This week, President Obama brought up the idea of mandatory, or compulsory, voting. While he was careful to come up short of a full endorsement, and these remarks were couched in a wider discussion about a variety of ways to counteract Citizen’s United, it was heard as a singular recommendation by most citizens, and a debate was sparked. I’m still mulling it over, so I’d like to share my thought process and reasoning as I work towards a firmer opinion. (Please share your comments in the sidebar or hit me on the Twitterz).
Personally, I made a joke that the GOP would be well-served in this model by American ignorance and the industry of misinformation, but my more serious politically active friends were quick to point out that “higher voter turnout historically results in more Democratic wins!” To me, that statistic, while accurate and a good thing for Liberals, doesn’t carry much meaning in this conversation. The variables for that calculation do not exist in a 100% voter turnout scenario. In a 100% turnout, you have data and a binary certainty — this one received more votes than that one. In our current election process, we couldn’t have less clear data — just statistical tendencies and anecdotes (which of course is just the way the politicos like it). There are no clear winners, there is no sense of consensus, clarity, or transparency — there is only the murkiness of statistics.
So the other main objection I’m hearing is “You can’t force me to vote! That’s taking away my FREEDOM!” And that is a bizarre sentiment, given that each and every one of us MUST pay taxes. It is not a stretch in my mind to say, you must pay taxes, and therefore you must indicate how you would like it to be spent. Demanding that I participate on those two levels seems commensurate with being granted the freedom to live in this country. I pay for my infrastructure, I choose my public servants, and my society is responsible for itself — and, for better or worse, I am certain of it. Because True Democracy. But I’m a little old-fashioned in this regard. I believe that every person in this country should be committed to at least 2 years of public service, and that corporations should pay a percentage of what they earn, and that it’s a moral responsibility to vote.
Yes. I said the M word. It is, unequivocally, immoral that the United States invaded Iraq and killed over 2–400,000 Iraqi citizens, additionally sacrificing 4–5,000 of our citizens. (And, as confirmed this week by the CIA, all based on known disinformation). It is our moral responsibility, since we pay for this shit with our taxes, to vote ourselves out of the situation (and there are so many other examples to be had). Big Money and power are the driving forces behind our policies, foreign and domestic. When less than 40% of our population votes, those crimes are ours not because we were bamboozled, but because we are collectively irresponsible. Is this just human nature? Probably. Which is why I support mandatory voting.
Lastly, we are on the cusp of technology bringing a level of transparency to democracy that was unimaginable even 20 years ago. Imagine a voting system in America where you had hard, pure, unmediated data — not statistics and strategies designed to make things maddeningly confused — but real and thoroughly accessible information. Imagine knowing exactly what every American voted for. There is so much power in that, and it is our power to be had. Think of all the parties that don’t want you to have that knowledge. We should take it, we deserve it, and the world deserves our informed and complete choices since we are currently leading the globalizing era.
Now, I know of course that the likelihood of compulsory voting happening in this country is basically absurd. Nobody gonna make no ‘Merican do nuthin’ they don’t wanna do. But if you’ve read this far, I encourage you to think of voting as a moral imperative, and to hard sell your neighbor every election season. See you in the booths.