Yesterday, the “Making Voting Easier and Mandatory” post sparked an interesting and lively discussion. The folks at Oh Dang!, Boston Progress Radio and Youth Outlook all responded with their own thoughts on the proposed election reforms that I threw out there.
The three ideas proposed to increase voter turnout were:
1) Same Day Voter Registration;
2) Ending Felony Disenfranchisement; and
3) Making voting mandatory.
Everyone who responded agreed with the first two proposals, but none agreed with making voting mandatory. I thought this was really interesting. Now everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I totally respect that, but given that all of the responses were in agreement, I feel the need to elaborate more on the concept of mandatory voting.
All responses seemed uncomfortable with forcing people to do something. Youth Outlook’s Eming Piansay said:
“As much as I would love to force everyone to show up at City Hall and cast their ballot – I’m afraid making something like this mandatory would make people want to vote even less. You can’t force someone to do something because you think its right.”
Point taken. Forcing people to do things sucks and you never want to do something that you’re told to do. The thing is, I’m not saying we force people to vote because I feel it’s right, I’m saying we force people to vote because the entire existence of our political system depends on them voting.
Donna Tam over at Oh Dang! echoes Piansay’s thoughts, and even goes so far as to defend the electoral college, saying:
“O.K. Not sure I can agree with the Cheddar Box here. Yes, we need to encourage better voter turnout. But, I’m not sure making it mandatory would really work. If you force people to do it, then they most likely won’t be passionated enough, or informed enough to make a good decision. They’ll just vote because they have to. When have any of us responded well to things that we have to do? As confusing and seemingly unfair the electoral college crap seems, there’s a reason it’s in place. People are stupid. The masses, myself included, often don’t understand the full context of their actions.”
Okay, so Donna didn’t agree with me, which is perfectly fine. But daaamn, girl, can we have a little faith in the intelligence of the people? The electoral college was never meant to be a safeguard against the “stupidity of the masses.” It was put in place to give small states power because they feared that big states would have all the influence in the political process if there wasn’t some power check against them. The thing is, that was like hundreds of years ago, and I don’t think that small states have that same overwhelming fear today. Thus, the electoral college is largely irrelevant in terms of its original purpose. Instead, today it essentially acts as a way for the elites in our society to overturn the will of the people.
Voting is fundamentally important because our political system cannot survive without it. I think a lot of people don’t vote because there are tons of problems with our system, one of them being the electoral college that can overturn the popular vote and thus makes people feel like their vote really doesn’t matter anyway. Election day in the US could be a national holiday where everyone could get a day off of work/school and would be required to do their civic duty and vote. As voting became more of societal norm, a common sense, accepted act that was in everyone’s general consciousness, there might be more political discussion amongst the everyday common people in this country, much like in other countries. The fact is, the American “democracy” that we love to put forth as the best democratic system in the world is very flawed. A lot of country’s have better democratic political systems than we do, and they make voting mandatory. That’s all I’m saying.