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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mandatory Voting?

Brookings Institute Scholar William Galston "thinks the key to less polarization in the electorate is compulsory voting.  It's the disaffected, the angry, who vote.  The Howard Beales of the world.  If everyone — including those in the less intense middle — voted, you would get fewer ideologues in office."

NPR's All Things Considered looks at whether the US should mandate voting, similar to how other countries, in particular Australia, "encourage" their citizens to vote.

On one side is an argument that we are in the most politically polarized era since the 1980's, a time that led to violence over unions, over "robber barrons" and the US going into "small wars" to pacify the masses, protect corporate interests and provide jobs. This argument, which Galston supports, would make the silent majority participate and thus bring them into the dialogue that is democracy, rather than leaving it to extremist and zealots at the two extremes of any issue. Youth, minorities and other who feel disenfranchised would then have a voice and decisions to make on their society.

What about those who now choose to vote?  Are they of the same political persuasion of those who vote?  Galston said they are more in the middle, less ideological than those on the right or the left.

The opposing view says that an educated electorate chooses to vote and that those who make a point of following the issues, thus defined as educated, are best suited to make decisions on who represents them and on ballot issues. This side says that to force everyone to vote is to force people to eat when they are not hungry or more accurately, to make them commit on candiate and issues they do not understand or follow.

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