The Pros and Cons of Mandatory Voting

President Obama promoted the idea of mandatory voting at the City Club of Cleveland on March 15, 2015. Watch him speak, courtesy of CNN.

In Australia and some other countries, it’s mandatory to vote. It would be transformative if everybody voted. That would counteract money more than anything. If everybody voted, it would completely change the political map in this country. Because, the people who tend not to vote are young, they’re lower-income, they’re skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups. And they’re often the folks who are scratching and climbing to get into the middle-class, and they’re working hard. There’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls. We should want to get them into the polls. ~ President Obama 

Upon seeing this, my immediate gut-reaction was ‘Fantastic Idea!’ Still, what might be the pros and cons?

Mandatory Voting Pros

  • Every citizen would be part of the political process
  • Election results might better reflect the issues of importance to struggling Americans
  • Voters might feel an urgency to actually be informed about candidates and issues before going to the polls

Mandatory Voting Cons

  • The problem of voter ignorance might be exacerbated
  • Big money in politics would still be influential through simplistic, often negative, political ad campaigns

What Do You Think About Mandatory Voting?

Would mandatory voter turnout actually change election results? Or would it reflect the same results percentage-wise, just with higher voter numbers?

To really take advantage of 100% voter turnout, do we need more diversity in high-quality candidates from which to choose?. So, does this take us back to grassroots political action and getting Big Money out of the political system?

It seems to come down to how well-informed voters are when they go to the polls. I mean, real information on the candidates and issues, not propaganda. How can objective, fact-based political information be disseminated to the general public with broad exposure and in a way that is easy-to-digest?

Surely there are more pros and cons than I have listed. What are your thoughts on mandatory voting?

  1. Overall, I think mandatory voting would be a good thing – voter ignorance is a huge issue that mandatory voting will not cure, but it may address much of the disengagement we have – especially with off-cycle & local elections. It also might alleviate some of the damage that gerrymandering has done. It certainly won’t fix the problems – but it might help people realize that they actually do have a part to play in the process. And that alone is worth it, I think.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is certainly a ‘Pro’ – mandatory voting would bulk up off-cycle and local elections. Thanks for pointing it out!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, JoAnn. It’s the biggest reason to push for it, I think

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m in favor of compulsory voting systems like that in Australia and elsewhere for one very important reason. When citizens do not participate, as is happening now in America, democracy cannot exist.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I used to be a strong advocate for voting, but not anymore. Voting is an integral part of democracy, but the problem is that there is no democracy.

    When the political parties are bought and paid for by, more or less, the exact same corporate interests, the outcome of elections becomes irrelevant. Regardless of who is elected, the corporate interests win and the people lose. All mandatory voting does is legitimize the process.

    It would be no different than many authoritarian countries where there is only one party and often only one candidate and yet the people are still expected to go through the charade of voting.

    If we had a society where the population was highly educated and well-informed, we wouldn’t need mandatory voting laws. The people would be inclined to vote, because they would recognize the importance of voting. However, what we have are populations of distracted, overly-stressed, misinformed people who have become apathetic and disillusioned by a system that continuously fails them.

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    1. This was probably a misguided post. As I pressed the ‘Publish’ button, I realized mandatory voting would not change election outcomes. The pros and cons cancel each other out.

      Still, mandatory voting is part of a larger multi-nuanced situation.

      You say…

      “When the political parties are bought and paid for by, more or less, the exact same corporate interests, the outcome of elections becomes irrelevant.”

      Do you say we need campaign finance reform? I agree.

      And you say…

      “If we had a society where the population was highly educated and well-informed, we wouldn’t need mandatory voting laws. The people would be inclined to vote, because they would recognize the importance of voting.”

      Do you say voters need to be objective, critical thinkers? I agree again.

      You are ‘both’ right. Voting is completely irrelevant and absolutely important.

      Thank you for your comment. It made me think some more.

      Now I need some rest….

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I think it was great post. People need to be thinking about this issue and elections and government in general. Most people recognize we need change, but few are willing to take the time to think about what needs to change and why. People need to become more engaged in the political process or things are only going to get worse.

        Liked by 2 people

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