Friday, March 20, 2015

The Unintended Consequences of Mandatory Voting

During a speech on Wednesday, March 18, 2015, President Obama suggested that mandatory voting 
“...would be transformative if everybody voted,” Mr. Obama said during a town-hall event in Cleveland. “That would counteract [campaign] money more than anything. If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country.” (Washington Times)
Other than the fact that, as Senator Rubio has pointed out, mandatory voting flies in the face of First Amendment Rights - Freedom of Speech includes choosing to NOT go to the polls - it would seem that our leader hasn't really thought this idea through.  Perhaps he was channeling Joe Biden and forgot to engage his inner censor that day?  One way in which Obama is correct is the idea that mandatory voting would, in fact, "completely change the political map in this country" due to the following reasons:

1. Voter ID.  The push for Voter ID has been attacked for years by democrats claiming that requiring voters to have a state-issued identification card is disenfranchising to the poor, minorities, etc.  If the state were to start requiring people to vote, there would have to be a system in place to track whether the people were following the law or not - hello, Voter ID.  Sorry, Dems, but your policy of "vote early, vote often" would die with this measure as would all the dead/illegal/felon votes that are utilized in virtually every major election now days. (How else does one explain the 119% voter turn-out in Madison, Wisconsin last time around?)

2.  GOTV efforts would die.  No longer would campaigns need to hire all those interns to call every eligible voter, no more GOTV music concerts from left-leaning celebrities, no more vans pulling into homeless shelters to get people to the polls - all would be unnecessary if voting were required and not a privilege.  How would all those community activists be trained without the "grass-roots" GOTV experiences?  Would they be retrained as IRS agents instead? If voting was mandatory, obviously there would have to be a punishment for not voting in place - perhaps a "fee" like the Obamacare tax penalty? So all those lost little democrat activists could just go straight to working for big government right out of the chute instead.  Call it a "jobs program."

3.  Unlike what Obama claims as an impetus for the idea, campaign money would flow even more freely and wildly - if there's roughly 200 million eligible voters in the USA and all those voters are required to vote, it would seem to reason that even more money would be pumped into the campaigns, not less, since those candidates would have to work even harder to make sure that all their potential constituents knew their names.  The flipside of this would also be the potential for the minor parties - i.e. Libertarian, Independence, Green, etc. to grow in power.  If one leans libertarian but feels that since it is not a party with a lick of power, one typically will vote for either a GOP or Democrat candidate that most closely aligns with one's own values, right?  However, if EVERYONE has to vote, than perhaps one of the unintended consequences would be that more people would vote with their "true party" and not just with the big two parties currently in power.

4. More Americans consider themselves "Conservative" than "Liberal." This could also cause another unintended consequence: 38% of Americans call themselves "Conservative" versus only 23% calling themselves "Liberal."  So, if every eligible voter in the USA were required to vote, how would that swing the political landscape as we know it?  Certainly it would most likely mean that President Obama himself would probably not have been elected President, especially considering the potential power of the smaller political parties to draw voters away from either of the major party candidates.  This, of course, is something we could never know for sure, but the thought is interesting.

5.  Imagine the impact that mandatory voting would have on local elections.  In South Washington County in 2013 only about 10,000 out of the 65,000 eligible voters voted in the school board and levy referendum election.  There are school board members who were elected with fewer than 3000 votes overseeing nearly a quarter of a billion dollar school district budget.  (There's also one who was appointed and not even elected, but I digress...) Those 10,000 voters passed two of the three levies on the ballot - but the ones which passed did not pass with a large margin.  One of the unintended consequences of Obama's suggestion of mandatory voting could be the defeat of levy referendums and teachers' unions.  No longer would elections held with polling places in schools swing toward the unions' and district administrations' favor.  Whatever would they do if that happened?

With this White House, the mere fact that Obama suggested mandatory voting is a bit scary (though Josh Earnest has since walked back Obama's statements) for those of us who have not enjoyed the past six years due to the massive rights infringements (Obamacare/NSA/Net Neutrality/etc.) inflicted on freedom-loving Americans.  It would seem that the next step, in Obama's little world anyway, would be to require voting of the "right" person as well - the person of the establishment's choosing, not of our own.

Voting is a privilege and the American people should be able to choose whether they want to join in on elections or not.  Mandating voting is only the first step before only offering one option on a ballot.

Updated March 20, 2015 3:09pm

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