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Should the United States make voting mandatory? Some people have suggested that the...

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mario54671 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 27, 2010 at 9:39 PM via web

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Should the United States make voting mandatory?

Some people have suggested that the United States should require people to vote.  List two potential benefits, and two potential drawbacks.

Then, state whether you think people should be required to vote, or whether it should remain a voluntary exercise. Be sure to fully explain the reasoning behind your opinion.

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dano7744 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted July 28, 2010 at 12:01 AM (Answer #2)

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The idea of enlisting more citizens to participate in the democratic process would be beneficial to the overall electoral process because it would reflect a truer picture of the opinions of the masses. It could also lend a sense of empowerment to the average voter.

This being said, mandatory voting proscribed by a govermental agency is a concept that "slaps the face" of a free people. This great country was founded on a theme of  freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of choice. Yes, participation in the voting process is important, but forcing someone to vote goes against the grain of a democratic system. For this reason alone, mandatory participation by casting a vote has shadowy implications of a repressed and dominated society and should not be initiated by any government.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 28, 2010 at 2:32 AM (Answer #3)

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There are a number of countries in the world where mandatory citizen participation in elections is the law.  They might argue in those countries that they have a more informed, more active citizenry and that their government is more of a democracy than most.

In countries like the US, where people do not have to vote, there are biases against participation by the undereducated, the poor, minorities and immigrants.  So election results and representation in government does not reflect what the will of the majority is, since the will of the majority is not measured.

On the other hand, just because you voted doesn't mean that you were informed.  Having a vote by people who don't know the candidates or issues doesn't always put the best person in office.  In addition, being truly free means you also have the right not to participate.  Maybe you don't believe in government or the system.  Should you be fined for not participating in something you don't believe in?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 28, 2010 at 2:42 AM (Answer #4)

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The previous posts were very strong.  I will only add on to what they have already and quite eloquently suggested.  I think that compelling people to vote denies one of the theoretical principles upon which the country was founded.  The framers understood that their new nation had to hold two basic conceptions of freedom as the bulwark of individual expression. The first was to develop a sphere of positive liberty.  This allowed individuals to use their political and social voice in doing great things. If individuals wanted to run for political office, they could.  If they needed to petition their government, they could.  If they wanted to vote, they could.  The framers also understood the need for negative liberty, or the right to be left alone.  They grasped the concept that citizens have a sphere that should be free from government intrusion or interference.  This is the realm where choice is best seen and one where the only preclusion enters when another's rights are being threatened.  In the end, the framers understood that both conceptions of freedom are needed.  Positive liberty allows individuals to pursue political notions of the good as their lives, while negative liberty allows individuals to pursue non- political ends.  Thinkers like John Stuart Mill and later Sir Isaiah Berlin identified these ends, but the framers beat them all to it.  If one makes voting mandatory, then much of the negative liberty component disappears, as the political life is seen as the only life.  Going against the spirit of the framers would be a good reason to reject such a notion in my mind.

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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 28, 2010 at 7:40 AM (Answer #5)

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I would argue that we should not, simply because anytime you make something mandatory you remove much of the value of it.  If part of the idea of voting is to allow a person choice, it seems to me to be rather contradictory to then force them to do it.  Abstaining is an option in most legislative bodies, why not in the populace at large?

I agree that greater participation would be great, and I am altogether against things like preventing convicted felons from having the right to vote, etc., but forcing people to vote does not seem to be the right option to me.

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MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted July 28, 2010 at 8:27 AM (Answer #6)

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I agree with the above posts. While I'd like to think that mandatory voting would lead people to be more interested in the electoral process, and to take time researching candidates and issues, I feel like most people would prefer a pre-packaged, edited explanation of both. Although it wouldn't take as much time, I imagine voting would become the new jury duty, and people would begin seeing it as a burden, rather than a sign of a healthy and thriving democracy. And of course, as others have pointed out, a mandatory voting law would essentially fly in the face of the purpose of voting choice in the first place.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 28, 2010 at 7:16 PM (Answer #7)

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I do not think that voting should be mandatory.  If we force people to vote, all we are doing is ensuring that a lot of people will vote without having any idea of what they are voting for.  I think we should only have people voting if they are informed enough and/or care enough to participate.

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 31, 2010 at 5:11 AM (Answer #8)

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No, voting should not be mandatory.  As the above posters noted, requiring voting will not ensure that people inform themselves about the issues and candidates any more than they already do.  In the States, we have already made the voting process as simple as it can be, and a vast number of potential voters still do not vote.

While it would be nice not to have dead or imaginary people voting, making the voting process mandatory will not solve any of the voter fraud problems either.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 26, 2010 at 7:27 PM (Answer #9)

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Forcing people to vote would in no way improve either the process or the outcome of elections.  While it would increase the total number of votes cast, of course, it would also engender a whole new set of problems.  Voter fraud would run rampant as all people of voting age would literally be in a position to "sell" their votes.  The present system is consistent with the freedoms, rights, and responsibilities American citizens have--and may or may not want to take advantage of.

Lori Steinbach

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