How Mandatory Voting Hurts Democracy

In an article published in the New York Times on November 5, columnist William Galston argued for making voting mandatory in America. Enacting fines or other forms of legal punishment for those eligible who do not vote is not good for the future of our government, because it will encourage uneducated voters and create spoils in polling.

Galston argues that a democracy can’t be strong if its citizenship is weak. This may be the case, but forcing all citizens to vote will in no way strengthen our citizenship. Mandatory voting would mean the most uneducated of our citizens would head to the polls and vote randomly. People who usually wouldn’t vote because they are uneducated or uninterested will flock to the polls to avoid legal issues. This will lead to uninformed and randomized votes on important issues, like foreign policy and economics.

Rather than mandatory voting, Galston should be arguing for educating our citizens so they can make informed decisions if they chose to exercise their right to vote.  

Galston also argues that mandatory voting is democratic because it would take in views and interests of all citizens. Citizens who don’t want to vote will end up spoiling their ballot. Others who have strong political interests will tell uninformed voters who to vote for in order to help their candidate. This isn’t truly getting the voice of all citizens heard, it turns into corrupt form of polling.

In a study on voting, scientists Benjamin Highton and Raymond Wolfinger wrote, “Analyses of survey data show no objectivity achieved increase in turnout… voters differ minimally from all citizens; outcomes would not change if everyone voted.”

Another important aspect to note is the amount of time politicians would have to spend on campaigning rather than working. It is already evident that politicians have to allot some of their time in office to campaigning; with mandatory voting, they will have to focus on a much larger audience, leaving them less time to be productive while holding office.

Instead of creating a law making voting mandatory, we should encourage citizens to educate themselves and make informed decisions. This will lead to a higher voter turnout with the election of the person best suited for office in the public’s eye.

Photo Credit: hjl