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Voting is an integral part of any Democratic society and the United States is not an exception. A democratic system allows eligible members of the society to elect their representative through secret ballot. The United States has come a long way since the inception of the constitution which has been amended several times to allow men, women, and people of different races to vote. However, the turnout has not been impressive for several years. The United States lags behind in the number of electorates turn out among the developed nations. In 2016, the turnout was 61 percent while in 2017 it dropped to 53 percent (Pew Research Center, 2017). The numbers were low compared to countries such as Belgium and Turkey which has mandatory voting laws. Belgium and Turkey had a voter turnout of 87 and 84 percent respectively partly due to the mandatory voting law. Some of the reasons that have led to the low turnout include disgruntlement of the electorate by politics. The restrictive laws introduced by several States have also contributed to these issues. Laws such as making it hard to restore voting rights to people with past criminal records have made the number of people who should vote reduce. Other laws such as strict photo ID requirements have also contributed to the problem.
Reason for Recommending Compulsory voting
The current president won in a low turnout election of 53%.The decision to exit the European Union was also done by 37 percent of the eligible voters. After the election of Donald Trump, there was demonstration in major cities by people who we not satisfied with the results. It is possible that some of the people who were demonstrating had not cast their votes during the election. Compulsory voting will ensure the level of civic engagement is increased. Since the politicians are elected to serve the citizens, having a compulsory voting system will ensure all eligible voters exercise their right to choose a leader that will represent their needs.
There have been efforts by several states to introduce legislation that make voting hard. Some of the legislation has gone through while others have been stopped by the courts. The laws such as requiring an individual to have an ID or strick photo requirements have discouraged people from voting. Some other States have made it hard for individuals who were previously convicted to register as voters. There is a group of people out there who would like to vote but such laws do not allow them. By introducing compulsory voting, all the States will have to allow the citizens who are eligible to vote to exercise their right. The prohibitive laws will also be made void since they will be contrary to the new law that requires all eligible voters to vote.
A healthy democratic representative is made possible if citizens can turn up and choose their leaders. However, in the United States, voters turn out sometimes is as low as 45 percent. Since democracy principles require the participation of citizens, having compulsory voting laws will be a way of enhancing democracy. Countries such as Australia have the compulsory voting laws and citizens get to make their democracy vibrant. Mandatory will be a great step towards easing partisan polarization that has weakened the capacity for Americans to self-govern for many years. Additionally, having a law that requires all eligible citizens to vote will ensure the diminishing public trust in the government and the institutions is reduced.
Compulsory voting will also ensure relevant authorities understand why citizens are not satisfied with a certain issue. By introducing compulsory voting, the government will be requiring electorate to turn up and not a must to vote. If an electorate is not satisfied with the options of candidates available, they have an option of not voting. The citizen can decide not to fill anything in the ballot paper. In case of such an occurrence, the government will be able to assess and address the underlying issues. Compulsory voting contrary to what people may think will not be a way of forcing people to vote but a means of ensuring people turn up to exercise their rights as per the constitution.
Finally, making mandatory voting will lead to greater political awareness. The recent low turnout in the US election has been as a result of people being disengaged with politics. The low turnout is a bad sign for democracy since people are supposed to choose who will make policies on their behalf. By staying at home during Election Day, citizens are allowing a small minority to decide on their behalf. Furthermore, countries which have introduced the law have not experienced a backlash from the electorate as people had earlier feared.
Possible effects of the recommendation
The recommendation to have a mandatory voting system may have several consequences. First, there could be a backlash from citizens who may feel the law is forcing them to vote and denying them free will. Secondly, the law may receive a positive reception which will, in turn, lead to better representation and a vibrant democracy.
Pew research Center. (2017, May 15). U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/05/15/u-s-voter-turnout-trails-most-developed-countries/
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