In Australia voting is compulsory. Everyone is expected to do it. Basically that’s because everything back home is geared towards making voting as easy as possible. Over here in the US of A it often seems to me like everything is organised to make voting as difficult as possible. What’s up with that?
In Australia if you don’t vote you pay a fine. Some people routinely pay the fine. Others who don’t want to vote register their dissatisfaction by filling out their ballot wrong or donkey voting. Often by scrawling a message across the ballot. Usually their message is a bit on the rude side. That’s fine. They’ve done their democratic duty. They showed up. The percentage of people who donkey vote is pretty small.
Some people object that many people are too stupid or ill-informed to vote.
Sure, I respond. But who’s going to make that determination? I kind of think what you just said is stupid and ill-informed. Should you be banned from voting? I think liking certain books by certain unnamed writers is stupid and ill-informed. Should they be banned as well?
Others say that voting should only be for the people who care passionately about the issues. When voting isn’t compulsory then only those who really care vote.
The problem with that is many of the people who really care are kind of crazy. Fanatics even. Who wants to live in a country where it’s mainly the fanatics voting?
Non-compulsory voting also leads to campaigns to stop the people you think will vote against you from voting. See: Florida and Ohio. It also leads to doing everything you can to get people you might be able to persuade to vote for you to the polls. Sometimes this is done in less than honest ways.
So you USians can give us limited terms and we’ll give you compulsory voting. You might also want a spot of preferential voting1 and weekend voting. Or at least have a national holiday. Also you could probably lose the Diebold voting machines. Other than that you’re good.
- that way protest votes—a la Ralph Nader in 2000—are not such a big deal. [↩]