Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mandatory voting

Apparently, anything greater than 30% turnout in yesterday's Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses would be a "high turnout." This is pathetic.

It's time for the US to do something about this. The best option would be to follow the example of Australia: make voting mandatory. All Americans have to vote in every primary and general election, or pay a fine (e.g. $50 or $100). Americans wouldn't have to vote for a particular candidate - going to the polls and checking "abstain" would suffice.

There would certainly be issues around voters who could not make it to the polls. In primaries and general elections, this would be solved by either making election day on a federal or state holiday, or more easily by continuing to expand the use of absentee ballots. Caucuses would be more difficult, as the voters have to be a particular place at a particular time to vote, but that only raises the greater problems with caucuses that will be subject of a future post.

Apathy should not be an option for American voters. There has to be a tangible opportunity cost for refusing to take part in American democracy.

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