you raised, here are some additional questions for you:

    1. Are people who are unregistered smarter or dumber than people who are registered?
    2. Are people who are at the lower ends of the economic scale smarter or dumber than people at the higher ends of the economic scale?
    3. Are people who are in the non-voting population smarter or dumber than people in the voting population?

    and finally,

    4. Does a public policy that moves people from the non-voting population to the voting population make the voting population smarter or dumber?

    5. Is a dumber voting population good for “democracy”?

    • “Dumber” or “smarter” has little to do with voter registration. “Dumber” or “smarter” isn’t necessarily a correlation with education and income level. Some very smart people don’t earn a lot of money, while some really stupid people inherit their wealth. And some very smart people acquire their wealth by scamming the system and taking advantage of others. But I don’t know that I’d class them as “intelligent.” Therefore, our fourth and fifth questions are not even valid if they are based on the first three questions. Besides, your questions are “leading” — which means you assume the answer before one is given. So, when did you stop beating your wife?

      • > “Dumber” or “smarter” has little to do with voter registration. “Dumber” or “smarter” isn’t necessarily a correlation with education and income level.

        SALLYFORTH (IQ 135):

        I never proposed any correlation with education or income level. I asked Rich to affirm or dispute any correlation of “smartness” or “dumbness” to one or other end of the economic scale.

        Your assertion that the questions are invalid or “leading” are red herrings.

        We have a vast education bureaucracy and pundit class that accepts that “smarteness” and “dumbness” were knowable.

        Remember George Bush. He was dumb. Check with the New York Times.
        Remember Sarah Palin. She was dumb. She that you could see Russia from Alaska.

        So, reboot that big brain of yours and award yourself a “do over”.

        4. Does a public policy that moves people from the non-voting population to the voting population make the voting population smarter or dumber?

        5. Is a dumber voting population good for “democracy”?

        • This thread offers another possibility for why people don’t vote: they get turned off by the insulting tone used in so much political discussion. The question isn’t about “dumber” and “smarter.” Perhaps it is about “more engaged” and “less engaged.” Perhaps it is about having a stronger or weaker stomach for the sort of manipulative handling of facts often seen in political discussion.

          I think it might be more productive, if this is a discussion of solutions to the low voter turnout issue, to consider whether low voter engagement is partly related to the way voting is presented. When I ask young people why they don’t vote, they often say, “Oh, it’s just one more thing to do, I don’t have time to study all the issues, so I just don’t.” If we reminded people that not voting means giving someone else the power to make decisions on your behalf, maybe voter turnout would increase by a small amount. If we presented voting as both a responsibility and a privilege, maybe voter turnout would increase, even if only a few percentage points. If we stopped the societal meme that says only people with unlimited cash have any influence on the political system in this country, maybe voter turnout would increase, particularly if we introduced the idea that voting is a clever way to stick it to the moneybags – people power against money power.

          What I’m trying to say is that personal attacks and discussions of engagement as a matter of “dumber” and “smarter” won’t do much to increase voter engagement. Democrat or Republican or anything else, higher voter turnout should always be a priority, if only because it strengthens and supports out small-d democratic system.

          • > Democrat or Republican or anything else, higher voter turnout should always be a priority, if only because it strengthens and supports out small-d democratic system.

            Why would we want to strengthen our “small-d democratic system”?

            “Democracy” is government by the stupidist 51 percent of the population.

            America was founded as a constitutional republic and NOT as a democracy, because the founders understood very well that there was little if any difference between a majoritarian democracy and a mobocracy.

            It is enormously paradoxical that people who think “democracy” is wonderful don’t seem to realize that pure democracy is tyranny of the majority, whereas “constitutionalism” provides explicit legal protection for minorities.

            “Freedom of speech” is guaranteed by the constitution, not by the “democratic majority”. The only speech that the “democratic majority” is interested in hearing is what the majority has to say.

  5. Typical. Use some outliers, and rare occurrences and act as if that is the norm. Then use that as evidence that the questions are invalid. Bzzzztt.. And his questions weren’t leading. You assume they are leading because you know that the correct answer is what you do not want it to be. Let me help you out. There are crooks in both the well educated and under educated groups. However, the under educated group is less likely to be registered. Thus the adding them to the roles does not make for a more educated voting block. It does the opposite. That is not debatable. And criminals among both groups has nothing to do with that. You are 100% wrong that education has little to do with intelligence. While there are rare instances where somebody can be dumb as a rock even though educated, and the rare person is a genius with no education, in the overall numbers, it’s not even close. The educated as a group are far more intelligent than the uneducated/under-educated. You said you don’t know what you would classify as intelligent. That’s your problem because intelligence can be measured. For instance, in college, many who do not already possess the skills needed to think critically, learn them. In college, students are taught to not take something as fact, even if the majority accept it as truth. They learn not to accept something as truth just because it has a long history of being accepted as fact. You are taught to do your own research, and also argue against what you believe to be true, to see if you are correct of incorrect.

    The uneducated/undereducated are nowhere near as good at these things. They are far more likely to believe what they are told, especially if they are comfortable with who told them, and if it does not challenge their world view.

    • That can fit a lot of people, whether conservative or liberal. Trust me. I find them among my friends and family. Education depends on where you got the education. Some colleges are very conservative, teaching people to accept everything they read and hear. Other colleges are more liberal, telling students to question everything. The balance is somewhere in the middle. Yes, intelligence can be measured… or at least the capacity to learn. However, those tests are being debunked because of the inherent limitations built into the tests. What testing often fails to measure are the immeasurable factors… the ability to be creative, to be empathetic, to push the envelope, to dream, etc. Testing misses that completely. And anyone who thinks they’re smart just because they have a nice IQ is fooling themselves. My own IQ, for what it’s worth, is 135. But trust me… there’s a vast quantity of knowledge that I can’t begin to touch. My daughter’s IQ is 154 and she has her PhD, but she has trouble holding a job because she lacks social skills. There’s more to being “smart” or “dumb” than education, and there’s more to it than the limited measurement tools we use.

      • Sally, you did not end the sentence; “Other colleges are more liberal, telling students to question everything.” that sentence should read: Other colleges are more liberal, telling students to question everything THAT QUESTIONS LIBERAL IDEOLOGY.

  6. By the way, where did I say that I don’t know what I’d classify as intelligence? I certainly do know what intelligence is. What I said is that being a crook may be “smart” but I don’t know that I’d classify it as “intelligent.”

  7. Why do i get the feeling that if mandatory voting resulted in a higher likelihood of Republican victories Rich would be arguing that Not Voting is an inalienable right, and that mandatory voting laws were right wing fascism?