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Should voting be Mandatory in America?

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Should voting be Mandatory in America?

            With the 2020 US Presidential elections being almost two months away, with a large percentage of Democrats calling for the impeachment of the incumbent President, Donald Trump, I believe the issue of mandatory voting could not have come at a better time for Americans. Mandatory voting refers to the state where all citizens above a certain age, for example 18years, are expected to participate in voting with failure to do so, punishable by law. A number of countries including Netherlands, Australia and United Kingdom, have mandatory voting as a law.  According to the American constitution, every citizen has a right to vote but so many citizens do not turnout to exercise that right. A number of things come into mind when the question “why don’t people vote?” is put across. Some of the most common reasons include lack of political knowledge, mistrust in the government, busy lives making voting seem like a waste of their time, others simply don’t care while most feel that even if they vote, their interests are not put into considerations and politicians only do things, even voting in or out polies, which benefit them and the powerful in the society, caring less for the less fortunate in the society (Aly, 2017).

Galstone and Dionne suggested that, “Voting, just like jury duty or paying taxes, is a duty the American people owe to society in order to make the political system better.” Advocates of voluntary voting argue that, compulsory voting contravenes the freedom of speech, which includes right to silence, but they simply do not understand the concept behind mandatory voting. Electorates are not coerced to support or advocate in favor of a particular party or political leader neither are they asked to cast a valid vote, “voters could even draw pictures or even leave the forms blank which could be useful in tracking the level of dissatisfaction of the ‘informal’ voters, Waleed Aly. All are just obligated to turn up. Supporters of voluntary voting also argue that, when compulsory voting is put in place, election turnout will be by the least informed in the society. However, there is no evidence to support their argument. Nonetheless, there is substantial proof that mandatory voting would lift civic engagement and improve the political knowledge of the ‘uninformed’ voters. It is clear that so far, voluntary voting has not aided the America escape the pressing uninformed voter dilemma. According to Waleed Aly “It’s also clear that voluntary voting hasn’t aided the America steer clear of the worrying uninformed-voter problem. That is made clearer after Trump’s campaign brought up servings of fiction and conspiracy, but it is a much deeper phenomenon than that.” Therefore it is time to try other methods that will also hold leaders accountable to most of the population and not only a small portion (Aly, 2017).

            According to Jason Brennan, “there is a popular belief among democrats that mandatory voting would take more states to Democratic Party, however, most academic research done on the issue came to the conclusion that mandatory voting does not move voters to the democrats. This is because in terms of partisan references, those that do not vote and those that vote are roughly the same in numbers. The biggest difference between the voters and non-voters is information (Alan Greenblatt, 2016). Despite the argument that voting is a duty all Americans owe to society, there is the fear that, compulsory voting will worsen the political system. The argument being that, those who do not vote, are not conversant with the current political and public policies as compared to the current voters. Therefore, if they are forced by law to vote, they will only heighten the problem of political ignorance. However, as stated by Ilya Somin, political ignorance may hold some benefits. For example political ignorance among voters, can be beneficial in that, voters might make better political choices as compared to current voters. This is because; they will have no biasness and may bring a fresh point of view of the agendas and policies of politicians (Somin, 2015).

In 2017, due to diminishing voter engagement, the Economist intelligence Unit’s Democracy lowered America from a ‘full democracy’ to a ‘flawed democracy’ and almost last among countries that are affluent in terms of voters’ participation rates. According to Dambisa Moyo, this is not surprising at all considering that majority of the people who choose not to vote, have incomes less than $30,000. All these facts combined, puts the country’s political system at risk. The credibility of the government is also threatened when very few people participate in the election of their leaders. Reduced voter turn-out means that only the interest of a few is represented. Total democracy needs to be preserved by engaging all citizens to the polls (Moyo, 2019). The overruling outcome is that, compulsory voting is more democratic. This is because it includes the opinions of those more dispirited from turning up for instance, people from very low economic classes and minority communities. Mandatory voting does not allow handing over of power to someone whose plan is self-benefit from the low turnout, hoping to not to have to convince the whole population at large (Aly, 2017).

Mandatory voting is essential in ensuring that leaders elected are the choice of majority in the society. The importance of mandatory voting is made clear especially after looking at the case of United Kingdom, where only a small number of eligible voters chose the European community. More so, by the situation in the United States where Donald J. Trump won the elections despite the fact that he only persuaded a quarter of the American electorate. Despite the low turnout election, he still took the Presidential sit (Aly, 2017).

            Mandatory voting will be of benefit to both the voters and the country at large. Voters will have a bigger say on who gets to go in the government and will be able to hold those leaders accountable. It will be beneficial to country in that, leaders will have to make better decisions that benefit everyone and not those only hence, better policies will be formulated. Mandatory voting will increase the political awareness among those who did not vote previously. There will therefore be more citizen engagement in policy formulation and implementation will be easier. However, to make mandatory voting effective, there is need for more civic education on the importance of voting and penalties for law breakers may also need to be put in place, like in Australia (Aly, 2017).

Bibliography

 Aly, W. (2020). Opinion | Voting Should Be Mandatory. Nytimes.com. Retrieved 28 September 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/19/opinion/voting-should-be-mandatory.html.

Moyo, D. (2020). Opinion | Make Voting Mandatory in the U.S.. Nytimes.com. Retrieved 28 September 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/15/opinion/united-states-voting-mandatory.html.

Somin, I. (2020). Retrieved 28 September 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/10/03/the-ongoing-debate-over-mandatory-voting/.

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