Election Day Holiday

This is a post for the first ever Youth Media Blog-A-Thon sponsored by Youth Outlook and Wiretap.

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.

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7 responses to “Election Day Holiday

  1. I guess what I was trying to say was — I’m not sure how you could make voting mandatory. What would happen if they didn’t vote? would there be consequences? Some people just don’t care about politics enough to take part in it. Do we punish them because they don’t care? It seems a lot more difficult to implement. I totally get what you’re saying though, but how exactly would we do that? Voters could go to the polls not mark anything and summit blank ballots. I think that making something like this mandatory would be asking for a major backlash against the entire political system in general.

  2. One way, and I know this would be controversial, would be to issue a small fine (and I do mean small, no more than $15-$20) to those that do not vote. Again, the point wouldn’t be about punishing people, it would be about making voting a norm in our society. Hopefully, people might eventually just not want to have to pay these stupid little fines and would vote. Then they might start a conversation with someone else about who they are voting for and why, start doing a little research themselves even. Hopefully, this would eventually lead to a more informed, politically active and involved population in the US.

    I definitely see your point about the possibility of a backlash against the entire political system. But don’t you kind of think that is already happening now? I mean voter turnout levels are already pathetically low, even though the Democrats, Obama especially, are doing a great job of getting people out to vote in these primaries.

  3. You’re right. In a sense there is a backlash against voting. But, at the same time — with the large voter turns out that have been taking place during this election wouldn’t you say that at least to some degree people are a little more interested in the political arena of voting. I read somewhere that the youth turn out on Super Tuesday for the Dems. was almost double the Republicans. Do you think there’s a reason to it all? Are young Democrats more political-pron than their counter-parts? Or does it all go back to being apathetic.

    My only concern with having a fine based system of encouraging people to vote is that for the most part people can choose if they want to vote for not. If we were to implement a fine it would dampen the idea of voting all together. People might think, “I don’t want to vote. I don’t care. But they’re their threatening me with a fine if I don’t show up on election day.” I just can’t imagine it actually being set into stone by the government. Too many people would rally against it.

  4. You are absolutely right about the increases in voter turnout for these primary elections. I think it points to how bad things have gotten in this country over the last seven years under Dubya Bush. It is clear that people are hungry for change, especially young folks, and it is awesome to see people coming out to the polls and being engaged in politics.

    I know the idea of a fine based system of mandatory voting is controversial, but again, the idea is not to punish people for not voting, it is to gradually make the act of voting and being politically informed more of a normal common sense part of living in this country. We have been taught that “choice” is all important, that imposing anything on anyone is wrong. The thing is, giving people a choice to participate or not participate in the political process is problematic when our system of government depends on them participating. If it is dependent on them participating, why is it not already mandatory to vote? I think that by having only a small amount of the country voting (our current turnout rates are between 20%-mid 40%), corporate interests are more able to manipulate that small population to vote in their favor. A larger population of voters might be more difficult for them to manipulate, and I think could give progressives a better shot at influencing progressive social change in this country. Mandatory voting could aid in that.

  5. Kori, man, you’re hella smart. That was a good convo you guys had.

    G

  6. It’s all a front, G. I actually have a genius pet monkey that runs this blog under my name. I just take all the credit. Top of the food chain species dominance ya dig? Chea!

  7. Hahahahahaha. I KNEW IT. Cheatin ass Kori, brain on BALCO and shit.

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