Mandatory voting is a great idea — NewsWorks

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8/30/13 Mandatory voting is a great idea — NewsWorks www.newsworks.org/index.php/local//national-interest/58603-mandatory-voting-is-a-great-idea 1/6 Sign In | Learn about NewsWorks go Listen to WHYY | Latest Newscast THE LATEST Powered by WHYY and You NATIONAL INTEREST Like 0 Rate This: (25 votes) Ask a question It has surely escaped your notice that Australia is staging a national election on Sept. 7. I mention this only because the Aussies have a creative way of ensuring that the election results truly reflect the will of the people. They do this by mandating that every adult citizen show up to vote. We should do that. Yeah I know, it would never happen here. Mandatory voting would require a constitutional amendment, and since America is invariably Number One in every way, we'd never ever deign to adopt an idea popularized by another western democracy. But a boy can dream, right? And this is a perfect time for a late-summer reverie because not much is happening in domestic politics. Congress is taking a long break from doing nothing, and the ostensibly big stories are rather small. The Missouri rodeo clown who wears an Obama mask got invited to ply his trade in Texas, a Hooters restaurant in San Diego is refusing to serve Mayor Bob Filner (the chain that markets boobs and butts apparently draws the line at groping), 20 Tea Party groups have crafted a letter that declares (I swear this is true) that "our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship"—that kind of dross. So what the heck, let's just play today with the notion of mandatory voting. Thirty-one countries have it; roughly half back it up with enforcement power. Australia is Exhibit A. You show up to vote—or you get in trouble. According to the rules , all abstainers are required to tell the Australian Electoral Commission why they didn't vote—either that, or pay a fine (roughly $20). If abstainers fail to respond within 21 days, they could wind up in court with a stiffer fine (roughly $50). Australia has enforced this policy since 1925. Ever since, the turnout rate in national Aussie elections (participating voters, as a share of the voting-age population) has averaged a whopping 95 percent. That's a tad better than the turnout rate in U.S. presidential elections. We've lately averaged 57 percent; as recently as 1996, it was 49 percent. We did manage to top 60 percent in each of the five elections between 1952 and 1968, but it hasn't happened since. Granted, it's widely deemed un-American to force Americans to do just about anything (although, as political scholar and ex-Clinton White House aide William Galston has argued, "Jury duty is mandatory—why not voting?"). It's Dick Polman [email protected] Mandatory voting is a great idea August 15, 2013 By Dick Polman Home speak easy Health + Science Arts + Culture Blogs New Jersey Delaware NW Philadelphia Roxborough/Manayunk/East Falls Mt. Airy/Chestnut Hill Germantown/West Oak Lane © AAA predicts Labor Day weekend travel increase in N.J.
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