Commentary_ The Case for Compulsory Voting _ The National Interest

Commentary_ The Case for Compulsory Voting _ The National Interest

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8/30/13 Commentary: The Case for Compulsory Voting | The National Interest nationalinterest.org/commentary/the-case-compulsory-voting-7691 1/2 Breaking News: The September-October 2013 issue is now out! | More The Case for Compulsory Voting Jonathan Levine | November 2, 2012 The last time Americans went to the polls to pick a president, Barack Obama handily defeated his Republican challenger, John McCain, by a 53 to 46 percent vote margin. The president’s unambiguous victory, however, was marred by a troubling statistic: 43 percent of the American voting population—about ninety-seven million people—decided to stay home, a trend that has been more or less consistent since 1970. Turnout at midterm elections is even more unsettling. For more than fifty years, no midterm contest has ever garnered a majority of the voting-age American public. Given the numbers, it’s nothing short of miraculous that there has not been a widespread loss of legitimacy among our elected officials. With the 2012 election only weeks away, and the candidates’ bases largely underwhelmed, America seems on track to continue down the path of electoral apathy. “But what can we do?” say the pundits. “This is America. Don’t we have a right to stay home if we choose? How can it be right for the government to force you into an activity as prosaic as voting?” These and other well-worn criticisms have more or less settled the debate and snuffed out any serious public discussion about the consequences of mass electoral disengagement. The counterarguments, however, are not so Orwellian. True election reform would create a more representative and democratic system for all of us. Almost any American would agree that voting is critical for the maintenance of a well-functioning republic. Voting confers legitimacy, which has been vital to American elected officials since the dawn of the nation. Making voting compulsory
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Commentary_ The Case for Compulsory Voting _ The National Interest

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