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Alice Greider CAS 138T - Robin Kramer 4/5/14 A Case for Compulsory Voting No United States President has ever been elected by a majority of the American people. The United States, the beacon of democracy, as proud as it is of being a model of representative democracy replicated worldwide, has an abysmal voter turnout year after year. From 1960 to 2012, the percentage of eligible voters coming to the polls on election day averages between 49 and 60 percent (Glosh). That means ordinarily, more than half of the American polity, for one reason or another, do not exercise the right to suffrage afforded to them by law. The U.S. ranks 138th out of 172 countries in voter participation; even Greece, Costa Rica, and Mexico have higher percentages (Why Tuesday). Why do Americans find it so hard to go cast their ballot on election day? Although the much-condemned phenomenon of voter apathy is only half to blame, it is still a driving issue in American voter politics. Those that do vote are often wealthy, educated, or politically invested. As such, public policy will reflect their interests, because politicians do not generate benefits for people who do not vote for them. This creates strongly biased representation and an apathetic public that sees little legitimacy in their government. So how should this disparity and absence of voter engagement be remedied? Twenty-four other countries employ compulsory voting in one way or another, the most famous and analogous example being Australia (Orzsag). As evidence and research suggests, compulsory voting statues not only obviously increases voter turnout, but also creates a more representative government and more civically informed public, in addition to other important policy concerns. If voting is to increase, then it needs to be seen as a civic duty enforced as a social norm, which will only happen as a slow result of nationally mandating it. This argument proposes a law that would

Greider 2 ! make voting in the United States for eligible citizens without an accepted excuse compulsory and that would move election day to the Saturday following the current Election Day Tuesday in dual-fold effort to increase voter participation in government and to address the burden on voters, which will act as a solution to redeem the promise of American citizenship. As a British Member of Parliament said, Democracy is too important to leave to the minority (as quoted in Glosh). Currently however, the election of the people who are constitutionally mandated to represent the majority, are in fact not elected by a majority, or only by a slim one. In 2012, 58.2% of the voting eligible population attended the polls (McDonald). The 1960 election, a tightly contested battle between JKF and Richard Nixon, represents the highest point in the past 52 years, with turnout at 62.1%, although the 60% turnout for the 2008 election comes close (Glosh; McDonald). Contrast that to the 1996 Clinton versus Dole election, where only 49.1%, not even half of the voting population, cast a vote the lowest of Presidential elections (Glosh). The percentages are even more dismal during mid-term elections, averaging at 47%-36%. 2010s midterm election only managed to attract 37.8%, and that was even with a high level of contestation (Glosh). In Pennsylvania the average is around 40% during Presidential election years; it drops to a mere 17% during midterms (Glosh). In general, local and state election garner only a 10%-15% turnout (Glosh). In contrast, Australia only has a 5.5% absentee rate (Lund). Italy, at 92.5%, has the highest percentage of any democracy in the world (Matsler). Katherine OGorman of Barnard College, in an article for the Policy Studies Journal, predicts that compulsory voting would increase turnout by 30%, which would put us right with other top countries (OGorman). But why are such measures needed in the first place? Why does a nation that sees itself as a haven for minorities and the underrepresented have a system that so

Greider 3 ! poorly reflects the will of the majority, to the point that most people see no point in casting a vote to exercise that much-lauded freedom for democratic representation? Many reasons fuel the issue of low voter participation. Apathy, the much-cited evil of democracies, in fact sits in importance alongside socioeconomic, structural, and procedural issues, though many factors contribute to apathy. Eliminating apathy seems to be a Herculean task. General disgust with politics, in youth and otherwise, plays a large role in the apathetic polity. In fact, the 2000 Shorenstein Center National survey found that 87% agree that politicians are willing to say whatever they can to win votes (Glosh). In the same survey, a strong percentage agreed that voting in elections has little to do with how real decisions are made in this country. This disconnect and political alienation often seen between those who sit on Capitol Hill and the voting public is a main aspect to voter apathy and avoidance of the polls. Another such aspect is the paradox of voting. In a large democracy, the probability of any individual vote altering the outcome of an election is effectively zero, and therefore the cost and burden outweighs the non-existent benefit and the rational person would stay home (Orzsag). They can free ride on the votes of others to bring them the benefits of democracy and spare themselves the effort. Compulsory voting solves this collective action problem. However, the low turnout in the close election of 2000 proves that the apathy problems goes beyond people thinking that their vote will not matter (Matsler). The 2000 election saw heavy Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaigns costing thousands of dollars and targeted at people who cited lack of time, work, illness, travel, or lack of access to the polls as their reason for not voting, only produced a 2% increase (Matsler). Inconvenient or confusing voter registration procedures can deter people from even registering. Even in an election where individual votes

Greider 4 ! did matter in some districts, people found more compelling reasons not to go to the polls. In addition, other times it is the case that the public is just too ignorant and uninformed about current issues to want to vote, a main contributor to low turnout levels in midterm election years when national issues are not highlighted as they are during Presidential election campaigning. However, nonvoting may not be strictly because of apathy or disenchantment. Rather, something else got in the way (Matsler). As one Washington state resident put it, My job and the traffic and the kids swamp out national politics (as quoted in Matsler). People do not feel invested or needed, and therefore more likely to let somebody else wait in line to cast their ballot. What happens when those not invested in the government abstain from voting? Perhaps one of the biggest motivators for and products of people not bothering to vote is unequal representation. All of the research shows that low turnout equals unequal and socioeconomically biased turnout and subsequent representation (Lund). Our electoral system is one of the lowest in terms of proportional representation of the majority will, and when only the socioeconomic elite vote, the system accordingly reflects their will. It is a vicious cycle for minority nonvoters: they continue not to vote because they do not feel represented and the government does not represent their views because it does not rely on their vote to stay in power (OGorman). As aforementioned, politicians do not generate benefits for people who do not vote for them. As such, people do not feel like the government has legitimacy since few people actually voted them into office. Due to this unequal representation, delegitimization, disillusionment, and apathy, coupled with collective action problems, a compulsory voting law is necessary.

Greider 5 ! Another main factor in low voter turnout is inconvenience. As previously discussed, there are other things for people to worry about on election day, and getting to the polls creates a burden on the populace; a burden which logically already is too high to motivate people to vote. The number one reason people give for not voting is that they were too busy (Why Tuesday). Election day should be moved to a weekend; the Saturday following the normally scheduled election day. According to whytesuday.org, a research site against the Tuesday election day, many other nations employ weekend voting, and they all have higher voter turnouts than the United States (Why Tuesday). There is no need to keep election day on a Tuesday; it only enforces peoples excuse not to vote. Ideally, people would have no reason not to vote. Often Americans talk about the importance of civic duties like voting, but evidently national democratic pride is not enough to make voting a social norm. The final reason that a compulsory voting law needs to be enacted is because by requiring people to vote, over time voting will become a social norm enforced by friends and family, much like refraining from smoking in the home is. This is seen in countries like Italy and Belgium, who had compulsory voting laws in the past and have since revoked them, yet voter participation has remained at the same level as with the law, around a 92.5% and 90.5% average respectively (Matsler). In fact, in Belgium the right to vote, required since 1893, is revered and seen as a responsibility to society and in Italy going to vote is such a natural thing that no one thinks twice about it (Matsler). Likewise, voting must become a habitual norm for all the reasons discussed above, and that will only happen if first it is compulsory. The law proposed would make voting a legal duty for all eligible citizens under 75. Failure to vote is treated as a violation like avoiding jury duty or failing to sign up for the

Greider 6 ! Selective Service, however nonvoters can avoid the fine if they can provide what is termed in Australia as a valid and sufficient reason such as travel or physical illness (Orzsag). Those unable to provide an acceptable excuse will be fined $50, akin to a traffic violation, but which will be scaled incrementally for multiple offenders to discourage refusing to vote each time and simply accepting the fine. Another stipulation of the law would require that ballots include a None of the Above option to allow people to abstain while still fulfilling their legal voting duty. The final aspect of the law is aimed at offsetting the burden that would now be required of citizens to carry by requiring them to vote; moving election day to the Saturday after the second Tuesday in November, the current election day which is an outdated preset based off of logic that was relevant for farmers getting to voting stations in the 1840s but no longer applies today (Why Tuesday). If Columbus Day, Presidents Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. day can all be on Mondays for the sake of the consumer, why is it not possible to move Election Day for the sake of the voters ? (Why Tuesday) Modern history treats voting like a burden, not a privilege, but if we restructure the system to make voting easier and foster it as a social norm, many other public policy issues will be resolved. (Matsler) It is completely within constitutional bounds to restructure the system. Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1 says that Congress may at any time by law make or alter such [electoral] regulation (Matslers). Cases involving election reform such as the Motor Voter Act used this clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause in defense of Congresss power to enact legislation concerning procedural voting changes. In Oregon v. Mitchell, the Supreme Court supported the use of the Necessary and Proper Clause in justifying Congresss power to determine the manner of federal elections, saying that it was an exercise of privileges of U.S. citizenship (Matsler). Those that

Greider 7 ! cite state power to determine the times, places, and manner of choosing US Senators should note the decision in US v. Classic, which holds that federal legislation would supersede contradictory state legislation, should any exist or be attempted in reaction to this law (Matsler). Other cases where the Supreme Court has already upheld federal legislation on the electoral process include Buckley v. Veleo and the McConnell decision, both of which broadly interpret the Necessary and Proper clause of the Constitution (Lund). In addition, although generally there are implicit limitations on Congresss ability to address individual non-action, recent legislation is changing this precedent. Rarely is the federal government given the power to mandate a citizen to act. However, not only does this argument ignore other mandated actions such as jury duty, paying taxes, registering for the draft, and going to school, since the passage of the Healthcare Reform Act, there is now legal precedent that blurs the line between what Congress may and may not do (Matsler). Another Constitutional argument that serves as a possible challenge is the fear that requiring citizens to vote would violate the First Amendment because it is compelled speech. However, with a None of the Above option this objection holds no merit. With this option, it is not clear the reason voters are abstaining and therefore it cannot be counted as compelled speech. To explain another way, attendance is compulsory, not candidate choice. In all other related First Amendment - Compelled Speech cases, such as West Virgina Board of Education v. Barnette, there was never an opt-out option involved, yet here the abstention option would serve as a blank ballot does in Australia (Matsler). Some hold that this option would be over-used, and the number of people actually casting a vote that counts would be similar to election turnout figures now, but in fact in Australia the blank ballot is only used by 1%-2% of voters, and

Greider 8 ! donkey votes, or ones that cannot be counted, make up less than 5% of votes (Orzsag; Lund). By including methods to address raised problems and concerns for this law, it becomes more feasible and less objectionable. Yet there still are some political objections against why this law will not work, though they are easily discredited. The first is that elections will be inhibited by an uninformed voter problem skewing results. Such a view results in an antidemocratic circle of logic: if you do not vote you must be stupid and if you are stupid then you must not vote. The None of the Above option would allow people who do not know about any of the candidates to fulfill their duty without disrupting the integrity of the election. Secondly comes the opposition from the Republican party, a purely political objection. Currently those most unlikely to vote are the young, the very old, and non-white races and economic minorities, who, as already discussed, do not feel as their vote will matter to the system. When their vote is required to matter, nonvoters will become a powerful voting bloc, and they will probably vote Democratic. Common logic says that the more people vote, the worse the GOP does (Liu). Some Republicans see compulsory voting as a threat to their political security and tactic of disfranchisement: such selfinterest against necessary legislation seems terrible for the country and a very un-democratic and un-American reason to condemn compulsory voting. The strongest ideological objection comes from the widely held Libertarian belief against government interference in the decision to vote. Election law scholar Richard Hasen believes that enacting a compulsory voting law would be perceived as a failure of [the American] democratic experiment (Matsler). Italy, the country with perhaps the most elections and changes in power in all of Europe, Greece, the oldest democracy, and India, the largest democracy, all have much

Greider 9 ! higher voter turnout rates. Such objections are simply stubborn attempts at protesting an alleged attack on the individualism of American society, yet this argument stumbles when the case of Australia is considered, a society no less renowned for its rugged individualism (Matsler). If they can successfully compromise value of the individual and a system with compulsory voting, where is the argument against it here? Australia, as well as other research, provide a clear case of how a compulsory voting law will work to solve many of the addressed political concerns in this paper. The Australian Parliament saw an increased seat share by 2%, evidence that compulsory voting would make government more representational (Matsler). More people will vote and express their own preferences instead of just free riding and subsequently feeling disconnected with the government. The use of the compulsory vote is a way to reengage the American polity that has become disillusioned and apathetic about government they feel does not represent them. In addition to solving those more impacting problems, research and comparative study shows that a few smaller yet common problems will be solved after a voting requirement law is passed. For one, as parties will not have any incentive to target special interest groups, PACs, or corporations, and the system will become less polarized, as suggested by Alan Abramowitz in his book The Disappearing Center: those who do not vote currently are less polarized that those who do (Orzsag). People who do not feel a need to vote or do not care align more in the center. Adding that voting bloc will centralize American policies and make Congress less gridlocked due to factional differences dominating debate. In addition, current Get Out the Vote spending averages from $14-$300 per vote, an unneeded misallocation of resources that could be directed elsewhere to create more competitive and substantial political debate, often that isnt as negative

Greider 1 ! 0 as it is now, since such advertisements aim to discourage opposition participation (OGorman; Orzsag). Aside from those practical advantages to a compulsory voting law, other problems of morality and justice will be addressed via this solution. The biggest improvement will be that now the government will have a legitimate mandate from a majority of the electorate to govern. Elections will actually be a valid and fair indicator of public preference and popular will. Requiring people to vote will also prompt higher demand for civic education. Those who lament the decline in civic knowledge generally advocate for more civic education, focusing on the supply side of equation, but increase reason for people to be educated about who they are voting for and there is more demand (Liu). As already proved, it is not unjust or unconstitutional to require people to cast a ballot on election day; it does not violate any First Amendment rights. Furthermore, it is right to expect people to vote in a democracy because by definition a democracy is rule by the people. Voting in a democracy should be a moral social norm, and as it is in Italy and Belgium. After years under a compulsory voting system, Americans will feel the same moral obligation to vote and fulfill that civic duty so often lauded in theory. Being required to vote is not un-American in any sense, just as jury duty or compulsory education has never been called un-American. It is for these reasons that a plan to mandate compulsory voting is the moral and fair choice for the country, especially considering other alternatives. Critics who still insist that increasing voter turnout should not or could not, in the face of all the given evidence, be accomplished via this voting law need to examine what other options we have. All that has been attempted currently on a national scale is Get Out the Vote campaigns. Throwing time, resources, and money, even at targeted audiences, is not going to change

Greider 1 ! 1 entrenched voting patterns. Following that same logic, there is no evidence to support that neither same day registration nor two to three day voting would make a difference to voter turnout (Matsler). Another suggestion is to only make election day be on a weekend, but of countries that employ weekend voting, there are still low voter turnouts, namely Frances 67% and Japans 68% turnouts (Why Tuesday). Requiring only mandatory registration has no guarantee to bring more people to polling stations, though it would solve the problems of the 40% of people who say procedural barriers prevented them from voting. However, since Australia requires both mandatory registration and mandatory voting, it stands to reason they found that being registered is not enough to convince people to vote (Matsler). The proposal of internet voting is appealing in terms of its efficiency and accuracy, but is a nightmare from a security viewpoint (Matsler). Oregon votes by mail, but posts only a 67.5% turnout rate, hardly an improvement from the national average (Why Tuesday). If it is accepted that compulsory voting is necessary to solve the turnout problem, two methods are presented: enact by law or by constitutional amendment. Both would require political advocacy, heavy pressure on Congressmen, and time, but in terms of feasibility passing a law is much more viable (Matlser). The method for amending the Constitution is hard to navigate and be successful; apart from the Bill of Rights, the Constitution has only been amended seventeen times. Given that, a federal law is must more likely to make it to the Presidents desk. In sum, the U.S. is faced with a decision to waste more money at the problem, make minuscule changes that would produce minuscule results, or realize that sweeping changes are not only necessary, but more feasible and necessary than any other option.

Greider 1 ! 2 It cannot be denied that the United States needs such legislative changes to the voting process. There is a national crisis of low voter turnout. Currently the U.S. ranks dead last in terms of voter turnout among the worlds seven other most developed economies. Without a real mandate to govern, there is no confidence in the U.S. government. Enacting a federal law to mandate compulsory voting for all eligible voters under 75 with small but increasing fines for nonvoters unable to give a reasonable excuse, with an added None of the Above option and a day of the week change to Saturday not only solves the voter turnout crisis, but benefits society practically and morally. Enacting such a law would primarily create a government more representative of the public, and reengage a disillusioned, disinterested, and unsupported American electorate. Such a system is not only legally and morally sound, but it has been proved to work in producing desired political and social results in similar political systems. Critics hold that mandatory voting is against American liberties and freedoms, but the core of liberty is the ability to govern and represent oneself by voting for representatives. Protecting that central promise of what American citizenship entails is exactly why mandatory voting should, can, and will be enacted. Generations marched, fought, and died for that right to vote, and the least Americans today can do is treat that right like a responsibility.

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Works Cited "Compulsory Voting." Voter Turnout. International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), 21 Mar. 2014. Web. 03 Apr. 2014. <http://www.idea.int/vt/ compulsory_voting.cfm>.

Fowler, Anthony. 2013. Electoral and Policy Consequences of Voter Turnout: Evidence from Compulsory Voting in Australia. Quarterly Journal of Political Science 8(2):159-182.

Greider 1 ! 3 Web. 01 Apr. 2014. Retrieved from < http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm? abstract_id=1816649>

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Glosh, Palash. "Why Is There so Much Voter Apathy in U.S. Elections?" International Business Times. N.p., 9 Sept. 2011. Web. 01 Apr. 2014. <http://www.ibtimes.com/why-there-somuch-voter-apathy-us-elections-315494>. Liu, Eric. "Why Voting Should Be Mandatory." TIME.com. TIME, 24 Aug. 2012. Web. 06 Apr. 2014. <http://ideas.time.com/2012/08/21/should-voting-be-mandatory/>. Lund, Eric. "Compulsory Voting: A Possible Cure for Partisanship and Apathy in US Politics." Wisconsin International Law Review 31.1 (2013): 90. Web. 01 Apr. 2014. <http:// hosted.law.wisc.edu/wordpress/wilj/files/2014/01/Lund_final_v2.pdf>. Matsler, Sean. "Compulsory Voting in America." Southern California Law Review 76 (2002): 953. Web. 01 Apr. 2014. <http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~usclrev/pdf/076404.pdf>. McDonald, Michael. "General Election Turnout Rates." United States Elections Project. George Mason University, 2012. Web. 05 Apr. 2014. <http://elections.gmu.edu/index.html>. O'Gorman, K. (2008). Compulsory voting. Policy Studies Journal, 36(4), 673-674. Web. 01 Apr. 2014. Retrieved from <http://search.proquest.com/docview/210561886? accountid=13158> Orzsag, Peter. "Make Voting Mandatory." BloombergView.com. Bloomberg.com, 19 June 2012. Web. 01 Apr. 2014. <http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2012-06-19/voting-shouldbe-mandatory>.

! Why Tuesday? Why Tuesday?, 2013. Web. 06 Apr. 2014. <http://www.whytuesday.org/>. !