An Argument For Compulsory Attendance at the Polls

E.J. Dionne Jr. and Miles Rapoport on Voting as Public Responsibility at Literary Hub: One hundred percent democracy sounds like a grade someone has achieved in a course—and we would like to believe that our American system can be remade to live up to its promise and become worthy of such acclaim.

It refers specifically to the aspiration that every American be guaranteed the right to vote—with ease and without obstruction—and that our nation recognize that every citizen, as a matter of civic duty, has an obligation to participate in the shared project of democratic self-government. We want to make the case for what Australians refer to as “compulsory attendance at the polls” and what we call universal civic duty voting.

How much is the fine for not voting in Australia?
The penalty for first time offenders is $20, and this increases to $50 if you have previously paid a penalty or been convicted of this offense. If you do not have a valid and sufficient reason for not voting, you can pay the penalty and that will end the matter.

We see voting as a public responsibility of all citizens, no less important than jury duty. If every American citizen is required to vote as a matter of obligation, the representativeness of our elections would increase. Those responsible for organizing elections would be required to resist all efforts at voter suppression and remove barriers to the ballot box. We believe that universal civic duty voting is the decisive step toward putting an end, once and for all, to legal assaults on voting rights.

Civic duty voting would end the cycle of exclusion. It would stop cold the efforts of politicians to invent new legal techniques to keep some of our citizens from casting ballots. And, most importantly, it would engage all American citizens in our democratic experiment. Our call for universal civic duty voting is rooted in the proposition that rights and duties are intimately related. To say that everyone should vote is the surest guarantee that everyone will be enabled to vote. Stressing the obligation to participate will, we believe, expand the freedom to participate. More here of ‘An Argument for Requiring Americans to Vote’.

Picture of poster on ‘democracy’ hanging inside 12th Avenue guesthouse in Lahore -photographed by Irshad Salim