Let's Require People to Vote

It 'would make our democracy work better,' says Peter Orszag
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2012 1:53 PM CDT
Let's Require People to Vote
Voters sign in and cast ballots in Philadelphia.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Because of our low voter participation rates, it's likely that no US president has actually been elected by a majority of adult Americans, writes former budget director Peter Orszag at Bloomberg. We can fix that by making voting mandatory, as it is in Australia and more than two dozen other countries. In Australia, compulsory voting caused participation to jump from 59% in 1922 to 91% in 1925; those who don't vote under such laws are fined. Not only would participation increase, but the effect of "big-money groups" and negative ads would be diminished, and polarization would likely decrease as well.

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Political scientists disagree on exactly how mandatory voting would impact the US political landscape, but one thing is clear: In order to appease both Democrats and Republicans, "it could be instituted only when it would not be of obvious benefit to one political party over another." In other words, "when it would have almost no effect." So why bother? "Increased participation would make our democracy work better, in the sense of being more reflective of the population at large," Orszag concludes. "And it could allow the first president in history to be elected by a majority of American adults." Full column here. (Read more Peter Orszag stories.)

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