I take a diametrically opposed viewpoint to this. Everyone should be required to vote. In Australia, among other nations, if you don't vote you pay a fine. Voting in the U.S. should be as mandatory as jury duty, if not more so.
When you are required to do something, and when all of your peers, family, and friends are required to do the same thing, it generates a much greater discussion around it.
There's this view in the US that voting is a right, not a privilege. When you treat something as non-valuable, then its much easier to take that thing away. Thinking of something as a privilege like borrowing your parents' car when you're young or having the freedom to worship your religion of choice or not makes it much more valuable to you. (Yes, I know that freedom of religion is a right. Don't be pedantic and quibble. People treat the issue like a privilege, whether its a Constitutional right or not.)
In the US, the right to bear arms is considered sacred by many. While its referred to as a 'right', millions of Americans treat it like a privilege. When someone threatens to take that away, people are rather vocal about protecting it.
So you're right, I won't tell you to vote. But I will do everything in my power to force you to vote, and to care about what you're being required to do. This is one time that telling people to have and care about an opinion is better for everyone.
> When you are required to do something, and when all of your peers, family, and friends are required to do the same thing, it generates a much greater discussion around it.
Compulsory voting does no such thing. Australians begrudge voting (and that we must fully enumerate our preferences).
The pragmatic reason for having compulsory voting is to provide a better sample of what the population wants. In effect, to dilute the crazies.
Voluntary voting is dominated by the question of motivation and ability. Those who are motivated and easily able to vote set the agenda.
Ever wondered why US politics is dominated by so many basically tangential issues?
Because whether you are pro or contra, abortion / marijuana / the death penalty / public health etc are classic issues to Get Out The vote.
And the consequences continue.
Ever wondered why US politics is about soaring rhetoric and heart-crushing negativity?
Because the basic strategy is: inspire your own voters so they turn out ("Yes we can!", "America is at a crossroads") and make the other guy's voters disillusioned enough so that, while they won't vote for you, they'll just stay at home.
Australian politics is more about transactional than transcendental issues, simply because the great bulk of people are required to vote whether they want to or not.
To summarise: it does not greatly improve the quality of voters. It improves the quality of outcomes.
Whether you begrudge it or not, the majority of Australians go to the polls when required, I assume. Generating discussion about something doesn't at all mean its something people take joy or pride in doing. That isn't a requirement in the equation.
Transactional voting is perfectly adequate. Its the minimum requirement you need to have a successful democracy. It still leaves room for the politicians that want to inspire people, or try to make them fear the other candidate, etc. But it also makes people talk about the day to day business of getting by. We sorely are lacking that here in the US.
I don't care about improving the quality of voters implicitly. That is a side effect of mandatory voting. Improving the outcome is the primary target.
Overall, I appreciate your comments and take the view that they illustrate and expand on my points, rather than refute them.
The problem with compulsory voting is that no box exists on ballot papers for many perspectives.
For example, I strongly believe that representative democracy (the common kind) is a farce and do not want to be represented by anybody but myself. The ballot papers make no room for this attitude - everything is framed in terms of the current system which is that either Bob or John will represent you.
It is analogous to the question "how often do you beat your wife?", which is loaded with the assumption that one beats his wife. Similarly, the voting systems we are talking about make the assumption that the person agrees with representative democracy.
Considering that I pay taxes and contribute to this society, it is, frankly, an injustice that my opinion is not represented in the least.
I don't think the US population would react so well to a non-voter fine, but I do think it would be interesting to see what effect there would be if an automatic tax deduction or rebate was offered. I suppose you run the risk of disincentivizing a few very young voters, but the perspective would seem much more appealing (hopefully forcing less quibbles over the 'point' or allocation of taxes).
As an American, I want people to vote who want to vote and for no other reason. They should have nothing stopping them from voting if they want to, and nothing artificially pushing them towards doing so either.
The big problem in America with voting is that election day is not a national holiday. If there should be any incentive to vote, there should be fines for employers who don't give election day off (not saying people cant' elect to work that day, but it needs to be a default holiday), or a mandated pay hike to employees working election day (say, doctors, police, utilities workers, etc that can't really have a day off).
But absolutely don't mandate individuals vote. Its their right not to. You don't get to go around telling other people how to behave if it doesn't negative impact you. And the people not voting now won't become more inclined to get involved because they are forced to, in the same way children aren't intellectually stimulated by being forced to go to public schools.
Or you could do like Washington State and change to a mail-only system. I voted weeks before Election Day, and then dropped my ballot off at my convenience.
I could see your argument for having deliberation day or something, but there are other solutions for the problem of long waiting lines at the polling place. (I was 18+ and resident in California previously, so I waited those lines, too. I wasn't employed then, though.)
No, because I believe on principle a government shouldn't control the movements or day to day actions of their population. That goes from drafts, to compulsory public education, to mandatory voting. Making education non-compulsory is a lot harder than just saying "kids don't have to go to school anymore" but I'm just giving examples.
Well then what exactly is the point of government, in principle, if they have no authority at all over people's lives? If everyone could do whatever they liked and ignore any rules set by anyone else, all the benefits of collective action vanish.
I have been voting in all the elections I have been allowed to vote in. If I am ever forced to vote I won't. If the fine Is æarge enough, I will show up, get the ballot and rip it in pieces right then and there.
Voting should be a privelege for the few who are very well informed, not the many who are not.
And I would have no problem with you tearing up the ballot.
As long as you were forced to go there, collect it, and tear it up instead of voting.
The important thing is that the effort required to vote or not vote should be the same. This prevents laziness, being too busy, as well as factors like transport or long lines from being part of your decision.
Your first point is pretty valid, it it basically the better way of not voting, since in this case the percentage of people wanting neither A nor B will be pretty accuratly known. And this, in turn could provide a much better picture of public opinion which in turn could take out a lot of political bickering and infighting.
But I completely disagree on your second point. A living democracy cannot live on just the "well informed few". In a system like this, fate of the society and almost all discussions would be dominated but exactly these choosen few, a self-percieved elite. In consequence, democracy wont be anymore, as are open discussions on issues important to any one. Voting in a democracy is not a privelege but a right to any citizen notwithstanding his position in life or his education or knowledge on a given subject.
If these "well informed few" have a special duty, it is to get all the rest at least well informed enough to not follow polical populists and extremist.
What elitist tripe. I've worked polling booths in Australia where people have come in and done exactly that (they have actively made a decision not to vote). That is their choice and I think that should be respected. I have no respect for the people who passively or apathetically don't vote.
Politicians should represent the entire country and that is why I strongly support compulsory voting. Politicians should be forced to govern for all. That means people you disagree with and people you consider uninformed. That is also why I believe prisoners and convicted felons should also be given the right to a vote. If someone is going to pass laws that affect you, you should have a say in who that someone is.
Their votes (for any value of them) are just as important as yours and you should come down off your high horse and reconcile yourself with that reality.
Voting is not something I am forced to do. Do you think I don't vote because I am lazy? I don't vote because our election process is a crock of horseshit masked as something that actually makes a difference.
Where do you get off coercing me to participate in an obviously broken system?