In a town hall session Wednesday at Cleveland’s City Club, President Obama posed an idea that is almost unthinkable here in America. As reported by CNN, the president broached the topic of creating a law that would make it mandatory to vote in an effort to curb the influence big money has on voting results.
When justifying the concept of making voting mandatory, he stated that other countries all over the world have compulsory, or mandatory, voting laws, and that “[i]t would be transformative if everybody voted — that would counteract money more than anything.”
He went on to say that there is a reason why “some folk” don’t want low income or minority voters at the polls, and they go out of their way to overlook that voter base.
This is the first time the president has spoken publicly of the idea.
At least 26 countries have mandatory voting laws on their books. Some inflict hefty fines on citizens who do not comply, while Belgium takes it one step further by threatening prison time for individuals that not only do not vote, but also do not pay their fine.
Mandatory voting laws would also bring people to the polls that, as a whole, would not normally vote, such as the poor or undereducated. As USA Today reports, only 37 percent of eligible voters turned out for the 2014 midterms. That means that roughly 114 million voters stayed home on voting day.
Of course, not everyone is keen on the idea of making a trip to the polls mandatory. Haydon Manning, an associate professor at Flinder’s University of Australia, offered up the idea that while getting people to the polls won’t be a problem, getting them to engage in the process intelligently is the issue.
“Turning the vote out might not be a problem, but wooing disengaged citizens now requires banal sloganeering and crass misleading negative advertising,” Manning wrote. “To me, this can diminish the democratic experience for those who take the time to think through the issues.”
Mandatory voting will certainly alter the process, but it won’t stop celebrities, sportscasters, and other influential people from trying to sway voters. Stephen A. Smith of ESPN recently spoke to a group at the Impact Symposium at Vanderbilt University, and as reported by the Inquisitr, called upon black voters to vote Republican as a way to remind both parties that the minority vote should never be taken for granted.