Mandatory Voting Can Help Fix American Democracy

Everyone has a say when everyone has to vote.

Antonio E. Holanda
Sep 18, 2020 · 3 min read
Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash

When it comes to voting, a country can be one of three things: a government that represses voting, a country that allows voting, giving its population the right to choose its leaders, a land that mandates its citizens to vote. America is in the second category, where everyone has the right to vote, although the conditions and the possibility of voting are not as plain as the Constitution implies.

In practice, it is hard for Americans to vote, which asks from the USA, as a country, to work towards universal voting. The easiest way to achieve such a goal is to establish a mandatory voting system.

It’s obvious that “there is no clear correlation between turnout and good governance”, but voting is important on its own. The U.S. has had good and bad governance with elective voting, but it has always excluded minorities from the electoral process. It does so, in part, by making it “elective”, which is a lawful way of allowing the disenfranchisement of minorities (Afro-Americans, Latinos, Women).

One argument against mandatory voting states that it is an unjust infringement on individual liberty. Some people choose not to vote because they find the available options so distasteful that they don’t want to be in the position of supporting any of them.” This is a simplification of the proceedings in mandatory voting. I don’t think anyone expects cops pushing people into voting booths. Everyone is allowed to miss voting, being punished, if that’s the case, with administrative amends.

Brazil has a mandatory voting rule. Its elections show that, when a chunk of the population thinks the candidates are too unacceptable, they don’t bother voting, choosing to pay the fee. The penalty for not voting ranges from R$1.5 to R$3.5 (something from US$0.28 to US$0.66). It is not a lot of money, and it can be forfeited in cases of extreme poverty, or cases of justified absences.

The ‘liberty argument’ shows a misconception on the onus of vote. By demanding everyone to vote, the government finds itself bound to grant conditions of voting. It has to enroll every citizen. It has to set ballot stations and host fair elections nationwide.

Another argument against mandatory voting is that voters lack “the knowledge to make a well-informed choice”.

When it comes to well-informed choices, the data shows voting defined by demographic trends, not by the political interest. Older white people vote more often than young minorities. As far as I’m concerned, there is no evidence that old white people are better informed about politics.

Besides, the argument of well-informed voting is elitist. Democracy is the system where people elect, from time to time, their leaders, and their political agendas. Votes are not valued for their reasons, candidates (hopefully) are. And that’s not always the case.

Being handsome helped Kennedy winning over Nixon, and that sure was not a “well-informed” political reason.

A democratic system requires choices to be made both anonymously and in freedom of consciousness. No one has to express or explain their vote. It’s a personal choice. That’s the beauty that allows us to see ourselves and fellow citizens in the mirror. The array of individual choices shows us both who we are as a person, as a society. It sets where we, as a society, want to move.

The Obama election showed America it is fighting racial inequality. That is a long and deep trend. So much so that it became, during this 2020, a powerful political force.

The election of Trump showed how many Americans are misogynist, or, at least, not bothered by the deep sexism of their president. In opposition to this trend, on the very day of its inauguration, Trump faced the opposition of the women’s movement. This movement is so powerful to the point that became evident the need of a woman as running mate to Joe Biden.

Elections show each country who they are as people, and where they want to move. There is no reason for a country not to push every citizen to be part of the process. Mandatory voting can do that for America.

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