Friday, September 04, 2015

President Obama is right: Mandatory voting is the only way to counteract the power of money in politics ... by gimleteye

Last March President Obama suggested that the most direct way to get rid of Citizens United is to require mandatory voting by every eligible citizen. The Fox News and conservative commentariat threw an instant hissy fit. But in consideration of what has happened since last spring -- a GOP primary off-the-rails -- wouldn't mandatory voting be the best chance for Republican centrists to fix the problem of a primary that looks to the rest of America like Shriners in miniature cars circling the edge of a parade route?

In response to a question about Citizens United, President Obama said:
Now, here’s the problem. Citizens United was a Supreme Court ruling based on the First Amendment, so it can’t be overturned by statute. It could be overturned by a new Court, or it could be overturned by constitutional amendment. And those are extraordinarily challenging processes. So I think we have to think about what are other creative ways to reduce the influence of money, given that in the short term we not going to be able to overturn Citizens United.

And I think there are other ways for us to think creatively, and we’ve got to have a better debate about how we make this democracy and encourage participation — how we make our democracy better and encourage more participation.

For example, the process of political gerrymandering...
I think is damaging the Congress. I don’t think the insiders should draw the lines and decide who their voters are. And Democrats and Republicans do this, and it’s great for incumbents. But it means, over time, that people aren’t competing for the center because they know that if they win a Democratic primary or a Republican primary, they’ve won. So they just — it pushes parties away from compromise in the center.

I think that — now, I don’t think I’ve ever said this publicly, but I’m going to go ahead and say it now. We shouldn’t be making it harder to vote. We should be making it easier to vote.

In Australia, and some other countries, there’s mandatory voting. It would be transformative if everybody voted. That would counteract money more than anything. If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country, because the people who tend not to vote are young; they’re lower income; they’re skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups; and they’re often the folks who are — they’re scratching and climbing to get into the middle class. And they’re working hard, and there’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls. We should want to get them into the polls. So that may end up being a better strategy in the short term.

Long term, I think it would be fun to have a constitutional amendment process about how our financial system works. (Applause.) But, realistically, given the requirements of that process that would be a long-term proposition.

Republicans reacted with predictable terror to the idea that everyone would vote. Sen. Marco Rubio wigged out on Fox News’s Hannity over the idea, “I don’t put anything past him. I mean, there are a lot of things that have already happened that I never thought I would see. Here’s the point he refuses to point out or that he misses: Not voting is also a legitimate choice that some people make. I wish more people would participate in politics, too, but that is their choice. That is the choice of living in a free society.”

Mandatory voting would be the most direct way to neutralize Citizens United. Mandatory voting would also hand the House and Senate back to the Democratic Party. The Republican Party would have to completely change, and the competition for votes in politics would shift to the center. Democrats and Republicans could not exclusively appeal to one side of the ideological spectrum and be successful. Republicans would be forced to move to the center or face extinction.

The entire Republican model for political success is based on conservative millionaire and billionaire donors, and keeping the electorate as small as possible.

When Americans show up to vote, the Republican Party doesn’t win. President Obama’s mandatory voting idea would be the most direct way to return America’s representative democracy back to the people.

From Huffington Post, John Wellington Ellis:

The foremost alarmed reaction to the idea of required voting is that it would somehow be "anti-democratic" or un-free for the government to make people participate in elections. Think about this for a moment: participating in elections, being undemocratic? The words "elections" and "undemocratic" are virtual antonyms. Yes, you can write in a candidate or cartoon character if you don't support the names on the ballot. But it is not un-free or un-democratic to involve the entire country in decisions that affect the entire country. This is how we regulate democracy. American democracy is already anemic from low participation and big money interests, with a Princeton study determining the US is now in reality an oligarchy. It is time Americans decide the future of America, not the richest with money to burn on anonymous political ads.

Is it that crazy for the government to require you vote? Isn't it a much bigger ask for the government to tell you to drop what you are doing, you are now going to war, and you'll probably die over some political B.S. that doesn't affect you? The U.S. government can issue a draft whenever it wants, and there are many who would be with us today if they hadn't made that sacrifice that our country asked of them. Does voting still seem so much to ask, especially when it can decided literally who lives or dies among us? (Did I mention you can vote by mail?)

Would it be crazier still if the government made you pay them thousands of dollars every year? What if it were in the Constitution that you had to show up at a courthouse to be on a jury? Is it totalitarian if the government made you buy your own auto insurance? Or your own health insurance?

The reality is that we are already spending a fortune in tax dollars on administering elections that two-thirds of the public are not showing up for. It is only cost-effective. Moreover, those concerned about in-person "voter fraud" should welcome compulsory voting--no more need to worry about if someone voted or not, because they all had to already. Verification is as easy as it is confirming you paid your taxes. This would make it harder for others to impersonate another voter, while offering an expected total. From there, the concern of voting experts would be on chain of custody and accurate counting of votes, something that is in the non-partisan interest of every American.

There are two types of people in our country -- those that want everyone's voice to count, and those that don't. I believe that when the U.S. embraces compulsory voting, it will be the beginning of fulfilling the potential of the American experiment in democracy. Thank you, Mr. President, for wanting every American's voice to count.


Anonymous said...

I have to disagree. The incumbents will still have all the big money while the challengers will have to reach out to more voters with less money rather than just the those who regularly vote. Either way, the deck will still be stacked in favor of the incumbents and their money.

Anonymous said...

Americans bristle at mandatory anything. I suggest an economic incentive to vote such as a $50 voucher and/or applied to taxes which calculates to $10B. It's a tax cut, how can the GOP be against it!

The greatest threat to the United States is the GOP.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Mandatory voting? If we have the mess we have with voters that have some motivation to vote, what would happen when those who could not care less vote?

Anonymous said...

Mandatory voting? If we have the mess we have with voters that have some motivation to vote, what would happen when those who could not care less vote?

Reverend Moon said...

Yes, Mandatory because having people who don't have a clue vote will fix this mess! And after that Mandatory Marriage because there's not enough domestic violence. How about mandatory drivers licenses even for the visually impaired?
Because there's just not enough traffic in this town.

Anonymous said...

We live in a free free that we are too busy watching football, HBO and Dancing with the Stars. Mandatory voting would make us more aware of our political system and get more people involved. Good idea!

Anonymous said...

In another shriner procession: the TV punditocracy. Led by Helen Ferre.

Anonymous said...

I agree that an incentive to vote is better than mandatory voting. A tax rebate or credit is a great idea. Online voting in another option to make it easier to vote. We need to eliminate the two party system. If you talk to young voters, they hate both parties and they often cite that as the reason they don't vote. More choices would give people more incentive to vote. Also, we need instant runoff elections, where you select your candidates by first, second, third, etc., choice. This would give party unaffiliated candidates a greater shot at winning. How often do you vote for a Dem. or Repub. you don't really like because if you vote for the independent candidate, you feel like you are throwing your vote away. Our system is so broken, but we can't ignore it and hope it gets better.

Michael Calderin said...

I think I've brought up the idea of a tax incentive for voting in the past. If we're going to make something mandatory, it needs to have teeth for enforcement. Framing it as a tax cut is probably the only way it's happen, but don't underestimate the cost. In addition to the actual incentive, there would need to be some federal standardization required to manage it reliably. That could bring other benefits, but would likely carry significant upfront costs.

A tax incentive would boost voter turnout considerably, but I'm highly skeptical it'd have the results Obama claims. As earlier commenters mentioned, higher voter turnout could make big money in politics even more powerful. After all, such a plan wouldn't necessarily boost understanding of the issues and candidates' positions. Instead, it would amplify the effectiveness of mass media. Any plan to boost turnout so much would have to address that concern at the same time.