President Obama set the internet atwitter late last week with an off-hand comment about making voting mandatory in the United States. Liberals jumped on that immediately, praising the President for setting a clear path to "counter the influence of big money in elections" (like special interests on both ends of the political spectrum wouldn't spend even MORE money to influence even MORE voters). It was also seen as a way to circumvent proof of identity and legal residency laws in a growing number of states (as if every person who doesn't have a legal ID or proof that they live in a particular ward and haven't voted in another part of town already is going to vote for Democrats). Forgetting for a moment the Constitutional issues that the President ignores in pretty much everything he does, let's get down to what would really happen if voting was mandatory in the US.
First off, execution would require a complete overhaul of the manner in which we conduct elections. If you live in a politically active area, you already know that lines can get long at the polls. Now imagine if the 40% of people that don't vote are forced to be there in line as well. That will lead those on the left to introduce a number of less-accountable ways to vote--such as mailing ballots to all voters (or make that addresses of people that may or may not still be there). As any clerk will tell you, the polling books are filled with people that have moved without notice, died, or have done something that makes them no longer eligible to vote. And try to imaging the expense of mailing out (and then likely having to cover the return postage because think of all those Democratic voters that can neither afford nor have access to a stamp).
Secondly, you are making people choose between candidates they don't actually support. While most non-voting is simple laziness and ignorance, there is a certain percentage of the population that that doesn't like any of the candidates on the ballot. What is their relief from this voting requirement then? Will we add my proposed option "None Of The Above" to all races on all ballots? And if "None" wins, forcing all of the parties to come up with new candidates until someone does win a majority? Plus, is a person mandatorily voting required to choose a candidate in all races on the ballot? I know I won't be voting for anyone in the Oshkosh Mayor's, City Council or School Board races next month--but I will in the Supreme Court race and in the Constitutional referendum. Is that then a "legal ballot"--and who will be making sure that all ballots are "properly filled in"?
And finally, we aren't very good at enforcing a lot of "mandatory" things already. 11% of American men have never registered with Selective Service--even though that is mandatory when you turn 18. 17% of those who should be filing federal tax returns are not--even though that is mandatory. There are somewhere between 12 and 20-Million people in the US who did not seek mandatory immigration status. And there are still 41-Million Americans remain without health insurance--even though the Affordable Care Act requires them to have it.
And the ACA serves as a perfect example of the expense and effort that would be put into making sure "all" Americans comply with mandatory voting. I'm sure "Organizing for America" would be chomping at the bit to get the contracts to go into all neighborhoods and get people ballots, help them fill out the ballot ("All of the Democrats are in this column ma'am--that's all you need to fill out") and if someone isn't home or can't be contacted or has been dead for years and no one ever followed up on that, just file fake ballots to meet their assigned quotas. And what would be the punishment for failing to vote? Prison? ("What are you in for?" "Didn't vote" "Wow, that's hardcore, man") Fines that no one will ever be able to collect? Being banned from complaining about the idiots that run this country?
Oh, well. I guess it's a small price to pay for "freedom".