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Ear to the Ground

Is It Time to Revisit Compulsory Voting?

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Posted on Oct 13, 2012
Theresa Thompson (CC BY 2.0)

Tea partyers would kick and scream over it, but the idea of compulsory voting is not foreign to American soil. In other countries, it’s been shown to increase democratic participation into the 90-percent-plus range. Such a law in the U.S. would likely empower Democrats, who’ve traditionally won the votes of the poor and minorities.

Simon Liem at Harper’s Magazine points out that roughly half of Americans today do not vote. According to a poll by USA Today and Suffolk University that showed unregistered voters would pick Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by almost 2 to 1, the gap represents a huge missed opportunity for Democrats.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Simon Liem at Harper’s Magazine:

It would be in the Democrats’ interest to push in that direction—and at relatively low cost, as reform would first have to happen slowly on a state level, where, if other systems are any example, the success and popularity of compulsory voting would serve as a model that could spread through the country. The biggest challenges would most likely be legal ones — because, as [Victoria] Bassetti points out, the lack of a federal constitutional right to vote makes standards flexible and essentially subject to the whims of state courts.

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