Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

In Favor of Compulsory Voting

By Anne Marie in Op-Ed
Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 06:00:08 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

As the recent British general election draws to a close, estimated voter participation hovers at 60%, the lowest in 84 years and well below 1997's abysmal turnout of 71.6%. But as bad as Britain's turnout is, it far surpasses levels in the United States. In the U.S., national voter turnout for the 2000 election cycle clocked in at 51%. The midterm congressional election of 1998 saw a voter turnout of only 36.7% of registered voters.

We can do better. It's time to consider compulsory voting.

Over twenty countries (including Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Switzerland) currently have systems of compulsory voting, where citizens face legal sanctions (usually fines) for failing to vote. Though the idea at first sounds harsh and unreasonable, there is much to recommend it.

Low voter turnout is not something to be shrugged off easily. Voting is the lifeblood of democracy -- what separates us from the dictatorships and juntas that plague too much of the world. More voting means more democracy: more of a good thing. But beyond this simple but fundamental argument, there exist numerous reasons to favor compulsory voting:

A shift in the burden of registration.
The burden of registration is put on the government rather than on the individual citizen. Under the current system, citizens must struggle with the government to get put on the voting rolls and not to get purged from those rolls. Under a scheme of compulsory voting, everyone is already on the rolls and never leaves. If it's good enough for the Selective Service (compulsory military registration), then it's good enough for voters.
Discourages many illegal shenanigans
Avoids illegally barring voters from polling stations through intimidation and other nefarious means. The recent Presidential election would've turned out differently had untold numbers of black citizens not been prevented from voting. The current judicial ambivalence as to whether voters votes are ever counted would get a fierce kick in the rear.
Instills civic habits and participatory culture in society.
Civics classes have declined in recent decades, and citizens are more politically ignorant than ever. Compulsory voting gives strong incentives on the part of citizens to learn more about the system and on the part of educational institutions to fulfill their civic duties.
Increases respect for the political process.
Apathetic cynicism is no longer an option.
True political mandates.
To hold a bare majority of the voting population (currently, 50% of total) means that a quarter of the population sets the agenda for the rest. If democracy is meant to ensure that more people are satisfied than not (at least numerically), then our current system falls dreadfully short.
Greater representation of currently disenfranchised segments of society.
The American two-party system stagnates because anyone who would choose alternatives such as a socialist or nationalist party never casts a vote for one.
Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1964 ruling in Reynolds v. Sims, the guiding principle has been "one man [sic.], one vote". But in a land where large numbers of votes go uncast, that ideal has never been realized. Though most property qualifications for voting were officially abolished in the Napoleonic era, systematic racism and classism persist within electoral administrative processes, effectively creating the same unequal representation.

The trend in American constitutional jurisprudence has been towards extending the vote as much as possible. Of the seventeen constitutional amendments ratified since the Bill of Rights, six were concerned with extending the vote; since the Constitution was first adopted, the vote has been extended to racial minorities, women, eighteen-year-olds, those unable to pay a poll tax, and residents of Washington D.C. (as concerns the Presidency). Recent adoption of motor-voter laws have helped to increase voter registration, but there is much left undone.

And don't pretend active efforts to disenfranchise swaths of the citizenry are a thing of the past: fully 48 states deny the vote to prisoners and 15 states deny the vote to citizens who've fully served their prison sentences (10 of which deny the vote for life). Note that felonies do not consist solely of violent crimes. Mississippi, for example, still considers sodomy a felony; if Mississippi's sodomy law were fully enforced, then the entire homosexual population of Mississippi would lose its suffrage.

The arguments against compulsory voting are few and ultimately indefensible though worth debunking:

It limits freedom.
What sort of freedom is being restricted? Not all freedoms are equally desirable. For instance, our society does not respect the freedom not to pay taxes, because doing so would quickly precipitate our society's demise. Though the death is slower in coming, low voter turnout can strangle a democracy. Therefore, if there's a pro-freedom argument to be made, it must explicitly refer to specific worthy freedoms.
It removes an important outlet for dissatisfaction with the system.
This is a more significant, though also flawed, rationale against compulsory voting. So the argument goes, compulsory voting serves to mask endemic political dissatisfaction by artificially (and arbitrarily) giving political candidates the appearance of a political mandate.

But this needn't be the case. In countries such as Australia which have compulsory voting today, voters are still free to mutilate their ballots in protest of the entire legal and political order. Besides, it would be a far more useful to have an accurate measure of true citizen dissatisfaction as distinguished from mere laziness. Mutilated ballots may be numbered and analyzed; uncast ballots are inscrutable.

Compulsory voting is contrary to our legal and social heritage and traditions.
If ever there were an intellectually bankrupt argument, this would be it. As previously mentioned, the dominant trend has been towards extending the vote as much as possible.
Though compulsory voting would not go as far in solving American political ills as instating a parliamentary representational system (thereby bringing the U.S. in line with the rest of the civilized democratic world), the benefits derived from compulsory voting far outweigh its detriments. The time is now for compulsory voting. Universal suffrage is within our grasp if we would but reach out our hand.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o Also by Anne Marie

Display: Sort:
In Favor of Compulsory Voting | 195 comments (187 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
Compulsory voting (4.53 / 13) (#1)
by enterfornone on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:08:35 AM EST

I live in Australia. Compulsory voting is insane IMO. It means that people who have no knowledge or interest in politics are forced to vote. These people will obviosuly end up voting either at random or for whoever manages the shiniest marketing.

I would rather a system where the apathetic don't affect the system, rather than a system run by the ignorant.

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
It wouldn't necessarily be bad (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by John Milton on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:18:22 AM EST

I don't know about your country, but in the U.S, you can put any name on the ballot. Also, some states have a neither choice. I like the idea of mandatory voting, but I would definitely require a neither category.

We'll never have mandatory voting, because the politicians don't want it. It throws a monkey wrench in their neat two party system.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
forced voting (4.40 / 5) (#9)
by Delirium on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:24:01 AM EST

We'll never have mandatory voting, because the politicians don't want it. It throws a monkey wrench in their neat two party system.

I don't think it's as conspiratorial as that. We'll never have mandatory voting because the people don't want it. Americans hate being told what to do: "I'll damn well stay home and not vote if I don't feel like getting off my ass and filling out some stupid piece of paper."

[ Parent ]

two party system (4.00 / 3) (#16)
by enterfornone on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:28:50 AM EST

I would think compulsary voting promotes a two party system. Since people are forced to vote they will vote for whoever had the most publicity, one of the major parties.

We don't get a neither or write in option, but you can always turn up and hand in a blank ballot.

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
What I meant to say (4.00 / 1) (#19)
by John Milton on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:36:23 AM EST

I didn't mean that really. What I meant is that politicians don't want unpredictable voters. Adding in a bunch of people who previously didn't care would shake things up. Also, as someone pointed out above, most americans aren't in favor of it, so they really don't have any reason to support it. The party with the current majority isn't going to like it unless they know that a lot of those people would be voting for them.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
hmm.. (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by enterfornone on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:46:12 AM EST

So who would they vote for? Taking a stab I would think that they would mostly vote democrat.

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
You're probably right (4.00 / 1) (#23)
by John Milton on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:53:33 AM EST

The class with the least ability to vote would probably vote for Democrats. I've noticed that Republicans seem to be some of the most outspoken ones against increasing voter turnout. They were the main ones against the early voting option.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
odd (3.00 / 1) (#131)
by anonymous cowerd on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 09:19:35 PM EST

That's odd. Maybe it's just that I live down South, but the preponderance of the loudmouths in my personal acquaintance who happen not to vote evidently would, if they would, vote Republican; at least they are absurdly fond of cliches like "bleeding-heart liberal,'" not that a damn one of them even knows what the word "liberal" means, and they suffer the laughable rube's delusion that they somehow "protect" their own political "liberty" by possessing and flaunting firearms. They would vote Republican, that is, if they could be bothered to get off their asses and go to the polls at all, which they cannot. These days's Democrat politicians are impossible to admire, but those Republicans, evil and swinish both, I wholly loathe them, so I figure the apathy of these non-voters is a good thing.

It's worth mentioning that these guys are all firmly and, barring Lotto, permanently bogged into the working class, yet they haven't the slightest clue that Republican economic policies are, one and all, designed to transfer as much as possible of what little wealth they possess into the already stuffed pockets of millionaires. Ah well, they don't teach Marx in American high schools, and even if they did, these guys would have zoned out right through all the lectures.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

stint grits
darts file
gratis ways to fit tins
dapper angle
ill apple
-Barbara Baracks

[ Parent ]

Re: You're probably right (none / 0) (#136)
by ncc74656 on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 12:11:20 AM EST

The class with the least ability to vote would probably vote for Democrats. I've noticed that Republicans seem to be some of the most outspoken ones against increasing voter turnout. They were the main ones against the early voting option.

I don't know where you came up with that idea, but I'm a Republican and I have no quarrel with early voting. I've taken advantage of it myself on more than one occasion. The local GOP has also sent out mailers encouraging early voting and absentee voting, so I doubt that they have any issues with early voting.

What is troublesome are measures such as "motor voter" and polling-place registration. These measures (especially registration at polling places) open mile-wide holes for fraud and abuse as there is usually no means to determine someone's eligibility to vote. Do you think the places that have done registration on election day have had the means to make sure that aliens (legal or not), felons, etc. are identified as such and turned away? I doubt it. The last thing I want is for my vote to be diluted by someone who has no business voting.

[ Parent ]

Not in Australia (2.50 / 2) (#60)
by Pseudonym on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 04:19:07 AM EST

In Australian, nobody votes for the Democrats by default.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Moment, please. (none / 0) (#134)
by static on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:41:32 PM EST

"Democrat" in Australia and "Democrat" in the US mean different things. Only subtley different, to be surem, but still different.

The two major parties in AU are Labor and Liberal/National co-alition.


[ Parent ]

I'm not so sure (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by Pseudonym on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 04:30:29 AM EST

The two party system is caused by a combination of effects. One of them is media profile (as you noted), but that's a function of how much advertising with taxpayers' dollars the reigning government is allowed to get away with, and who the fickle Australian media thinks makes the best sensationalist television at the moment. The last point should not be underestimated. Without the Australian media, Phil Cleary would never have won a safe Labor seat, and Pauline Hanson would be back serving fish and chips.

Another effect which should not be underestimated is our use of instant runoff voting without proportional representation. IRV, being non-monotonic, is liable to vote splitting (often between Liberal and National or between Labor and Democrat) unless you have proportional representation as well. Compare with the federal Senate or the Tasmanian state government, which use proportional representation and are not two-party races.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Proportional Representation (none / 0) (#194)
by Overnight Delivery on Mon Jun 18, 2001 at 02:45:29 AM EST

Compare with the federal Senate or the Tasmanian state government, which use proportional representation and are not two-party races.

Comparing these two is a bit misleading, the federal senate exists to enforce checks and balances, proportional representation works very well in this regard because it forces an even representation accross the states. (Although it does mean single issue independants can get to dictate broad policy when they have the balance of power eg. Brian Harradine on internet censorship).

Tasmania has proportional representation in the lower house (where goverenment and policy is formed). Proportional representation in here means that nothing get done, you have a zillian different parties none of which has a clear majority. Fickle coalitions are formed between single issue parties/independants and general political parties, these coalitions mean that hard decisions can't be made because they usually destroy the coalition and it's claim on government.

Proportional representation also has the unpleasant side effect of doing away with local members. Instead of voting for a person, from your community that a political party has put forward you vote for a political party who puts forward candidates from wherever they like. The difference doesn't seem like much but it means it is easy for polititians to hide behind the party machine and harder for individiduals to get access to thier polititions

[ Parent ]

compulsory voting (4.00 / 5) (#15)
by Lani B2 on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:28:16 AM EST

I live in Australia too, and I will be voting for the first time next election.

While I do think that what your saying about marketing and randomise is very true here, I still believe that compulsory voting is a good thing.

It has forced me and some of my friends to actually look at politics and how our country is run.
Bored or insane? Go figure.
[ Parent ]

So it's a disaster then? (4.33 / 3) (#38)
by elenchos on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:59:08 AM EST

Does Australia have a especially crappy govnernment? Did compulsory voting lower the quality of the officials, and bring in a two party system? Don't most of the countries with compulsory voting have many parties in fact? And, just my opinion, but I don't think the American electorate could get much worse than it already is. Look who we elect now.

I don't know about Australia; I'm not there. But it seems like if what the critics of compuslory voting are saying is true, you ought to be able to easily detect the damage done to the countries that have it.


The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly -- and true --
But let a Splinter swerve --
'Twere easier for You --
--Emily Dickinson, #556
[ Parent ]

I wouldn't say so. (none / 0) (#133)
by static on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:34:00 PM EST

The first and most obvious difference between AU and the US is that election campaigns are a lot cheaper - about 10% or less of their US ones.

The other difference, although this is hard to rely on, is that opinion polls and actual polls can differ quite markedly. They've gotten better at prediction with opinion polls, though, but they simply cannot take into account those who refuse to participate in opinion polls.


[ Parent ]

The 1st time I bother (none / 0) (#79)
by Stubbs on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 08:46:49 AM EST

It's funny (to me) that the first time I bother to vote (I have been eligable for 2 general and quite a few local elections) that the turnout is the lowest yet. Is it because most people share the view that the parties in the UK are now so similar that whoever gets in nothing much will change anyway?

[ Parent ]
I'm in favor of compulsory... (4.00 / 2) (#2)
by daystar on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:10:10 AM EST

laws against murder.

In general, though, we americans tend to view our government as something beholden to US, not the other way around.

There is no God, and I am his prophet.

Anne marie is back ... (1.14 / 21) (#3)
by jann on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:14:56 AM EST

And with the usual trollish tendancies.

Anne Marie, why the respite from posting? Did you loose interest in the K5 communities occasional rabid responses? Perhaps you will start replying to thecoments generated by the stories you post and thereby you can enter the K5 discussion. Otherwise you are still a waste of space on this website. It is difficult to have inteligent discussion when the person who poses the question that starts the conversation just walks out to discuss things with everyone else at the party.

Otherwise you are just the same old troll.

which is a bit of a shame as some of your postings are interesting and your comments on the input of others on the site would be (i feel) worth reading.

Our first intrepid trollspotter, ladies and gents. (2.66 / 3) (#12)
by elenchos on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:25:38 AM EST

Thanks for showing up today.

By the way, what is it that makes this a troll? The mere fact that AM-k. wrote it? Anything besides that? What is it about his absence from the discussion that prevents you from having an intelligent dialogue? Doesn't that really depend on you and the quality of what you post, not the author?

The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly -- and true --
But let a Splinter swerve --
'Twere easier for You --
--Emily Dickinson, #556
[ Parent ]

Spotter... or buster? (1.20 / 5) (#26)
by SvnLyrBrto on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:03:52 AM EST

Anyone can "spot" a troll... I thought the act of outing them was known as "trollBUSTING"? Hardly necessary in any event, as anyone who's payed even a modicum of attention already knows about "anne marie".

-- By the way, what is it that makes this a troll?

Hmmm... do you mean besides the fact that the "anne marie" troll character, both here and on slashdot, is an imposter and a fraud, engaged in a campaign of identity theft and defamation?

In any event, I agree that it's kinda silly. If Rusty, unlike cmdrtaco, cares enough about his creation to defend it from the trolls assaulting it, he'll do something himself. If he doesn't, K5 will become unusable, just like slashdot, and the legitimate users will move on to something new.

Mod them down, or at least ignore them, whenever you happen across them I say. But why bother doing Rusty's job?


Imagine all the people...
[ Parent ]

WHAT, besides the fact that he wrote it? (3.00 / 2) (#33)
by elenchos on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:29:46 AM EST

Yes, that is what I am asking. We have all established without a doubt that the author's account is "Anne Marie." Any other reason? Or is it pure ad homenim?

And so yes, besides that, what is it in THIS article that is a problem here? What is it that Rusty needs to defend against? Something about this article will make K5 "unreadable" if it gets posted? What? I didn't read it that closely, so maybe I missed the troll part. So can you tell me what it is in this article that makes you want to mod it down?

The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly -- and true --
But let a Splinter swerve --
'Twere easier for You --
--Emily Dickinson, #556
[ Parent ]

What should Rusty defend against? (1.20 / 5) (#41)
by SvnLyrBrto on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:32:13 AM EST

Have you BEEN to slashdot lately???

I have. And it's a sad sight (pun unintended) what has become of it at the hands of the trolls.

And taco just doesn't care. He'd rathar waste codeing effort creating lameness filters, the karma cap, and on his crusade against sig11, than a way to bring back the old slashdot where people who knew technology could discuss the latest tech news.


Imagine all the people...
[ Parent ]

In *this* article. (3.66 / 3) (#46)
by elenchos on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:46:51 AM EST

Just one simple question this time, so there won't be any confusion.

What is the dangerous threat contained in this article that Rusty needs to defend K5 from, lest K5 become like slashdot?

The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly -- and true --
But let a Splinter swerve --
'Twere easier for You --
--Emily Dickinson, #556
[ Parent ]

Take a deep breath (3.66 / 3) (#47)
by cp on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:48:50 AM EST

The rest of us are having a rational discussion, here. Harping on your antitroll hobbyhorse is exactly what rusty doesn't want you to do.

[ Parent ]
So what you're saying is? (3.66 / 3) (#34)
by kwsNI on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:32:32 AM EST

-- By the way, what is it that makes this a troll?

Hmmm... do you mean besides the fact that the "anne marie" troll character, both here and on slashdot, is an imposter and a fraud, engaged in a campaign of identity theft and defamation?

So this article is a troll because it's author has been accused of trolling before?

I believe the point of his question was "What makes this article a troll?" and yet you can't point out one thing that makes it a troll. So you go saying "Well, Anne Marie is a troll so that makes this a troll" while I think you probably skipped right over the article, rated it down so that you could get to the comments and make all your "This is a troll, K5 is going to hell if Rusty doesn't do something" posts.

I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it. -Jack Handy
[ Parent ]

Don't take MY word for it... (1.25 / 4) (#44)
by SvnLyrBrto on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:43:14 AM EST

Check the link I included. For the love of Bob... it goes straight to another K5 article! Do you think I'm going to try to slip you a goatse.cx like when I am, myself, bitching about trolls???

The "anne marie" account was revealed for what it is LONG ago.

And yes, I DO moderate trolls down. That's what you're SUPPOSED to do to line noise.


Imagine all the people...
[ Parent ]

But you still aren't getting it. (5.00 / 1) (#97)
by kwsNI on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:35:08 AM EST

This was actually a damn good article. Yet, because that account was used as a troll before, you didn't even care.

I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it. -Jack Handy
[ Parent ]
Hmm? (2.75 / 4) (#70)
by CaptainZornchugger on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 07:36:00 AM EST

... I thought the act of outing them was known as "trollBUSTING"?

Funny, I thought the act of posting comments that attack the author and do not address the article was called SPAM.

Look at that chord structure. There's sadness in that chord structure.
[ Parent ]
spam? (none / 0) (#89)
by alprazolam on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 09:26:06 AM EST

so if i, for instance, said this was the stupidest fucking article ever written, and that anne marie is a god damned intellectual tree stump who ought to have checked her head at the door, you would say i was being spammish? perhaps. but most people are fairly happy with a simple 'flame' label.

if trollbusters are really trolling, what are the people busting the trollbusters doing?

[ Parent ]

No, you wouldn't be spamming. (3.00 / 2) (#90)
by CaptainZornchugger on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:01:00 AM EST

Because you mentioned the article. Posting comments that use the article to springboard into flaming is flaming. Posting comments that insult the author without even mentioning or thinking about the article is spamming, because it's something that's posted, without thought, to everything Anne Marie posts.

if trollbusters are really trolling, what are the people busting the trollbusters doing?

Killing time between meetings, I suppose. I'm just getting angry at all these vigilante trollbusters, and have begun rating them zero. I figured I'd post a comment explaining it so it didn't appear to be blatant mod abuse. I should have done it in my diary, though, because now we're just adding to the noise. Oh well.

Look at that chord structure. There's sadness in that chord structure.
[ Parent ]
yep, it had to happen (3.14 / 7) (#18)
by enterfornone on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:34:05 AM EST

One of the few decent writers on K5 is back and she's going to get hammered by the anti-troll brigade. What a surprise.

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
yeah.. (3.00 / 6) (#45)
by Sheepdot on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:43:35 AM EST

Not to mention "her" ability to make statements such as, "expect libertarians to have a hey(spelling?) day with this one".

Not a troll? Well, let's just say "she's" *VERY* set in her ways and oftentimes believes that the whole of k5 is backing "her" in everything that is said.

Remind you of anyone? Oh yeah, Katz.

[ Parent ]
Oh hush, child. (3.40 / 5) (#55)
by pwhysall on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 03:30:43 AM EST

Anne-Marie has written some trollish articles in the past. This isn't another one.

It's timely, and topical.

In fact, by attempting to label this article as a troll, you are in fact trolling.

K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
[ Parent ]

Prevented from voiting? (2.75 / 4) (#4)
by khym on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:16:35 AM EST

The recent Presidential election would've turned out differently had untold numbers of black citizens not been prevented from voting.
I seem to remember that there were some heavily Black districts in Florida who's votes weren't counted because of ballot problems; however, this is different from being prevented from voting, and I don't remember anything about anyone in the U.S. Presidential election being prevented from voting. Could someone provide some information on this?

Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
True, but still valid (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by John Milton on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:26:06 AM EST

It's true that the anti-black conspiracy theory in the last election was overblown, but Anne Marie makes a good point. When voting is a matter of personal choice, others can attempt to force your choice. The majority of blacks weren't stopped from voting by Jim Crow laws. They never tried, because they were afraid of being killed. Mandatory voting and secret ballots are a boon for democracy.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
They were afraid of being killed? (3.00 / 1) (#35)
by khym on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:33:09 AM EST

The majority of blacks weren't stopped from voting by Jim Crow laws. They never tried, because they were afraid of being killed.
I find this rather hard to credit, that there were enough Blacks who were afraid of being killed/beaten for voting that it made a difference. Do you have any cites/references for this claim?

Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
[ Parent ]
Yes they were afraid. (3.00 / 1) (#37)
by John Milton on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:49:16 AM EST

I couldn't think of any sources off the top of my head, but I thought everyone with some background in history would know this. That's what the KKK did. Even without the KKK, there was always the local sheriff, and the local good ole boy squad. If you showed up for an election, you were arrested for loitering. They kept you in prison until the election was over. It was perfectly legal. If you complained too much, you were probably going to get some midnight visitors. Intimidation prevented blacks from voting or moving into white sections of town.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
Sorry, let me clarify.... (3.00 / 1) (#40)
by khym on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:31:18 AM EST

Yes, I know that Blacks used to be threatened by the KKK and such against voting, and a federal compulsory voting rule would have helped back then. I thought you were talking about it happening in the current day and age.

Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
[ Parent ]
Anne Marie is known for this BS. (1.20 / 5) (#43)
by Sheepdot on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:39:44 AM EST

Anne Marie is the Queen of assertions. You're going to have to be able to stomach a lot of trollish statements and such to be able to put up with her stories.

[ Parent ]
ChoicePoint. (4.50 / 6) (#51)
by Eric Henry on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 03:07:03 AM EST

Check the stories below. In all the talk about faulty machines, and blacks who couldn't fill out the ballots, a far more serious problem has been more or less ignored. Before the elections a company called ChoicePoint, owned, and run by a number of current and former republican party officials, and fund raisers, was hired by the state of florida to purge the states list of registered voters of felons. Which they did. The problem was that at least 8000 of the people (disproportionately made up of Blacks and Purto-Ricans, nearly all democrats) on the list weren't felons, and lost their right to vote. A number of others had been convicted of felonies in other states, and were removed from the list of registered voters despite the fact that in Florida only felons convicted in Florida are disenfranchised, not those convicted of felonies in other states.

There is also the massive number of blacks, especially black males (about 30% of black males in florida), disenfranchised legally because of screwed up drug laws, and a racist legal system. But I guess that's another rant.





Eric Henry

[ Parent ]

while (notDone) { chooseRandomCandidate(); } (2.66 / 3) (#7)
by rwg on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:20:38 AM EST

So instead of people not voting because they're apathetic to the issues and even more apathetic to who's running for office, we should force everyone to vote, even if it means that those who wouldn't have voted otherwise will most likely pick candidates at random or vote a straight ticket just to get it over with? You honestly believe that forcing people to vote will make them appreciate democracy more or force them to become informed citizens? If that was the case, everyone would appreciate the IRS come income tax time.

I think I'd rather have the low voter turnout than candidates voted on by apathetic voters.

Give people more credit (none / 0) (#193)
by jnew on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 10:35:52 PM EST

I don't think you're giving people enough credit. From an Australian angle, the US election campaigns look like a sideshow...all those parades and conventions are bullshit. Do they ever discuss policy at all? The "debates" we saw televised were nothing meaningless platitudes. Politicians seem to be more interested in creating a spectacle to attract disinterested voters than actually coming up with workable policy. This costs a fortune, and brings in the influence of big money. Contrast that to our elections....everyone that registers has to vote (note that if you don;t want to vote, you simply don't register). Rather than concentrating on ridiculous stunts, more emphasis is put on policy. I'm not saying that a lot of crap isn;t spoken in our campaigns, but compared to what we see of the US coverage, we actually do get exposed to a lot of policy proposals. And we do have our fair share of racists and nutcases trying for the popular vote eg pauline Hanson and her One Nation party. The people aren't that stupid; they are not fooled and duly ignore these extremists,

[ Parent ]
offtopic: Florida election (4.00 / 11) (#8)
by Delirium on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:21:28 AM EST

The recent Presidential election would've turned out differently had untold numbers of black citizens not been prevented from voting.

No it wouldn't. In a perfect system, approximately 500 more black voters would've voted, about 90% Democrat, netting Gore another 450 votes. But in a perfect system, approximately 5000 felons legally ineligible to vote wouldn't have voted, about 70% Democrat, costing core approximately 3500 votes. So in the long run Gore would've done worse.

Re: offtopic: Florida election (4.83 / 6) (#56)
by Eric Henry on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 03:32:00 AM EST

No, in a "perfect" system, the 204,600 black ex-felons who had served their time, received their punishments, and been released back into society as full citizens of Florida would have been able to vote, having a significant effect on who was elected.

Eric Henry

[ Parent ]

Keeping it Offtopic (4.00 / 1) (#95)
by espo812 on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:28:44 AM EST

I don't see why people in jail, or convicted felons, or anyone else over the age of 18 that's a US citizen should be denyed the right to vote. Convicts have rights, just like everyone else - I fail to see why the right to vote isn't one of them.

Censorship is un-American.
[ Parent ]
loss of vote (none / 0) (#99)
by Delirium on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 11:16:39 AM EST

Either do I. It seems to be a rather common practice though; many European countries use it as well. In Greece, for example, a loss of the right to vote is sometimes the only punishment for a misdemeanor or lesser felony, perhaps in addition to a fine (i.e. your sentence will be "50000 drachmas fine plus the loss of voting privileges for 3 years"). Why, I'm not entirely sure.

[ Parent ]
voting rights (4.00 / 1) (#100)
by Lizard on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 11:18:39 AM EST

Of course people in jail have rights. However, they don't have all the rights that you and I enjoy. That is the very nature of the punishment by incarceration.

Convicted felons have shown a track record of making exceptionally bad decisions, why should they be allowed to participate in making decisions that the whole country will have to abide by?

I will agree that the lifetime voting ban imposed upon felons in some states is too harsh. Upon being released from prison and completing a probation period citizens should have their right to vote reinstated. Through this process they have paid their debt to society and shown their ability to live in society and make good decisions. This leaves no further reason for a bar against voting.
Just Because I Can!
[ Parent ]

Re; Keeping it Offtopic (none / 0) (#137)
by ncc74656 on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 12:57:29 AM EST

Convicts have rights, just like everyone else - I fail to see why the right to vote isn't one of them.

They have restricted rights. They threw away their voting rights (and certain others) when they decided to engage in certain anti-social behavior. If they're pissed about their predicament, they have only themselves to blame.

[ Parent ]

laws (none / 0) (#98)
by Delirium on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 11:14:56 AM EST

But you see they weren't released back into society as full citizens. They were released back into society on a limited basis - physical freedom, but not full rights of a citizen.

Now you can argue that felon disenfranchisement laws should be changed, but the current issue is whether errors in the voting swung the election in Bush's favor. And the evidence is that they did not. Certainly changes in the law might have swung the election either way, but the law as it current stands did not.

[ Parent ]

"None of the above" option (4.90 / 11) (#10)
by MattGWU on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:24:05 AM EST

Adding a "none of the above" will still give those dissatisfied with the political envrionment their venting outlet, as the number of votes for nobody would be noticed, just as nonvoter figures. This just leaves the apathetic or lazy (as you have to care to some degree to show up and vote for nobody), who, IMHO deserve whatever heat they get for not showing up.

The voting system would have to be vastly improved to more accurately and efficiently count the greater number of votes, more polling stations will have to be established, and it will have to be guaranteed by law that employers will not prevent their employees from taking the time off work to go vote. If the system is improved to the degree that will be required to support mandatory voting, this shouldn't be such a huge problem, as time it takes to vote should hopefully be cut down.

"None of the above" would be more applicable to mutiliation, because I imagine that the system would have to be electronic by nessesity, to facilitate speed, efficiency, and the ability to count the increased number of ballots (as opposed to the simple possibility of electronic polling in some areas being proposed and developed now).

The fine (or somesuch) would also have to be an effective deterrant, or it will not be effective. People would would otherwise not vote would probably be willing to swollow a $25 or so fine in order to continue not voting

Especially if... (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by dennis on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 07:51:05 AM EST

...the "none of the above" option actually worked - if it wins, there's a re-vote, with new candidates.

[ Parent ]
Binding none of the above (3.00 / 1) (#85)
by mrBlond on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 09:07:22 AM EST

I'd prefer a system where people are allowed to stay away, but their non-votes are added to the binding none of the above option.

Love the fact that this article didn't have a poll :)
Inoshiro for cabal leader.
[ Parent ]
Would you really prefer that? (none / 0) (#154)
by ajf on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 10:06:39 AM EST

...the "none of the above" option actually worked - if it wins, there's a re-vote, with new candidates

I'd prefer a system where people are allowed to stay away, but their non-votes are added to the binding none of the above option.

That sounds like a recipe for billions of dollars wasted on elections which produce no result.

"I have no idea if it is true or not, but given what you read on the Web, it seems to be a valid concern." -jjayson
[ Parent ]
Occurs in some countires (none / 0) (#146)
by lastfish on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 02:37:38 PM EST

e.g. (parts of?) post-Gorby Russia.

[ Parent ]
There allready is a none of the above option. (none / 0) (#123)
by CyberQuog on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 05:35:37 PM EST

You can cast a null vote in any election, cast a write-in vote for a made up person, cast a vote for yourself, cast a vote for your grandmother. This makes a much larger "i don't like any of the choices" statement then simply sitting on your lazy ass and not voting.

[ Parent ]
But will there be once voting goes electronic? (3.00 / 1) (#145)
by lastfish on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 02:31:14 PM EST

Currently "None of the Above" can be enacted in many ways - e.g spoilling (despoilling <g>) the ballot; choosing multiple candidates etc. As electronic systems are introduced who's going to go out of their way to explicitly permit a "None of the above" category? - It's not in politician's interests to have the common folk clearly express an opinion against them. Perhaps one could visit the polling booth but do nothing? ... but if the mood of the system (i.e. people of influence) is "for" compulsory voting that loophole would be easy to close.

[ Parent ]
I like the `no-vote' system (3.88 / 9) (#11)
by _Quinn on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:24:49 AM EST

   Make `no-vote' a federally-required option on all ballots if you make voting mandatory; if `no-vote' wins, or nobody wins, run the election again. Since we don't need the politicians to keep things running `as they were,' this offers some interesting possibilities. (Another good option being proportional representation.)

Reality Maintenance Group, Silver City Construction Co., Ltd.
Better yet (3.50 / 2) (#22)
by John Milton on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:49:40 AM EST

If 'no vote' wins, keep the current president in. That would give the U.S. some of the advantages of a parliamentary system. We shouldn't change presidents if everyone is happy with the current one.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
Over the 22nd Amendment's dead body (3.00 / 3) (#24)
by cp on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:57:03 AM EST

There's a reason why presidents are limited to two terms. His name was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

[ Parent ]
That sounds acceptable. (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by kwsNI on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:07:33 AM EST

Amendments can be added to the Constitution and Amendments cam be killed from the Constitution.

I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it. -Jack Handy
[ Parent ]
FDR (3.33 / 3) (#30)
by keenan on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:18:24 AM EST

Being Canadian I don't know almost anything about FDR, but if the people were willing to vote for him for more than 2 terms, shouldn't he allowed to be in the White House for more than 2 terms?

[ Parent ]
He wasn't a bad president (3.00 / 1) (#31)
by John Milton on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:23:36 AM EST

He served four terms before the two term limit was instated. There was nothing wrong with that, but americans fear giving power to one person for too long. I can see the point, but I think there might be better ways to get around that problem. I personally would like to see congressional term limits.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
Actually that is debatable (4.25 / 4) (#42)
by Sheepdot on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:35:51 AM EST

There are a number of people that think FDR was the worst US president. He coerced the legislature into passing his policies, threatened to pack the courts with more FDR appointed judges, and generally made a mockery of the 'check and balances'. He also started Social Security on its way to being the biggest government program of any nation in the world.

There's a lot the guy has been acclaimed for, but there's plenty of stuff that most Americans today can look back on and say, "Ugh".

If you're interested I'll provide more info.

[ Parent ]
Limiting would be good in other countries too. (4.00 / 2) (#68)
by nefertari on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 07:02:04 AM EST

Here in Germany we had chancellor Helmut Kohl for i think 16 years. Before him we had Helmut Schmidt. Now we have Gerhard Schröder. When i (nearly 25 years old) talked with people of my age we had the following results: (a) The only chancellor they knew was Helmut Kohl (b) A chancellors first name was always Helmut. So a time limit would be good.

Here in Germany voting is not mandatory and more and more people are not voting. But you are always on the list. A few weeks before the election you get a postcard, there is written where you have to go to vote. (This is possible, because you have to register in a town, that you are living there, and when you move, you have to tell "your" new town).

[ Parent ]

King Roosevelt II (2.00 / 1) (#61)
by Bad Harmony on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 04:21:38 AM EST

My Grandfather used to refer to FDR as King Roosevelt II. He was part of a large segment of the population who hated FDR with a passion.

5440' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

I like bumper stickers and I vote (3.60 / 5) (#13)
by Pseudonym on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:25:50 AM EST

As an Australian, I never truly understood the "I like bumper stickers and I vote" mentality, until it was explained to me that threatening to vote actually holds some weight in a country without compulsory voting. This, IMO, is a good thing. It means that single-issue lobby groups with large groups of voting followers (in the US, that would include the NRA and the tobacco lobby) can't hold politicians to ransom.

BTW, it's not compulsory to vote here. It's a secret paper ballot, after all. They can't tell if you voted or not. All you're legally obliged to do is turn up at a polling booth and drop your ballot paper in the cardboard thing with the slot on the top. They can't make sure that you've filled in any boxen.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
Turning up is all that's required (3.50 / 2) (#25)
by driptray on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:01:23 AM EST

All you're legally obliged to do is turn up at a polling booth and drop your ballot paper in the cardboard thing with the slot on the top. They can't make sure that you've filled in any boxen.

Actually, IIRC, you're not even required to get voting papers, let alone put 'em in a box. All you have to do is turn up and get your name crossed off the electoral roll.

Anyway, like I always say, vote early and vote often.

We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]
Don't even have to turn up if you don't want (none / 0) (#192)
by jnew on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 10:25:34 PM EST

Remember, voting in Australia is only compulsory if you register to vote. If you don't want to vote, don't register! It's as simple as that

[ Parent ]
Not everyone cares about politics (3.44 / 9) (#17)
by Phaser777 on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:32:18 AM EST

So you want millions of people who honestly don't care about who runs their country to vote on who should run it? 20 million votes for whoever happens to be the first name on the ballot?

I think it would be good if everyone voted, but only if everyone cared. As it is, a lot of people either don't care or can't make an informed decision. I don't think that having millions of random votes for random candidates would improve things.

My business plan:
Obtain the patents for something (the more obvious and general the better)
Wait u
They aren't all apathetic (4.25 / 4) (#20)
by John Milton on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:42:54 AM EST

Actually, I'd say a lot of those people do care. It's just that they don't have the time to register. Voting is a chore. If we had mandatory voting, we would probably have a national voting day where everything shut down.

I believe that the majority of americans do care about the political system. They would pay more attention to it if they knew they were going to have an input. The cure for apathy is to take away the option. Putting a I don't care option would get rid of the truly apathetic ones. Just because some people don't time to voice their opinions doesn't mean they don't have them.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
Ensuring lemming behavior is randomly distributed (none / 0) (#109)
by lordsutch on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:40:32 PM EST

20 million votes for whoever happens to be the first name on the ballot?

Well, each ballot could have the names of the candidates printed in random order. Of course, that would probably break voter's guides (which are the secret, real reason Pat Buchanan got so many votes in Palm Beach - the Dems screwed up and told the old folks to punch the wrong number... had nothing to do with butterfly ballots).

Linux CDs. Schuyler Fisk can sell me long distance anytime.
[ Parent ]

Baby did a bad, bad thing (3.28 / 7) (#29)
by Wiglaf on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:15:22 AM EST

This is bad. Really bad. Just what I need a whole bunch of uninformed voters going for the person with the coolest sounding name or, heaven forbid the actually remember an ad, whoever is more handsome/pretty. Naah keep it as is. Makes my one vote more valuable since the market isn't flooded with noise. Sure this may lead to relatively small block-voting groups to sway things but that is another problem. As you can see I would rather see uninformed voters not vote but I would much rather they go out get some education on the issues and then vote.

Paul: I DOMINATE you to throw rock on our next physical challenge.
Trevor: You can't do that! Do you really think Vampires go around playing rock paper sissors to decide who gets to overpower one another?
Uninformed Voters Are Bad for Democracy (none / 0) (#169)
by ansible on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 06:51:31 PM EST

Exactly! If I'm not informed on the issues, if I don't know what each of the candidates stands for, then I have no business voting.

I'd rather leave the voting to the people who actually care about the issues and candidates. I'm just going to add a further random factor to the final results.

If you force people to vote, a lot of them are going to just randomly punch in choices. Or worse, yet, just select Republican or Democrat.

[ Parent ]

They'd mess it up (2.87 / 8) (#32)
by Blarney on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:27:55 AM EST

I think that most people in the US who don't vote do it because they don't like either candidate. Take the Gore/Bush race - I know several people who hated Bush for being a Republican and hated Gore for being married to the music-censoring Tipper, so they didn't bother to vote at all.

If you dragged those people down there, they'd just leave it blank, punch a smiley face into the ballot, write their own name in, or write-in some fictional character. You'd have a big pile of crappy ballots that don't actually indicate any sort of choice whatsoever. This wouldn't help anyone in making a decision as to who should hold an elected office. It would be an empty gesture and a pain in the butt.

Empty gesture? (3.50 / 2) (#36)
by John Milton on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:43:15 AM EST

Around 50% of americans don't vote. Our system forces a candidate to get a majority to win. If those people refused to vote for the candidates, they would throw the election into congress. Do this enought times and we might actually get some good candidates. Even if they did make it, I think knowing that a large part of the nation voted for a smiley face instead of a real candidate would steal some of the fire from the winner.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
Close, but no inauguration (none / 0) (#73)
by PresJPolk on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 07:58:59 AM EST

Your understanding of the US Constitution is fairly accurate for someone with a .uk mail address, but it's not quite right. (You say "Our system", though, so I wonder if you should get this benefit of the doubt.) The Constitution requires that one candidate get a majority of the Presidential Electors, or the HR votes. The Constitution is silent on how those electors are chosen, leaving it in the hands of the states. I have a feeling that (read: I don't feel like researching right now whether) the state elections are run "First Past the Post", like how just about every other election in this country. So if in California, Bush gets 20% of the votes, Gore gets 30%, and blanks/doodles/smiley faces get the rest, then Gore wins CA's 54 electors. And, guess what? The result turned out that way already, except that millions weren't inconvenienced.

[ Parent ]
It's not a majority of eligible voters (none / 0) (#74)
by dgwatson on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 07:59:20 AM EST

It's a majority *of votes cast*. As long as at least one person voted in each state, that would most likely be a valid election.

[ Parent ]
What do you mean 'Either Candidate'? (3.75 / 4) (#39)
by Parity on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:03:39 AM EST

Both the Green and Libertarian parties were on the ballot in all 50 states. If 'they' are that disillusioned with the big two, 'they' could just as well cast a vote for a third party, either at random as a simple protest vote or with forethought for who's closest to their own views.

Besides that, the president isn't the only elected office in the US, never mind that the Prime Minister isn't -even- a directly elected office in a parliamentary democracy. Besides all the representative races, council races, judicial races, sherriff races, there's also the ballot questions to be considered - most of which are spelled out clearly enough to have an opinion on just by reading them without any research ahead of time.

And even if people did cast their votes for themselves or abstain or write smiley-faces, it wouldn't be any worse than it is now (not a vote or a meaningless vote is the same as not voting, after all), so I'm not sure what your point is, really.

Parity None

[ Parent ]
not quite... (3.50 / 4) (#54)
by ubernostrum on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 03:28:48 AM EST

not a vote or a meaningless vote is the same as not voting

"Not a vote" would, quite literally, be the same as not voting, but a meaningless vote is something entirely different...force every eligible voter in the country to vote, and what are the odds that we get Christina Aguilera as the first woman president and the Backstreet Boys as her cabinet? Or, taking account of the huge number of elderly voters, I'd say Walter Cronkite is the more likely choice. Or have people filling in smiley faces on the ballot - why not just put the candidates' names on balls in a machine, and draw the winner of the election with November's lottery numbers? A meaningless vote is noise corrupting the meaningful data, and non-compulsory voting helps cut down that noise.

You cooin' with my bird?
[ Parent ]

Hey, a lottery (3.66 / 3) (#59)
by John Milton on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 04:07:39 AM EST

You've been saving the good ideas you sneak. I'd love to have a the backstreet boys in the cabinet. It's my one desire, my fire, my pyre. Oh, I can't think of any more rhyming words. They're too young to be eligable though.

What's wrong with Walter Cronkite. He can't be worse than the choices we have now. What about Paul Harvey? I like his voice. I'd like to see a lottery system. It's how we choose jurors. Why not congressmen and the president.

I'm sure you'll say "oh, but then they wouldn't be qualified." HAA! Take a look at your congress. I don't know about you, but I'm willing to take a total loony over what we've got now.

I have an even better idea than yours. Let's choose them by russian roulette. Load the gun, spin the barrel and line all the candidates up.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
Uncounted ballots??!!! (none / 0) (#83)
by darthaggie on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 09:04:35 AM EST

You'd have a big pile of crappy ballots that don't actually indicate any sort of choice whatsoever.

And AlGore would have claimed they meant to vote for him...

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

The other side (4.42 / 14) (#49)
by ubernostrum on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 03:00:02 AM EST

I argued against voter apathy the other day, now I guess I get to argue for why we should have a right to voter apathy...even though I still don't like it.

First of all, registration isn't that hard - even my backwater West Virginia county sends folks to every high school every year to register the seniors. How hard is that?

Second, the big problem black voters have is not being denied the right to cast a vote, it's the crappy punch-card machines used in many primarily black precincts - too many unusable ballots do the dirty work of keeping the votes off the records.

Third, compulsory voting won't make people learn more about the system - you might as well also say that mandatory income taxes inspire citizens to learn our tax codes. People would learn precisely what they needed to do to avoid a fine, and nothing more.

Fourth, apathetic cynicism would not go away - people would simply pick at random and be cynical about how they probably made the best choice by dong so.

Fifth, a true "mandate" comes only from people who actually care about the issues involved...forcing people to vote does not force them to have an opinion.

And sixth, the people who would choose an alternative party are precisely the people who vote, because they care...your argument there is just plain silly.

Now for some real objections (yours weren't anywhere near on the mark, so I'll make up some of my own):

Compulsory voting opens up just as much potential abuse - when there's a list that's checked off with who voted and when, don't you think the guys in the smoke-filled back room would have a much easier time checking their opponents off prematurely?

Compulsory voting dilutes the power of the vote - the signal-to-noise ratio of the voting masses would take a serious turn for the worst as hundreds of millions of people who likely couldn't tell you what city the White House is in headed to the polls. If you want to require voting, implement education first.

It does take away freedom. Tuesday was my hometown's mayoral election - I didn't vote, because I didn't like any of the candidates enough to warrant my casting a vote for their election. This should be perfectly within my rights - force me to vote, and you're forcing me to vote for someone I don't want in office, and that sort of thing makes me want to use terms like "fascist" and "oppressive."

Compulsory voting would simply further the interests of the current political powers - with their advertising money, they could ensure the name placement to win every election on the vote of the same masses who accept Britney Spears, not because she's a good musician, but because she's strategically placed.

And that's just the beginning.

-1, ill-informed likely troll.

You cooin' with my bird?

Want to increase turn change election day (3.42 / 7) (#52)
by Tachys on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 03:26:47 AM EST

I mean why is election day on a Tuesday, also only allowing one day to vote?

Change it to a Saturday so people have time to vote

Why not Saturday? (3.00 / 1) (#91)
by aozilla on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:07:37 AM EST

That would probably piss of a lot of Jewish people.

[ Parent ]
Public holiday election (none / 0) (#104)
by pranshu on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:06:31 PM EST

In South Africa the election day is a public holiday. sy

[ Parent ]
It's always a Saturday in Australia. (none / 0) (#132)
by static on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:28:59 PM EST

I didn't know until very recently that voting day in other countries is usually mid-week.


[ Parent ]

Voting is an important issue in a democracy (4.00 / 6) (#57)
by thunderbee on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 03:58:53 AM EST

If you can't be bothered to vote, then you don't desserve the freedom and democracy you may be enjoying. Compulsory voting is fine with me as long as there is a 'none of the others' choice. In fact it is a good thing. I don't believe people "don't care" who's running the country. I this is true, they desserve to live in the worst dictatorship. Those "I don't care" people surely do enjoy a lot of benefits from democracy. Voting is a small price to pay to uphold these privileges.

I'm annoyed beyond telling by those who don't do a thing, and still believe everything is due to them. It is not. Freedom is not a due. It is something that has been won, and has to be kept. Failing proper attention, it shall vanish, or as it is already slowly happening in the us, it will slowly turn into a form of passive dictatorship. This is what happens when you "don't care" who runs the country.

As to the trollish nature of the article, I honestly don't give a damn. I don't know what the account was used for before this article. I just read the story, and rate it accordingly. The subject is worthy of discussion. The article is well written, and since compulsory voting exists in many democratic countries, it is a reasonable choice to consider. I'm starting to wonder if anything going against the norm (that is average US opinion) is being called a troll...

Good joke! (4.00 / 1) (#81)
by darthaggie on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 08:59:41 AM EST

If you can't be bothered to vote, then you don't desserve the freedom and democracy you may be enjoying. Compulsory voting is fine with me as long as there is a 'none of the others' choice.

And obviously, we're not going to get any freedom if you where running things.

Even if you choose not to choose, you still have made a choice

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

Bring back Literacy Tests (2.80 / 10) (#58)
by Bad Harmony on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 04:03:12 AM EST

I don't want compulsory voting. If you are too lazy or ignorant to vote, stay at home on election day. It increases the value of the votes of the people who do have some sense of civic responsibility.

It will never happen, but I would like to see a system where every applicant for voter registration had to pass a test similar to that given to applicants for naturalized citizenship. See this page for a sample test from the INS.

5440' or Fight!

I passed the test! (4.00 / 1) (#65)
by Tezcatlipoca on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 06:18:54 AM EST

I got roughly 80% OK (I think that is a pass).

Where do I pick up my green card?

Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?
[ Parent ]
Misleading questions (5.00 / 1) (#108)
by cp on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:30:06 PM EST

Though I've reloaded the page many times and gotten 5/5 every time, but I have to credit that fact with knowing what the answer ought to be, rather than what the answer is in practice. Who "makes the law" in the U.S.? Technically, according to the Constitution, it's Congress, but the executive and judicial branches sure have a habit of doing the same in practice. Who gets to declare war? Again, technically according to the Constitution, it's Congress. But as we learned with the Vietnam War, thousands of citizens can get conscripted and killed at the behest of a Presidential order without ever receiving an ok from Congress. Whose rights are actually protected in the U.S.? Far from everyone's. Which benefits accrue from citizenship? The right to vote for the candidate of one's own choice apparently doesn't apply in Florida, and "travel" (one of the "incorrect" choices) is actually one of the handful of implicit rights recognized by the Supreme Court (under the 9th amendment).

If those questions are authentic, then the test must read more like a public-relations brochure than like a legitimate reflection of the current state of affairs in the U.S. And that, unfortunately, is probably the point.

[ Parent ]

Re: Misleading questions (none / 0) (#138)
by ncc74656 on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 01:16:51 AM EST

Though I've reloaded the page many times and gotten 5/5 every time, but I have to credit that fact with knowing what the answer ought to be, rather than what the answer is in practice.

In a similar vein, one of the questions I saw asked about the source of freedom of speech. The "book answer," of course, was the Bill of Rights, but the correct answer is that the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights are natural rights that would exist without it. The Bill of Rights grants no rights, as the government is in no position to grant anybody any rights. Instead, it is an affirmation that the government won't infringe on the right to speak your mind, adhere to whatever belief makes sense to you, keep an arsenal in your coat closet, etc. (Never mind that the government in recent times has seen fit to infringe on various rights with ever-increasing impunity...as long as the people have their bread and circuses, most of them won't give a damn until it's too late.)

[ Parent ]

Appalling idea (none / 0) (#150)
by pavlos on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 12:48:47 AM EST

The idea that voters should somehow demonstrate competence in some form is terrible, both in a "daft" sense and an "evil" sense.

The idea is daft because, even with no conscious malevolence on the part of the government in power, it is likely to benefit the status quo. The test itself will is likely to reflect a "textbook" view of politics, thus discouraging radical change. Disenfranchised groups such as recent immigrant, poor, or young voters would be more likely to fail, even though their intersets are more in need of representation. Finally, the system would reward people who have the time and inclination to prepare specifically for the test.

More importantly, the idea is extremely open to abuse. The test would of course be written by the dominant group in US society, and it would reflect their conscious or unconscious prejeudices. It would be easy to imagine a situation where the test only made sense to say, white US citizens. Also, it is in the interests of a political elite to make the test more arcane with time, so that only people who actively followed politics could pass it. This would allow the incumbent to limit the scope of political discourse.

Democracy is a political, not a technical device. It is supposed to ensure that the law, and generally the actions of the state, reflect the interests of the majority of the population. The public is called upon to elect representatives who, they think, will defend their interests. Democracy is a poor device for selecting the most qualified expert for a position and, in general, voters are not asked to choose a method to implement their interests. The US presidential election claims to be about finding the most qualified candidate, but this is clearly absurd if one looks at the winners.

Expressing your interests does not require education. Having an opinion about how they should be implemented does (eg. say you are interested in reducing unemployment, does this mean the Fed should increase or decrease interest rates?). The current system is open to the problem of politicians lying or failing to fulfill voter's interests, but a system that required voters to be competent in running the state would be disastrous.


[ Parent ]

INS tests (none / 0) (#158)
by mind21_98 on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 02:30:16 PM EST

The sample INS test Bad Harmony mentioned above is idiotically easy (I went there and answered some of the questions). If you had half a brain you would be able to pass the exam with no problems.

If that happened you'd end up with the same number of idiotic people. What's needed is more campaigning from third parties, but of course Democrats and Republicans would win. Senator McCain's campaign finance bill might fix that and give the third parties a chance.

mind21_98 - http://www.translator.cx/
"Ask not if the article is utter BS, but what BS can be exposed in said article."
[ Parent ]

Troll? Are you kidding? (2.66 / 9) (#63)
by Tezcatlipoca on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 05:44:50 AM EST

I am amazed, honestly.

The article puts foward very interesting points, related to current issues, without mentioning goats, Nazis or Communists and backed up with some statistics about voters' apathy. What else do you want?

Here we are suppossed to look at the message, not the messanger: if an article is good it deserves to be discussed and posted prominently, even if it is posted by a known troll.

If K5 is broken enough to allow trolls to mod up themselves that is K5's fault and hopefully something can be done about it, in the meantime is part of the price to pay for the chance to participate in the site.

Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?
Compulsory voting antithetical to freedom (3.14 / 7) (#66)
by lordsutch on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 06:23:16 AM EST

The entire idea of compulsory voting is antithetical to freedom and democracy: people should have the right to not participate if they so choose. For example, many libertarians (not me) argue that voting perpetuates our current political system of taxing both the rich and poor to benefit the middle class; voting lends legitimacy to a system that, in their eyes, is inherently illegitimate. (I'm not as willing to give up on the Constitution as some more radical libertarians are.)

Jury duty and selective service (the draft) are both bad enough (and in my mind are both forms of involuntary servitude prohibited by the 13th Amendment); creating another form of bondage would be a step back, not forward.

Linux CDs. Schuyler Fisk can sell me long distance anytime.

Compulsory voting needs something worth voting for (2.66 / 3) (#67)
by loaf on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 06:41:34 AM EST

As I argued in my story yesterday (What Future the Ballot?), I have large issues associated with the very machinery of the process.

If you want to force me to vote, you must first give me something that I can vote for. This means more than a limited choice between alarmingly similar career politicians.

In yesterday's poll, the Labour party received 42% of a vote in which less than 60% actually turned out. So, in fact, their overwhelming majority is based on the backing of less than a quarter of the voters.


Compulsory voting would mean that everyone's opinion was heard, but as all pollsters know if you want to hear a particular answer, you've got to know how to phrase the question.

I'm not opposing it, per se, but it's merely one facet of the needed overhauling of the modern parliamentary democracy that is so desperately needed.

The best way to fix the system.. (3.37 / 8) (#69)
by DeadBaby on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 07:30:24 AM EST

1) Move Election Day to the first Saturday of November in the US.
2) Add a "None of the above" option so people can clearly voice their lack of preference for a party/candidate. Write-in's or no-votes simply don't go far enough to make it clear you're fed up with the 2 party system.
3) Allow electronic/postal voting
4) Stop using 70 year olds at polling places. I'm sorry, can't handle the job. It's a fucking nightmare. Half of them can't even hear; the other half gives you the wrong forms or tells you to fill something out incorrectly. I realize they're trying to help but they make the process of voting not all together different from teaching your grandparents to flash their BIOS.

This isn't the issue the story brings up exactly but the people who actually don't want to vote shouldn't. The key is just to make the other 10-30% of the people who really do want to vote but find the system of voting confusing or otherwise exclusionary.

"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
Most are already implemented (5.00 / 2) (#93)
by StackyMcRacky on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:19:19 AM EST

  1. In Texas*, we have "early voting" which gives you 2 full weeks before Election Day to go out and vote.
  2. When at the poll, vote for your 3rd party of choice, rather than Democrats or Republicans
  3. In Texas, you can request a ballot by mail
  4. The 70-year-olds are the ones who volunteer to work the polls. If you really have a problem with it, then I suggest that you and your buddies take a day off and work the polls yourselves.

*I can only comment on Texas' voting laws because those are the only ones I'm familliar with

[ Parent ]
Already exists (none / 0) (#157)
by mind21_98 on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 02:23:24 PM EST

1) You can send an absentee ballot by mail before the election
2) If you don't want to vote for anyone, don't go to the polling place. (although I do think that the electronic ballot systems now have a 'No Vote' option)
3) Riverside County, CA used electronic voting last election. Plus there's vote by mail if you want.
4) There's nothing we can do without ruffling people's rights.

(the above is from CA only)

mind21_98 - http://www.translator.cx/
"Ask not if the article is utter BS, but what BS can be exposed in said article."
[ Parent ]

Election Day(s) (none / 0) (#188)
by Steve B on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 08:40:55 AM EST

Move Election Day to the first Saturday of November in the US.

That's a problem for people who ovserve Saturday as the Sabbath -- if it was a weekend, it would have to be both days.

Personally, I'd move the US election day to April 16, but that's a whole other issue....

[ Parent ]

Force everyone to vote and... (2.66 / 6) (#72)
by Mantrid on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 07:52:36 AM EST

...you'll end up with the natural law party in office or some other wacked out group. I can just see it now, waves of bored young adults voting for the stupidest party possible because they are being forced to vote. (heh and probably drunk while voting if it's a college town :P)

drunk, eh? (3.00 / 2) (#87)
by ellF on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 09:20:36 AM EST

waves of bored young adults voting for the stupidest party

why distinguish the waves of "stupid young adults" from the waves of stupid people in general? young != stupid. young != bored.

turn off MTV. go interact with some young people. in general, and obviously tainted with local prejudice, my experience has been that the youth of this country are not the apathetic mass that they are portrayed as.

heh and probably drunk while voting if it's a college town

hrm? any particular reason why you assume that college students - especially voting college students - would be drunk, aside from whatever generalizations you've drawn? i voted in the november for the first time, and i've gone to the polls each year before with a parent. i saw substantially more people at the polls here in my "college town", and all of them were extremely serious|excited about what they were doing.

it's always frustrating to see generalizations made about the character of any group of people, but when said generalization is both incorrect and negative, it veers into being offensive, imo.

[ Parent ]
Okay please amend to read: (none / 0) (#101)
by Mantrid on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 11:42:24 AM EST

Stupid drunk people who are forced to vote. I was thinking of sarcastic, younger people, but I mean basically anyone forced to vote might just vote randomly anyways. Such as in New Zealand, where when forced to enter religion many people were putting "Jedi Knight". In a survey this just messes up a survey, but uncaring people messing around when forced to vote would have a much larger impact!

[ Parent ]
Horrible Idea (3.33 / 6) (#75)
by EricLivingston on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 08:05:48 AM EST

Creating yet more government control over the lives of citizens is not a great idea - if folks don't want to vote, trying to force them is ridiculous - you'll either get folks voting out of spite for whatever crackpot candidate they think is funniest, or they'll just "null vote" and cast an empty ballot just to get the hell out of there. This is not the way to increase the quality of the vote: you'll just introduce more noise.

Besides, what we really need is an alternative system of voting, such as a Borda count or Approval Voting. That'll do far more to "fix" our screwed up system than forcing a bunch of yahoos into the voting booth so they can wreak havoc on the country against their will.

Check out Alternatives for a description of such alternative voting systems, then check out Democracy Innovations and The Libertarian Party for good measure :)

I'll agree on one condition (2.66 / 3) (#76)
by rednecktek on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 08:34:30 AM EST

Compulsory voting only affects those who are registered to vote.

I don't believe it's Constitutional to force everyone to vote. However if you make voting manditory for registered voters:

  • You know (approximately) how many votes should be cast
  • The burden of voting remains where it should, on the voter
BTW, you would also have to allow registered voters a period to "unregister". (Wheat from the chaff)

I love hypocrites. You can always trust them to do the exact opposite of their beliefs.
One option that SHOULD always be there... (4.42 / 7) (#77)
by jd on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 08:39:12 AM EST

"Re-Open Nominations"

This option appears a lot in NUS (National Union of Students) elections in the UK. Essentially, it translates to "all your candidates suck, their mandates have smallpox, and if you think I'm voting for any of them, you must be out of your tiny little mind."

What happens is, if RON wins, the election is abandoned and the entire process of selecting candidates, etc, starts all over again.

One alternative to having "compulsary" voting is to state that ALL registered voters have cast a vote of RON unless they explicitly vote otherwise.

Yes, this means that the system will freeze up, every so often, but it would mean that parties would need to field decent candidates, rather than rely on apathy to swing the vote.

I really like this idea (4.00 / 1) (#107)
by MrMikey on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:23:23 PM EST

I think a large part of current voter apathy is the feeling that "my vote won't make a difference." If you knew you could vote to "dump all the current candidates" that might increase voter interest.

A democracy (or a republic) needs an informed, involved populace to function correctly. Sadly, our population is for the most part neither well informed nor involved.

[ Parent ]

interesting idea (none / 0) (#173)
by imsmith on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 12:33:53 PM EST

This certianly has the potential of placing the burden squarely on the shoulders of those trying to impose their will on the many. If every measure and candidacy had to overcome both the opposition and a default of no (by assuming a refusal for all non-participants) then the political operatives would be forced to convince people that they should vote and that they should vote in their party's favor. That seems much more 'democratic' than counting only those who show up and pretending that the rest don't care.

On a side note, it does seem that because many people (read: 'Americans I have met') don't particularly care about what happens as long as it doesn't happen to them, they have less knowledge than those of us who eat-sleep-and-breathe politics. It may sound right (and it certainly appeals to both ego and established historical thinking) that the informed few should make decisions for the ignorant many, but in practice it just makes it easier for corruption to propagate itself.

Bestowing the 'ignorant many' with a commanding measure of inertia might be just the thing to slow the erosion of liberties so often a topic of discussion.
A point is that whose part is nothing. - Euclid
[ Parent ]

Nice idea, but... (3.00 / 4) (#78)
by kalten on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 08:43:04 AM EST

The problem I see with your arguments is that you're assuming that if people vote, they'll give it careful consideration and vote for the person they feel is best suited for the job. (Actually, I vote for the person whom I feel is least unsuited for the job, but that's another matter.)

You assume that this would overcome "apathetic cynicism".

Frankly, I doubt it. What we'd have is legions of people voting who--being apathetic--just don't care about the outcome. They're not going to give their votes careful consideration. Marking ballots at random would be likely. Do we really want candidates selected in that manner?

What? is this Soviet Communism? (3.85 / 7) (#80)
by darthaggie on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 08:52:09 AM EST

It's time to consider compulsory voting.

If you can't choose not to vote, then there really isn't much point to having rights, is there?

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.

BS... (4.72 / 11) (#82)
by DeHans on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 09:04:14 AM EST

First of all, voting is NOT compulsory in the Netherlands.

A shift in the burden of registration.
Not true. I'll use the Netherlands as example as I have just stated that voting is not compulsory over here. But the burden of registrtation is still with the authorities. About 8 weeks before an election *every* citizen is sent a registration card. This card must be shown to be able to vote and can be used to vote by proxy. I dont' have to do a thing except wait at home.

Discourages many illegal shenanigans
While increasing new ones. Since everybody has to vote, lot's of people are going to use the vote by proxy option. Thought about what can go wrong with that (shenanigan-wise that is)??

Instills civic habits and participatory culture in society.
Whishfull thinking. Forcing someone to vote is quite different from forcing someone to participate.

Increases respect for the political process.
No it doesn't. After you choose, you'll have another 4-6 years in which you don't have a say in the political process. Compulsory voting doesn't change that, nor does it change the day-to-day practice of politics.

True political mandates.
Again, wishfull thinking. This assumes that every vote cast is a well-thought vote. Which isn't true, especially if everyone is forced to vote.

Greater representation of currently disenfranchised segments of society.
The fact that you have a federal system is responsible for a lot more vote loss than the compulsory system will restore. Look at the latest presidential election. Gore got the popular vote, but not the office. Look at the current election in Brittain. With only 42% percent of the vote Labour is going to get 63% of the seats.

Basically, i don't agree :)

counter-point (none / 0) (#189)
by garlic on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 01:06:37 PM EST

How do the homeless vote? they don't have an address (do they?) so they can't get a card. This could mean only property owners or renters get to vote.

In the U.S. there are elections at least every 2 years, and every year a lot of places. There are a lot of public offices to fill that have different cycles. President-4 years, Senator-6 years, Representative-2 years. This is only national government. local government includes governors, mayors, town councils, school boards, etc. So you don't have a long perid of time between votes, unless only a particular election was made mandatory.

HUSI challenge: post 4 troll diaries on husi without being outed as a Kuron, or having the diaries deleted or moved by admins.
[ Parent ]

They can vote... (none / 0) (#196)
by DeHans on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 08:14:24 AM EST

According to the official procedure for the elections the Mayor will send the voting card to the citizens of a city 14 days before the election. Changes in the voting procedure (like voting by proxy, voting in a different district *or* applying for a voting card) have to be approved by the Mayor (which basically means you have to go to city hall to get a stamp and a signature).

Homeless persons have 2 ways to vote, or rather obtain a voting card.
  • they have a postal address. They can get a postal address at the centres for homeless persons. A lot of them actually have such an address, as it can also be used for medical insurance and welfare.
  • They can request a voting card at city hall. They have to be able to prove they have the Dutch Nationality of course.

So basically the burden of registration lies with the authorities, but exceptions to the rule have been forseen.

[ Parent ]
Not automatically more democracy (4.75 / 8) (#84)
by Koo on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 09:06:14 AM EST

Compulsory voting would be nice but it does not automatically lead to more democracy. Over here (Czech republic), back in the days of the communist rule you were heading for trouble if you did not show up to vote.

Well it must have been a democracy right? Lets see, your choice was:

Candidate A: A communist candidate.
Candidate B: A communist candidate.

Which one would you pick? Do not even think about mutilating the ballots, the elections were NOT anonymous.

So people would just pick one at random and the result would be something like: 50.3% for candidate A and 49.7% for candidate B.

They called it the "people's democracy"

What if the candidate were a K5 troll ? (none / 0) (#129)
by mami on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 07:36:35 PM EST

Right after being elected into office he would start to call the militias to enforce the white-male millionaires in Congress to amend the constitution to allow trolls to rule world.... that's called a trolling democracy.

There you have the compulsory freedom to vote against them ... at gun point.

[ Parent ]
Compuslory Voting is not a good idea. (4.20 / 5) (#86)
by Rasvar on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 09:15:03 AM EST

This may be considered elitist; but I think too many people vote sometimes. The major problem is an education of the issues. Forcing someone to vote does not mean they are going to understand what they are voting about.

I also don't agree with 'get out the vote' campaigns that simply load up a bus of folks, take them to a polling place and tell them what button or spot to mark as they go in. If you are truely motivated to vote and are interested in the issues, you will. If not, stay home and let other folks decide for you.

If the old folks at the nursing home really wanted to vote, the current laws for absentee ballots allow them to vote. They don't need to be hereded to the polls like a bunch of cattle.

Voters who are uneducated in the issues lead to bad government and bad decisions. If I don't know the issue or the folks running for an office, I do not vote in that election. Where I use to live, there was a ballot for the Airport board. I had no idea what was going on there. I did not vote. Last thing I want to do is vote some loony in who wants to double the size of the thing or some other wacky item. Don't tell me it hasn't happened. I don't have any articles in front of me right now. However, after every election, I usually see some odd story about a town that elected some guy whos platform was to do something very odd, ie turn a park into a huge greenhouse or something crazy like that, and then they interview the folks who voted for him. Seems like their quotes are always the same, 'I didn't know.'

Voter education should be a much larger priority than compulsary voting. Complusary voting is a bad idea whose time will never come.

You vote your interests, not your idea (none / 0) (#151)
by pavlos on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 01:09:40 AM EST

The point of a democracy is to select a representative whom you feel is reasonably competent and will represent your interests. They, not you, are then called upon to decide how your interests translate to concrete, complex decisions.

Selecting a candidate who truthfully and competently represents your interests is full of problems, but lack of education about complex matters of the state is not one of them. If you have single-issue politics or referrenda, then lack of education would be a problem.


[ Parent ]

Land of the free? (4.50 / 6) (#88)
by PhoenixSEC on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 09:24:43 AM EST

I believe that one of the primary concerns of the United States is freedom. First and foremost, cumpulsory voting removes that freedom of choice.

If people are choosing not to vote, then they _are_ in fact 'casting a ballot.' The low voter turnout is something that should be taken as proof of that. I live in the state of Minnesota. The last elections for state governer included the highest turnout of voters in quite some time (in the history of the state, I believe, but don't quote me on that : ). Why? Did everyone feel like going out for a walk that day and happened across the polls? No, they saw a candidate they liked and voted for him.

Lack of voter turnout is a serious problem, but I think the solution lies within the candidates, not in forcing people to cast a vote they otherwise wouldn't.

But it doesn't mean anything.,... (5.00 / 1) (#122)
by Elkor on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 05:32:35 PM EST

However, there is no effect of low voter turn out.

Now, if there were a minimum threshold for election legitimacy, then we might actually see things change.

But as it stands, if you only get 20% of the population voting, then that is the only part that matters, because the decision of that 20% becomes binding on the other 80%.

Therefor, it is actually in the interest of the politicians to get as few people as possible to vote because it limits the people they have to appeal to.

Since it has no harmful effect on the election process, having a large body of disenfranchised voters who still have to pay taxes is an advantageous thing. You get this large mass of money and use it to make the 20% of people that vote happy.

Who cares about the other 80%? They don't vote...

Who voted Libertarian as his "none of the above" choice.
"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
The right to vote is more powerful than it's use. (none / 0) (#144)
by lastfish on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 02:16:50 PM EST

Who cares about the other 80%? They don't vote...

What's important is that they CAN.

Perhaps that doesn't constrain politicians who are in the game for a single term but most like being top dog for as long as possible so need take care not to provoke the generally couldn't-care-less populace out of their apathy.

This holds in slightly weaker form even in constituencies that impose term limits, as if the incumbent annoys the voters sufficiently they might turn against his or her party / protege next time around.

Now, if there were a minimum threshold for election legitimacy,
then we might actually see things change.

In some countries there is. c.f. Russia where some elections have had to be re-run for this very reason.

It's important to be able to distinguish between:
- not voting because no civic interest / drunk etc.
- not voting because disapproves of all candidates and so has no choice
[The "spoiling the ballot" approach wil become a decreasing option as
electronic/automated voting systems become more common]
- not voting because can't choose one candidate over another.
[.e.g might feel that both leading candidates would do a good job]

The "None of the above" option suggested by other posters would handle the 2nd category. The third is trickier - one approach to handle it is in having run-off votes so that the field is first limited to the competent/popular (thus giving them some legitimacy) and then whittled down to one ... but that's a different topic.

[ Parent ]
Run Offs (none / 0) (#155)
by Elkor on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 12:21:30 PM EST

Yes, I agree that so long as they don't provoke the 80% not interested then they are "safe" and so far I think they are doing a good job of reaching their goal.

And yes, we need a "none of the above" or "do over! Do over!" option of some sort on the ballot.

I think one of the big reasons we don't see more third party cadidates getting votes is fear of the opponents. People may not want to vote Republican, but they don't want the Democrats to win, so they vote Rep to keep the Dem out. Or vice versa.

One option is what I call a run-off vote. People rank their choices on the ballot (first, second, third, through X). All the votes are tallied for the first rank. If nobody wins, then they drop everyone but the top three. Everyone that voted for one of the guys that didn't make the cut then gets their number 2 votes tallied.

This keeps going until someone gets enough votes to win. The only votes that "don't count" are those people that made all X choices for candidates that drop out of the running.

This would give the people who want to vote third party a chance to express their views, and still vote against the party they don't want.

I think we would begin to see some different results.

"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Somone should use that (none / 0) (#174)
by PhoenixSEC on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 05:02:22 PM EST

That's exactly the point : ).

If a current politician can win with 20% of the vote, then someone should run that will appeal to the other 80%.

Case in point, Jesse Ventura (Governor of MN). How many of the regular voters (read: Republicans and Democrats) voted for him? I'm guessing not too many. They voted for Norm Coleman and Skip Humphrey (respectively) (and yes, I am simplifying this for argument's sake =). By appealing to the 80% and getting them to vote, Ventura won.

Just find some topic that 80% of people care strongly about, run under it (and it alone) and you'll probably win. Would be an interesting experiment at any rate.



[ Parent ]
ill-informed. (3.60 / 5) (#92)
by rebelcool on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:18:14 AM EST

Why do you think people in america dont vote much? Because here in america, its a perpetual campaign.

We've got elections ALWAYS going on, and for major ones (ie presidential, senate) political events building up to the next one are continuous. Elections are on the news, every single day. From big elections, to house, to local to community bond issues, america is the most election-happy of all countries in the world. Because of this, alot of people just tune them out and don't bother.

Forcing people to vote is a stupid, stupid idea ("you there! go vote for one of these worthless candidates!"), and I can't believe this trollish pile made it onto the front page.

My favorite rush line: "If you choose not to choose, you still have made a choice."

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Freewill quote correction. (5.00 / 1) (#118)
by Monster on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 04:24:20 PM EST

"If you choose not to choose, you still have made a choice."
"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."
It's my favorite Rush quote, too. And it's very well crafted, stressing that choosing not to make a decision (a conscious choice) is still a choice. I liked it so much I made it the last line of The First Book of Choices.
[ Parent ]
Alternatives (4.00 / 3) (#94)
by emmanuel.charpentier on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:25:54 AM EST

Sorry for once more plugging my own project, VeniVidiVoti, but I really think this is the right place and moment for it.

As far as I'm concerned politics should be bottom up and not the reverse. And there shouldn't be any compulsory voting or even dates and terms, everything should be organised around the desire of the community and how its voice can be heard best.

Sometimes an individual can be heard directly, sometimes it can be relayed by another person, a representative. Both manners should be available!

This is such a bad idea (4.44 / 9) (#96)
by yosemite on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:29:05 AM EST

Right now, we get votes from the part of the elegible population that cares enough about the election to get up and go to the polls. And you think it would be a good idea to pad that out with the "don't know, don't care" crowd?

Why is it that every time a problem with society is identified, the inevitable first fix proposed is to pass a law? You can't legislate morality, and you can't legislate initerest in the political process. Of course, it's much easier to pass a law than it is to bring about effective social change.

More laws, on the other hand, mean more lawyers, more law suits, more government telling us how to live our lives. Explain to me again how this seems like a good idea?


[Signature redacted]

Alternative (3.50 / 2) (#102)
by ignition on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 11:55:13 AM EST

I am based in the UK and was quite adamant about my right not to vote, as none of the options were appealing to me. In previous years I have been adamant about observing the right to vote

I also felt that tactically voting was not the answer either (I have previously done this), as there was absolutely no chance that it would have made a difference.

However I have heard one stat that the trunout was less than 50% of people that voted.

There should have been a tick box for 'I do not wish to vote for any of these candidates'

this way we would have a true sense of public thought, and in this scenario compulory voting would work and I would have no issue with it

There is! (none / 0) (#113)
by pallex on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:51:42 PM EST

.There should have been a tick box for 'I do not .wish to vote for any of these candidates'

Its called writing 'fuck that' on the ballot paper. Its hard to imagine any support for non anonymous ballets in the uk, so i'm not sure exactly what forcing people to vote would achieve.

Also, i'm in Denmark at the mo, and theres no way i'd go back for the day just to vote. I can write 'fuck that' on a postcard if that will help?
Or just say that it must have got lost in the post (reasonable, given the dire condition the English postal service is currently in).

[ Parent ]
How Ironic (3.50 / 8) (#105)
by Logan on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:14:32 PM EST

So lack of voter turnout is turning the US into a dictatorship? I believe that compulsory voting is more likely to cause the problems that you claim it will fix. When every American is forced to vote, we will no longer have any excuse to dislike our government. "You can't complain, you voted for us!" as the politicians take away our money and freedom. This idea is reminiscent of certain statist countries, where you could vote for anyone you wanted, as long as they were a member of the political party in power. This, ironically, was labelled as "democracy." This point is exceptionally clear in your argument when you mention the desire for "clear political mandates." I think giving someone like the President, with that sort of power, a "clear political mandate" is like giving a loaded, automatic weapon with the safety off to a two year old.

You see, voting does not equal democracy. Democracy is not just about voting. Voting is simply a mechanism that some democracies employ. This story presumes that a democracy is utopia, and not just any democracy, but Anne Marie's vision of democracy. It seems that the word "democracy" is a magic word these days (particularly among socialists) that connotes a utopia, but I don't buy it. I believe that some of the "problems" you state (such as "apathetic cynicism" and lack of participation) are deserved by a government that no longer protects our freedoms. And I, for one, believe we should have the freedom to not pay taxes.

This story reeks of a troll. Even Congressmen have the right to abstain from a vote, and it's their job to vote!


improving the Ancient Greek voting system and more (4.00 / 2) (#106)
by Quietti on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:21:55 PM EST

Ancient Greece had compulsory participation in democracy (including voting) and it was implemented in a rather drasticaly funny way: once a public meeting has started, some volunteers patrol the streets and mark anyone found with a shameful blotch of red paint, to remind them of the responsability of participating in democracy, then they were coralled and brought forth to the assembly.

Anyhow, my opinion of Canada and UK is that since both operate based upon a "first past the poll" system that makes it possible for parties without popular support to take power anyway, they should never be considered democracies. Past the poll systems mean that if voters diluted their votes among too many secondary candidates, the one that got the biggest ammount of votes (i.e. the candidate of the flashy and powerfull party, usually) wins anyway, against the population's expressed variety of opinion.

Countries that implement proportional representation already represent 100% of the expressed voting variety, so they are democratic by definition.

However, looking at the example of the European Union, commities at the EU level are above the democratic system, because they pass decisions without the population having any voice in the process. So, while many EU countries have achieved democracy already, EU has essentially shatered a lot of its foundations and it should be watched more closely.

Also, diametrally opposite directions followed by the Europan Commission, often in contradiction of the European Union, should too be watched more carefully, as EC involves certain East European countries where democracy is not anywhere close to happen and doesn't even exist as an utopia.

Anyhow, what I think we really need is as follow:

  • In countries that do not implement proportional representation (e.g. Canada, UK), implement a None of the above option on ballots, to allow people making a clear statement that they neither support nor trust any of the candidates.
  • Countries that do not support proportional representation should still be converted to proportional by means of United Nations or European Nation directive, if the politicians in place seem recalcitrant in implementing it on their own will.

The whole point of civilization is to reduce how much the average person has to think. - Stef Murky
is the US a democracy then: (none / 0) (#114)
by Surly on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:52:38 PM EST

>> Canada and UK ... makes it possible for
>> parties without popular support to take power
>> anyway

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Gore did get more votes for President than Bush, didn't he? I guess then, by your stands the USA is also not a democracy?

[ Parent ]
indeed, USA is not a democracy (none / 0) (#120)
by Quietti on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 05:00:44 PM EST

I wrote:
Canada and UK ... makes it possible for parties without popular support to take power anyway

Surly replied:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Gore did get more votes for President than Bush, didn't he? I guess then, by your stands the USA is also not a democracy?

USA is indeed not a democracy, not only because a candidate that received a minority of support was put into power, but also because American multinationals pretty much dictate what is legal and what is not in USA, by forking indencent amounts of campain contributions towards unduely steering the sytem to favor their business.

Even worse, American multinational are proven to receive criminal support from the NSA and other American spying agencies to win lucrative deals against foreign competitors, by receiving illegally intercepted copies of the foreign companie's proposition to a coveted customer.

In a nutshell, a country that cannot abide by fair pay is NOT a democracy.

The whole point of civilization is to reduce how much the average person has to think. - Stef Murky
[ Parent ]
Low Voter Turnout <> Apathy (4.00 / 2) (#110)
by tudlio on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:47:20 PM EST

I think it's inaccurate to assume (as both the poster and many commenters seem to) that low voter turnout is caused by voter apathy.

There are any number of reasons people don't vote, and lack of interest is probably the least important. Compulsory voting probably won't address the problem unless you first address some of the underlying causes of low voter turnout.

I haven't read the follow on book, but I did read Piven and Cloward's original Why Americans Don't Vote. It's an excellent and thorough exploration of, well, of why Americans don't vote.

Can't comment on how much of that book is applicable outside the U.S.

insert self-deprecatory humor here
What's the mechanism? (3.50 / 2) (#115)
by Xenophon Fenderson, the Carbon(d)ated on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 03:21:03 PM EST

You have failed to explain how compulsory voting will cause "a shift in the burden of registration", "[discourage] many illegal shenanigans", "instill civic habits and participatory culture in society", "increase respect for the political process", cause "true political mandates", or provide for "greater representation of currently disenfranchised segments of society". Certainly, the benefit of such events can hardly be argued, but how these would come about via compulsory voting was not explained. Would you care to go into more detail?

Rev. Dr. Xenophon Fenderson, the Carbon(d)ated, KSC, mhm21x16, and the Patron Saint of All Things Plastic fnord
I'm proud of my Northern Tibetian heritage!
Today's So Called Democracy is Rule by the FEW! (4.00 / 2) (#116)
by twilken on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 03:50:05 PM EST

Why bother to vote at all?

In today's world, it is assumed without question that majority rule democracy is the best way to organize humanity. To even offer a criticism of majority rule democracy is to invite an immediate and often emotionally charged attack on oneself. We are quickly asked to choose between majority rule democracy or the dictatorships of communism/fascism. We are quickly reminded that if we don't like it here in a majority ruled democracy, we are free to leave.

And, majority rule democracy which is rule by the most, appears to offer a clear advance over dictatorships which is rule by the one, or oliarchy which is rule by the few.

Majority rule democracy in its purest form was found in the ancient Greek city-states and early Roman Republic, these were direct democracies in which all citizens could speak and vote in assemblies. This was possible because of the small size of the city-states almost never more than 10,000 citizens. However, even these ancient democracies did not presuppose equality of all individuals; the majority of the populace, notably slaves and women, had no political rights at all. So even here the majority really did not rule.

In modern representative democracies we find the majority rule mechanism used to select our representatives, to make decisions within committees and to make decisions within the legislative bodies. In the United States, we elect one president, 100 Senators and 435 Congressman. This is one President for ~276 million Americans. There are two Senators for each state. Senatorial representation would vary from one Senator for ~16 million Californians down to one Senator for ~350,000 Delawarians. The members of the first House of Representatives were elected on the basis of 1 representative for every 30,000 inhabitants, but at least 1 for each state. At present the size of the House is fixed at 435 members, elected on the basis of 1 representative for about 500,000 inhabitants.

Our representatives do not even know us. If any Congressman met with 10 of his constituents every day for 365 days a year, it would take over 137 years for him just to meet all of them. And Congressmen are only elected for two year terms. If our Congressman don't even know us how can they represent us?

So if we carefully examine modern representative democracy scientifically, we discover it is an oliarchy. In other words, we are ruled by the few. When we go to the poles to elect a President, we are simply electing the leader of the few who rule. Majority rule democracy ends for we the people the moment we exit the voting booth. And, our elected leader will have no need of our opinion for four years.

Its even less representative than it appears!

Both houses of Congress facilitate business by the committee system, and each has a fixed number of permanent committees, called standing committees, the chief function of which is considering and preparing legislation.

As the United States grew in population and in influence in world affairs, the volume and complexity of the matters arising in Congress also increased. Due consideration to all matters submitted to the Congress could not be given in open debate on the floor of the Senate and House. As a result, the standing committees of the Congress became the arbiters of the fate of practically all legislation. There are 22 standing committees in the House and 16 standing committees in the Senate. Even though majority rule is used to make decisions in these committees once the decision is made the results are imposed on ~276,000,000 Americans.

In recent years, the American people have attempted to exert their will by making use of ballot initiatives. Almost always if these initiatives are not popular with the few that rule, they are quickly dismantled. In November of 1996, the majority of Californians voted for Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action, Proposition 215, which legalized medical use of marijuana, and Proposition 187, which denied legal benefits to illegal immigrants. By January of 1997, all three were hung up in the courts or in a jurisdictional squabble with the federal government. None was close to being enforced.

By May of 1998, Proposition 215, the Marijuana for Medical Use Initiative which passed by a 56% majority throughout the state and by an 80% majority in San Francisco has all but been dismantled by the Few who Rule. They had succeeded in closing the majority of the medical marijuana clinics which had opened throughout the state, and were pressing criminal charges against many of those involved in the clinics. Obviously, the majority does not rule in California.

This fact is being increasingly realized by citizens across the nation. Voting in our representative democracy does not make a difference. And we the people appear less and less interested in pretending that our voting has any effect whatever. Voter turnout has been declining steadily since 1960. And as reported in the Wall Street Journal for November 9, 2000:

"Overall voter turnout for this week's election barely budged despite nearly $1 billion of campaign television advertisements and the closest presidential contest in decades

"About 50.7% of the nation's 200 million eligible voters cast ballots this week, marginally greater than the rock-bottom level seen in 1996, but significantly lower than the 1992 level, said Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate. Four years ago, only 49% of those qualified to vote actually did so, the lowest turnout since 1924. By contrast, some 55% of the electorate went to the polls in 1992's close race between Bill Clinton and President George H.W. Bush."

So why vote at all!

"Always tell only the truth, and all the truth, and do so promptly - right now." --Buckminster Fuller

Very Interesting (none / 0) (#117)
by Shaggie76 on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 03:59:32 PM EST

Thanks for writing that -- it was very interesting!

[ Parent ]
What would be the point? (5.00 / 5) (#119)
by Znork on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 04:38:52 PM EST

I believe the reason that fewer and fewer people vote is that by now the democratic system in many countries has very little to do with democracy. There is no longer any real choice where the policies of government will reflect the will of the people. The further this process has gone in a country, the less people vote, and in my opinion they are fairly correct; there is little to be interested in, little to vote for and their vote does not very much matter.

Forcing people to vote would not change that.

The basis for democracy is the people voting to choose one or more politicians whose opinions and politics should reflect the wills of the voters. This idea has been corrupted, and today what people get is not a political idea, but carefully engineered messages that will garner enough votes to win power. Not enough votes in the testing groups? Change the message. Try again. The polls are too low? Change the messages slightly again.

Why should the voters believe in a politician when the politician doesnt even believe in his own message? It's not his beliefs up there, its a commercial, no more real than the average hygiene product commercial. They want the power and that is it. They hold no political ideals or dreams, ideals and dreams have no place in election strategies.

The end result is parties that put forth almost exactly the same messages, slightly tilted this way or that, to bring the exact number of voters they need on board. The end result is voters that dont vote anymore because for most people there is nothing to vote for. The message has been so engineered that it isnt saying anything anymore.

The disease affecting democracy can be seen in more and more western countries. The more election strategists and media consultants that are brought on board, the more gray, palatable, digestible and diluted the message becomes, the fewer people vote.

And fewer people respect politicans.

After all, what is there to respect about a commercial?

And fewer people are interested in politics.

After all, there is no place for political ideas in politics anymore.

Id suggest that all forms of polls were to be forbidden for a year before an election. Id suggest that any politician caught testing their messages on test groups should be disqualified.

The people should get to hear the dreams, ideals, solutions and what each politician or party wants to do. That is what they should present, something that could actually be believable.

Then the voters decide what they want.

Blame the Media (4.00 / 1) (#121)
by sventhatcher on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 05:30:12 PM EST

Politicians have largely stopped actually working in favor of their ideals and opinions and started playing to the camera.

Instant Approval Polls

After every TV appearance, every debate, every public appearance, politicians can get poll results showing their approval ratings and what a random section of the public thinks of their necktie. No one is radical anymore, because radical doesn't sell as well.

[ Parent ]

Semi-Recent Examples of Radicals (none / 0) (#130)
by AArthur on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 08:55:12 PM EST

After every TV appearance, every debate, every public appearance, politicians can get poll results showing their approval ratings and what a random section of the public thinks of their necktie. No one is radical anymore, because radical doesn't sell as well.

Barry Goldwater in '64 attacked tabacco companies, in the South, which would be the area in which he would be getting alot of votes. All of the polls said that was the wrong thing to do, but he did it any ways (of course he lost by a very large margin).

George McGovern in '72 proposed giving every American a monthly check for $1000 or $500. Every approval poll showed this was a bad idea -- he backed down slightly, but still stood for the idea.

I'm sure there are more recent examples, but these are probably the big examples of people ignoring polls. Lossing big time does tend to scare parties away from these people, as nobody likes to support a loser.

Andrew B. Arthur | aarthur@imaclinux.net | http://hvcc.edu/~aa310264
[ Parent ]

Party Support in our System (none / 0) (#135)
by sventhatcher on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 11:55:33 PM EST

Party support in our system is pretty much necessary in order to be even mildly successful. It doesn't matter if people are radical if they lose support for their radical opinions.

Example of party support:

The republican party made no secret of favoring George W. Bush in the primaries. The result being that he won the nomination as opposed to a far more deserving Senator John McClain.

[ Parent ]
Radical democracy (none / 0) (#139)
by Znork on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 03:53:06 AM EST

Well, while these are a bit old, Im sure you're right and there are more recent examples, altho I suspect that they will eventually disappear. The point is, that while these candidates lost, they were actually a win for democracy. They gave people something to vote for or against. Something to care at all about.

That we so rarely hear this kind of ideas doesnt mean they arent there. It just means they dont ever get out, because candidates are not saying anything that hasnt been tested and rated before they say it. We are to make up our minds and decide between several obviously constructed commercial campaigns of little meaning, not between any political messages.

It is tragic. Those who express their true views and say what they wish to do are the ones who stay true to democracy. Win or lose, that is for the voters to decide. It doesnt matter if the views are radical or not, what matters is that they are the real views. That they give the voters something to vote for or against.

I wonder when we will be asked to choose between the candidates who are also each others running mates. Choose - Gore for President with GWB as VP, or GWB as President with Al Gore for VP!

[ Parent ]
From the other side of the fence... (4.00 / 1) (#163)
by tudlio on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 09:05:52 PM EST

...most politicians would tell you that they only do what they have to do in order to get elected, which is the necessary precursor to representing their constituents.

It's probably true that a lot of them lose sight of why they got into politics in the first place, but I bet a majority of them started with noble, idealistic goals.

Check out The Buying of the Congress: it's a pretty good (if a little dogmatic) examination of the problem from a structural point of view.

Personally, I think banning polls is a great idea. An even cooler (though almost certainly unworkable) idea is to get a whole bunch of people nationwide to agree to lie to pollsters, enough that it pushes the statistical accuracy of polls below a sustainable level. Call it the Citizen Liar movement.

insert self-deprecatory humor here
[ Parent ]
US Centric Post..... (4.00 / 3) (#124)
by Elkor on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 05:57:54 PM EST

First, the United States is not a Democracy. It is a Republic. (Hence that line "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and TO THE REPUBLIC for which it stands....")

The general masses elect representatives to pass laws and mandate societal behavior.

In a democracy, everyone gets to vote on everything. This doesn't happen in the US.

Second, fines will not ensure that everyone votes. It will only ensure that those people prevented from voting will contribute more to the federal/state governments coffers. Given the choice between a $50 fine for not voting or losing your job because your boss won't give you time off and you work 6am-8pm, which will you choose?

Third, the current system is set up to effect change very slowly. The Electoral College actually elects the president based on how the state decides their representatives vote. Many do it by what the majority of the state say, others by what the state senate dictate. I don't think any of them break it up to represent the voting demographic of the state.

Additionally, if there fails to be an clear winner (i.e. nobody receives sufficient electoral votes) then the decision resolves to the House of Rep. They have X amount of time to make a decision on who gets to be Pres. If they fail, then it goes to the Senate. Same story. (that might be reversed). So, even if enough 3rd party candidates won enough individuals states to prevent anyone from getting the requisite Electoral votes, whoever has a majority in Congress (which will almost certainly be Republicrat) gets to decide.

Aside from the other arguments people have put out, compulsory voting won't change this simple process here in the US. And the Republicrats have a vested interest in keeping the system in place, as it is the system that gives them power which gets them money from the lobbyists.

Nope, the US is screwed for quite a while yet.

Who voted Libertarian as his "none of the above" vote.
"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
Apathy Factor (4.50 / 2) (#125)
by sventhatcher on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 06:11:03 PM EST

I think compulsory voting probably is a bad idea, because of the apathy factor. It's better to keep a system around in which only the people with a true interest in the democratic process actually bother to exert their democratic power. If too many people are voting by whim or utter randomness, the votes of those who actually care can begin to border on being meaningless and our democratic system can become more of a high school-ish popularity contest than it already is.

Still. I think we should do everything possible to make the voting process easing and simple, and to get people interested in the democratic process.

Shifting the Burden of Registration

Problems with compulsory voting aside, I'm usually opposed to giving the government more reason to keep track of it citizens individually.

Still. Registration should be easier and more heavily encouraged right off the bat, because lots of states require registration well in advance of elections. I've certainly known a few people who've wanted to vote, but by the time they got around to registering it was too late. They simply weren't aware of the deadlines.

High Schools should try harder to encourage seniors to take an active interest in politics and if nothing else to get registered in case they do at some point. Colleges should as well. College is supposed to prepare people to live somewhat cultured and educated lives in our society, right? I think it might not be out of line to require college students to become registered voters.


Re: Apathy Factor (none / 0) (#195)
by Overnight Delivery on Mon Jun 18, 2001 at 03:10:09 AM EST

It's better to keep a system around in which only the people with a true interest in the democratic process actually bother to exert their democratic power.

The problem with this argument is that it assumes people are not voting because they do not care or do not understand the issues involved.

What about the people who aren't voting because they believe their vote doesn't count?

What usually happens is that no policy gets directed at those who don't vote. Hence they have even more reason not to vote because when a few people do actually vote nothing comes of it.

Compulsory voting means that there are votes for the taking and someone will (usually) try get those votes. When people aren't voting you have to first get them to want to vote then get them to vote for you. This is a lot harder, so hard that no one often bothers.

[ Parent ]

Not necessarily a cure. (3.00 / 1) (#127)
by coffee17 on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 06:51:28 PM EST

Just to take a few quick examples, you mention illegally barring voters. Why do you think that this would occur if there was a fine for not voting. Heck, that would probably be viewed as a bonus, not only do you prevent some of your opposition from voting, but you get them fined as well.

Similarly I doubt that registering to vote would become easier. I legally have to register my car. I bought it from a lady who was moving out of the country (didn't give me a forwarding address), and when I tried to get it registered I found that the paper work she gave me was incomplete, and I had to go thru a big hassle because I couldn't get the paperwork. 7 months later and 4 fines for driving an unregistered car (despite having a well-prepared story, and always carrying all the accumulated paper work at all times), I finally have it registered.

Incidentally requiring voter registration, and voting would probably end up in the founding of several new beaurcracies with the potential end result of making it harder to vote. Sure, more people might be motivated to do so, but I could probably motivate someone who's sitting to get out of hir seat with a cattle prod. Does that mean that I should apply such motivation.

If so few of the registered voting population is voting it could mean a variety of things. It could be that things are so good the non-voters imagine things can't go wrong, which could be interpreted as a good thing. Alternately, it might be because of bad faith in one's fellow citizens, if 90%+ of answering people say they'll vote for bush or gore, the two obvious joke candidates, why should I consider voting at all if no one else will take things seriously, which can be interpretted poorly in many ways. I think that instead of requiring voter registration, a country should try to look at why so few people want to vote.


Why this would help blacks (1.00 / 1) (#156)
by psicE on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 12:41:09 PM EST

Let's go through a sample scenario, where 50% of black voters in a county are prevented from voting by conservative poll-workers (what happened in the last election, about). These blacks would be charged a fine, but they decide to bring it to court, same as with traffic offenses. The courts realize that so many people were unable to vote for a reason, investigates, and finds out what the poll-workers did. They then pardon the blacks and impose [bigger] fines on the pollworkers and the Republican Party, and possibly call a revote in that area with different workers.

[ Parent ]
misguided at best. (3.50 / 2) (#128)
by Requiem on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 07:09:49 PM EST

I agree with another poster who said that this story reeks of a troll. That being said, I'm always the newbie that bites, so here we go:

Apathetic cynicism is no longer an option.

How so? Do you mean "my vote doesn't count."? Surely that would be increased even more with 100% turnout. Or maybe you mean that because everyone was voting, there'd be more respect for the political process? Look, if someone's not interested in politics, forcing them to vote won't do a whole lot. They'll go in there, mark an X on a random candidate, and get the hell out so they can do whatever they'd rather be doing.

To hold a bare majority of the voting population (currently, 50% of total) means that a quarter of the population sets the agenda for the rest.

That's right. And you know what? That other 50% that you mention doesn't care enough to go out and vote. They have the opportunity to do so, but choose not to.

Cry me a river. Guess what? Last year, I didn't vote in the municipal elections. By doing so, I said that I trusted those who were more informed and more enthusiastic to pick who they thought should be the new mayor/school board trustee/whatever. Honestly, I don't always vote. There are times when I feel that by voting, I'll be damaging the process by not knowing or caring enough. In those cases, I just stay home.

I vote for federal and provincial politicans; in a small city like Saskatoon, I don't really care who's running it. I know, I know, I'm a part of the problem.

The American two-party system stagnates because anyone who would choose alternatives such as a socialist or nationalist party never casts a vote for one.

Look, there's not a lot of socialists in the states. There's not a lot of socialists in general, because socialists are a rather radical bunch, and most people tend to fall towards the centre of the political spectrum.

For what it's worth, I voted Green in the last federal election. And not the American Green party, the Canadian one. Did I throw away my vote? Basically. The Green candidate in my riding got 420 votes, as opposed to around 12,000 by the incumbant MP and 7000 for the NDP candidate. But you know what? I don't feel particularly bad about doing so.

And now, the arguments against compulsory voting...

Though the death is slower in coming, low voter turnout can strangle a democracy.

You want to give me an example of this? I'd like to see some sources. But then again, this whole goddamned article is a troll, so I guess it was rather silly for me to ask.

It removes an important outlet for dissatisfaction with the system.

I agree with you on this; a far more effective method of showing dissatisfaction is spoiling your ballot in some way. When you do so, somebody actually *sees* it.

As previously mentioned, the dominant trend has been towards extending the vote as much as possible.

Yeah, but extend doesn't mean force. Sorry.

Extending the vote? (4.00 / 2) (#140)
by infraoctarine on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 04:21:13 AM EST

You claim legitimacy for your suggestion by arguing that it would follow a "trend in American constitutional jurisprudence towards extending the vote as much as possible". But it doesn't.

The trend has been towards extending the right to vote to encompass more people. The reasoning behind this is not to increase voter turnout, but to ensure equal rights for all citizens.

Forcing everyone to use their vote is a completely different issue. It would not be an extension of this trend.

Austria (3.00 / 1) (#141)
by Platy on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 10:25:08 AM EST

Some words about compulsory voting in Austria: This is the case for the presidental elections (please notice that the president in Austria has faar less power than e.g. in the US) but usually it doesnt matter if you dont vote because all people who didnt vote are pardoned.
So it is a bit pointless here....
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.
Disagree (3.00 / 1) (#142)
by Nurgled on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 12:08:00 PM EST

I'd rather that people who don't care have no vote at all, than vote on a whim with no thought or consideration.

If people are forced to vote, they are likely to just pick a candidate at random, thus skewing the result and possibly leading to the vote of those who actually made an informed decision being obscured.

A different tactic for increasing turnout (4.00 / 2) (#143)
by Saxifrage on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 01:45:55 PM EST

In particular, everyone always points to increasing apathy in voting-age population, and says, "Well, we should increase turnout," and then they come up with solutions which make it easier and easier for apathetic people to vote. Do we really need their vote?


The reason that we don't need it is that there is a small but definitely not apathetic population that we could extend the vote to: Interested populations under the age of 18.

I know the old argument, "Teenagers aren't mature enough to make good choices," but you know what? Most people aren't well-educated enough about the candidate they end up voting for to make their vote worth the paper it's printed on -- it's just a slip that elects someone, not a conscious choice, at that point.

By comparison, I know a number of people (albeit a small number) who are very, very highly interested in politics and in political candidates, at my school, but we're disenfranchised in the way that hurts the most: We have no voice, and politicians refuse to listen to us, since we can't vote.

Rant: I mean, I'm sorry, but the only reason politicians even pretend to care about prescription drug prices is because senior citizens are very active, and scream loudly whenever their programs get cut. Around here, you can go to any high school and try and compare the programs offered 15 years ago to the programs offered today. It's a substantial decrease. But we can't get any more money because senior citizens are the ones politicians listen to.

What better way to increase turnout of people who are really, truly interested in politics, then creating a special process to, say, allow someone from 15-17 prove that they have a basic working knowledge of the political process (more than most people have to know to vote!), and then allow them to register to vote. I would have filled out reams of paperwork if it meant I could've voted in this November's general election!

"I may disagree vehemently with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it." - Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire
coercion (3.00 / 1) (#180)
by cp on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 11:04:36 PM EST

The reason why the vote should not be extended to persons under 18 (at least unemancipated minors) is that there is far too much possibility for coercion from their parents. Anyone who's living under his parents' roof and subsisting on their income would be powerless to prevent a domineering parent from demanding his vote be cast a certain way. Instead of having "one man, one vote", you'd have some people effectively casting several votes.

Besides, participation by 18-year-olds is the lowest of any age group, so younger . So you're trading a whole lot of potential for corruption for what's probably an even smaller return. Which isn't to say it's never been done. In Cambridge, MA, minors aged sixteen and seventeen nearly got the vote in municipal (mostly City Council and school board) elections, but there, the (greater) interest high schoolers have in determining their school board probably outweighs the (reduced) possibility of fraud.

[ Parent ]

Motor Voter Registration (3.00 / 1) (#147)
by brandonne on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 02:43:36 PM EST

I completely disagree with compulsory voting. We'd probably end up with Bart Simpson or a Ficus tree for president. (OK, that may not be a bad thing)

However, the difficulty in registering can be fixed, here in Colorado and many other states, we have something called motor voter registration. This means when you go to get your Drivers License or get it updated with a current address, you are asked if you want to register to vote, no extra paperwork or lines to wait in, One signature and you're in. Simplifying the process makes it more likely that those who care will vote. But still, lots of people don't care, that is thier choice, just don't complain when we end up with someone like Bush for president.

American Presidents: Laughing Stocks (none / 0) (#153)
by renai42 on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 08:00:14 AM EST

>I completely disagree with compulsory voting. We'd probably end up with Bart Simpson or a Ficus tree for president. (OK, that may not be a bad thing)

OK, from the Australian perspective, you ended up with "Dubya" Bush. Come on, do you really think he's that different from Bart Simpson?

I liked the way one American comedian put it: Basically, in 1992, Al Gore (the main other presidential candidate) was setting up the business relationships that let the Internet as we know it today exist.

By his own admission, in 1992, George "Dubya" Bush was getting pissed and going to parties.

Come on people :) The world is laughing at you!

No offense, I guess I'm just jaded by the amount of crap American television and culture we get subjected to in Australia.

[ Parent ]

Our Pres (none / 0) (#175)
by brandonne on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 05:03:58 PM EST

I didn't vote for George, and neither did the majority of Americans, which says a lot about our voting system. Which I am activly trying to change.

[ Parent ]
Oh, yeah, like anyone else is better (none / 0) (#178)
by weirdling on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 05:34:07 PM EST

First, Gore was a member of a large committee that created the internet. Gore is amazingly adept at taking credit but not particularly technologically inclined. Second, Dubya has a masters degree, albeit an MBA, whereas Gore dropped out of graduate school. It is a widespread myth that Gore is smarter than Bush. Taking their respective academic carreers in comparison should give lie to that myth.
Besides, plenty of European leaders have demonstrated their lack of wisdom. Majors comes to mind...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Holland does NOT have compulsory voting. (5.00 / 1) (#148)
by Surial on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 02:57:39 PM EST

I live in holland, I haven't voted last year, and I'm not currently residing in jail :-)...

Anyway, there is no compulsory voting here. I do like the idea that winning an election with a high turnup being worth more than winning an election with a low turnup.
"is a signature" is a signature.

neither does Switzerland (none / 0) (#162)
by niklaus on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 05:56:32 PM EST

I live there, I guess I knew if it did. And I doubt that the other european countries mentioned (Austria, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Greece) have it (at least in important elections), since elections, including turnout, in other counties are always on the news and I never heard of compulsary voting before. The turnout in the elections reported is rarely above 70% so those countries would have to fine about 30% of their voting population.

[ Parent ]
johnny agrees with annie mariee! (3.00 / 1) (#149)
by johnny on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 09:42:45 PM EST

I believe that the notion of civic responsibility is vital to the maintenance of a civil society. Here in the US of A, however, "civic responsibility" is such an anachronistic notion that to seriously propose it is to invite ridicule. The only contemporary proponents of civic responsibility who are not immediately dismissed as naive or misguided are the military.

(Paradoxically, when the millitary is all-volunteer, as in USA, there is a well documented trend towards authoritarian, anti-democratic thinking within this very bastion of civic responsibility! In fact, one might argue that the military's notion of "civic responsibility" is often the very thing that the Declaration of Independence was written to refute! But that's another story!).

It follows that Anne Marie's post is dismissed as a troll. But I'm no troll and I agree with her! How (un)ironic is that?!

I was not always true that civic responsibility was laughable. The signers of the Declaration of Independence famously mutually pledged their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor." Millions of "citizen soldiers" have served (& died, etc) in causes such as the abolition of slavery (I know, I know, the war was about Preserving the Union, not abolition. Right.) or putting down the Nazis. Even as recently as President Kennedy the admonition "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," was accepted at face value.

Since then, to give the Time Magazine/Cliff Notes summary, we've had Viet Nam (deception at high levels leading to pointless death, immeasurable waste), Watergate (deception at high levels reveal extent of hidden (i.e. not democratic) forces setting policy), and most destructive of all the whole Ronald Reagan schtick (career politician rides to highest office on incessant refrain that government (excepting the military) is inherently incompentent or perhaps even evil.) According to Reagan, the only responsible attitude of a citizen towards her or his government is contempt. The current crop of USians entering the age of majority grew up watching the President of the country and his vocal accolytes daily urinating on the very notion of "ask what you can do for your country." So, now we find that many people these days don't believe in voting. Surprise, surprise, surprise!

[Open parenthetical rant that will eventually close and bring us back to the notion of compulsory voting, I promise.]

Meanwhile, to get up on johnny's favorite hobbyhorse, transnational corporations, singly and in concert, have acheived hegemony over much of the world's social policy, which was once the provice of goverment. (The *ligitimate* province of democratic government, I might add.)

Moreover, since these corporations control the media and thus the language of our political discourse, they manage to set social policy while convincing most of us that they are (merely) setting economic policy. Hence we are told that things like NAFTA and the WTO are about trade and efficiency, when really they are about consolidtating power, land ownership, union-busting, and the weakening of national sovereinty, especially in the weaker, poorer nations. But also here.

Why do we allow this to happen? Why do we allow corporations to usurp our democratic rights and responsibilities? Because we have been sold on the transparently false notion that this new system, properly called transnational mercantilism (or some neologism) is actually the perfection of capitalism, which people associate with freedom and prosperity.

How have they sold us this stuff? By using propoganda techniques famously developed by Nazis, copied by OSS and CIA, and perfected by advertising agencies (many of which were founded by former OSS people)(this is true, by the way).

So on the one hand we told by people like the President of the US and the Senate majority, make that minority, leader, that government is shit, and on the other hand we are told that our wealth and freedom can only be assured if we surrender our democratic rights to the corporate boards who control the World Trade Organization. And people buy it. So why the fuck would they vote?

[End parenthetical rant].

I, however, believe that we all have an obligation to support our democratic instutions. No, strike that. We all have an obligation to BE our democratic institutions. I further believe that we are a lot closer to the meltdown of civil society than most people I know believe (maybe I read too much dystopian fiction.) (Like my own! See links below and above.)

Frinstance, I believe in compulsory Jury duty. Without juries that are representative of the population, there can be no confidence that a defendant will be tried by a jury of his or her peers. Without such confidence there can be no confidence in the judicial system. Without that society tends to break down, because people will not abide a system they think is unjust if there is anything they can do about it. Therefore, if you get called to serve on a jury, you get your ass down to the courtoom and you serve on the jury. It's your civic duty. Do it and shut up about it.

Likewise, by analogy and as better already explained by Anne Marie, for voting.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.

A $3 Bill Accepted At Face Value (none / 0) (#187)
by Steve B on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 08:29:06 AM EST

Even as recently as President Kennedy the admonition "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," was accepted at face value.

And some of us always knew that it meant, "Ask not what the people in power can do for you, ask what you can do for the people in power."

[ Parent ]

Two arguments for (and no it's not a troll) (3.00 / 1) (#152)
by pavlos on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 02:48:23 AM EST

I think compulsory voting would probably be of mild benefit to most democracies. Here are two arguments that I think were not adequately covered:

  • Elections are influenced by precedent: Suppose that you are in a minority and that minority has lower turnout than the dominant group. You have, of course, the right to vote but you think "no-one of us is going to bother this time either, so it's just a waste of time". Note that this is rational behavior from the individual and you can't answer "your minority deserves it because it is apathetic".

  • Compulsory voting would counter intimidation: Compulsory voting was introduced in several Eropean countries to prevent husbands, parents, employers, etc. from intimidating people over whom they had power (whereas anonymous ballots are to prevent intimidation by the state). This was a real concern, especially in the case of dependent women. Today, I think this would be a real concern in the case of low-income workers.

    I do not know to what extent these arguments apply to the US, but the answer should be readily available through the relevant bureau of statistics. For example how is voter turnout distributed by race? sex? income? Surely this data is not hard to gather (except for income) and would be politically very instructive.

    That said, I think the positive effect would be small, because there are other problems with the current state of western "democracies", which have been adequately pointed out. If you set out to fix them, compulsory voting would be low on the list.

    Finally, please excuse the rant but why are people calling the post a troll? It is well written and makes a plausible (it is done in many countries) and serious suggestion. And why did so many posters assume that "if people were forced to vote they'd vote badly". What, out of spite? Because they are too immature to know their interests? This paragraph is a troll, not the original post!


  • Probably not (none / 0) (#177)
    by weirdling on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 05:30:40 PM EST

    There are two huge voting blocks in the US: the elderly and mothers. Both vote regularly. The US is remarkably free of various forms of intimidation. While the NAACP has sued about alleged stiff-arming in Florida, it hasn't been established that that did happen, and it certainly hasn't been established that it would have changed the election.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    This would be healthy for the country and govt. (none / 0) (#159)
    by fross on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 02:59:58 PM EST

    I live in the UK, where we've just had our elections, as you all know. i have to say, the level of apathy and general disconnectedness regarding the election here was frankly scary. the turnout here this time should have been higher because:
    a) just a few years ago we have had state records systems updated, so people can get on the electoral role quicker and easier (eg, people moving house)
    b) the postal votes system has been greatly increased, so should be available for anyone not wanting to go to a polling station.

    and yet, our turnout is under 60%. in many seats, under 50%. coulped with our [ridiculous] "first past the post" system, this means that less than 25% of registered voters actually voted for the party now in power (and with a massive majority, no less).

    i think it is not only people's entitlement to vote, but their duty and responsibility. politics has become a subject of apathy, due more to the media than anything else (endless monotonous coverage, coupled with dragging up every last piece of filth on politicians...), though of course the electoral system is still what (ultimately) runs our country.

    with the proliferation of easier systems to vote [postal, and hopefully soon online?], the argument has to be made about whether voting should be made compulsory. the only argument against this is people stating the example of those who dont want to vote, doing so for someone at random thus skewing the results. this is simply an implementation issue :>

    any compulsory voting system would need to have a "none of the above" option, whereby people who do not feel any of the candidates represent their views can choose a "i have cast my vote, and it goes to none of these parties". this would also be useful as a statistic to distinguish apathy from disenchantment.

    now, how to get this implemented in a democracy... heh.


    A vote for Gush is a vote for Bore... (4.00 / 2) (#160)
    by tapir on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 03:43:21 PM EST

    Compulsory voting doesn't address the real problems of democracy, it just would waste our tax dollars tracking down and persecuting violators.

    I think the biggest reason why people don't vote is that the differences between major candidates are, in the grand scheme of things, insignificant. To become a candidate for the Democratic or Republican parties at the national levels, you've got to be beholden to the big money interests that finance the parties. You've got to be somebody that billionaires approve of. From their perspective, either Gush or Bore would have been a fine president.

    George McGovern found this out the hard way in 1972, and the Democrats have never recovered from the terrible loss, where McGovern got something like 33% of the popular vote. Although he was bitterly opposed by the "establishment" of the Democratic party, his strong stance against the Vietnam war, together with a good staff helped him mobilize a grassroots effort that won him the majority of the Democratic primaries. He outmaneuvered his opponents at the convention to win the nomination.

    The next day he chose Tom Eagleton as his running mate. Then it got out to the press that Eagleton has a history of mental illness and had been treated with electroshock therapy. Although he was being pressured to drop Eagleton from the ticket, McGovern told the public that he was "100% behind" Eagleton and would never drop him. McGovern was then told by his financial backers that he wouldn't get a dime from them if he didn't drop Eagleton -- that there wouldn't be any TV ads, any plane to fly around in, nothing.

    So McGovern dropped Eagleton. And, having done what he was told to do by his financial backers, he couldn't claim to be be any different from any other politician. McGovern's campaign never recovered from the shock. Nixon vastly outspent him on television and for on-the-ground campaigning, used illegal tactics like the Watergate break-in, announced plans to end the Vietnam war, and manipulated the economy to ensure his reelection.

    McGovern was beaten so badly, that the Democrats haven't fielded another left-wing candidate ever since. They probably never will. The electorate also learned that Democrats can't deliver on their promises to promote social equality -- so the Democrats have toned down these messages and refined the techniques of ruling by television and opinion poll developed by Nixon and Reagan.

    The stalemate between Clinton and the Republicans paralyzed the left in America in the 1990's. As the story of Clinton the rapist surfaced, leftists were in denial, too busy telling Republicans to keep out of Clinton's pants to notice that Clinton was selling them up the river. In the meantime, operatives behind Clinton were running a campaign of political domination and sabotage to gain control of left-oriented organizations such as Pacifica and the National Organization of Women. With "welfare reform", NAFTA, and no improvements in automobile fuel efficiency, the story of the Clinton administraton was the story of betrayal.

    The good news is that the Green Party is growing rapidly. Although many voters were "scared at the ballot box" into voting for Gore, it's becoming increasingly clear that the role of the Democratic Party in America is to maintain the illusion that Americans have a two-party system. Particularly in the Midwest, in states like Ohio and Minnesota, professional political organizers are defecting from the Democrats and helping Green candidates get margins of 20-30% in statewide elections. Greens have already won about 20 spring elections across America, and will win many more this fall.

    Even in the last couple of weeks the struggle between the "power elite" and the rest of us has been heating up. The web is increasingly being dominated by a smaller and smaller group of corporations, and everywhere from city council meetings to the studios of WBAI, the establishment is resorting to violence to preserve it's power. It's time for people to get involved and to show them that they can't get away with this, that the way to a sane and sustainable future is more democracy, not less.

    An Alternate Idea (4.00 / 1) (#161)
    by weathervane on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 05:04:08 PM EST

    In my opinion, the problem with current elections has less to do with inadequate turnouts than uneducated voters. Towards that end, I would implement a simple system that would cost a fair amount of money but would likely pay for itself with the heavy fines that would surely be issued.

    • Item 1 - Compulsory Registration

      With heavy fines for failure to register. I would suggest that they be in the $1000 US range to make it very clear that this is very important.

    • Item 2 - Pass The Voter's Test

      This is the most important and would improve almost any political system. Voters would be randomly asked 10 factual questions about the candidates and issues from a list of about 200 questions. These questions would be selected by a non-partisan selection committee. The questions and answers would be published previous to the vote. In order to vote, you would need to correctly answer 7 of the 10 questions correctly

      Failing the test would also be subject to a fine.

    • Item 3 - None of the Above

      As many other have suggested, none of the above should be a clearly available option, and if None of the Above wins, the entire process, including candidate nominations should be restarted. In addition, the candidates who previously stood for election should ALL be barred from ever standing for election ever again. I would probably also favor fining them large amounts of money and parading them through the constituency so people could pelt them with eggs and rotten tomatoes.

    Of course, all of this is politically impossible since the powers that be have a vested interest in apathetic, uneducated voters.

    Yeah, stick it to the poor (3.00 / 1) (#176)
    by weirdling on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 05:26:54 PM EST

    $1000 for failure to comply with registration laws? Geez. So, a poor family goes without food because they failed to register for whatever reason, but it got the vote out!

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    RE:An Alternate Idea (4.00 / 1) (#191)
    by jcolter on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 10:15:20 AM EST

    It would be politically impossible because I would never vote for someone that proposed a poltical test!

    [ Parent ]
    ACE project (MLP) (4.00 / 1) (#164)
    by pavlos on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 09:26:52 PM EST

    A comprehensive account of many different electoral systems can be found in the ACE project (www.aceproject.org). The site is not radical or imaginative, but it is certainly informative.

    The ACE editorial on compulsory voting is here. The only point not covered in our discussion is that the existence of such a law may increase turnout, if the law in general commands any respect, even if it's not enforced. I find this interesting. I think that some laws (eg. mandatory seat belts, smoking regulations) achieve more through shaping public opinion than through enforcement.


    PS. Data point: Greece has compulsory voting and high turnout. There is, of course, a "blank" option. You are exempt if you are far away. Sanctions are not enforced, but you get hassled the next time you need any kind of official service (you have to show your voter's card). Elections are always on Sunday. Everyone chooses their constituency and many people choose emotionally (eg. home town). It's a legal right to take time off to travel there and vote.

    refusing the ballot (3.50 / 2) (#165)
    by bps300 on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 01:52:32 AM EST

    I find it interesting to note that a large number of people that I talk to decide not to vote because they simply disgruntled with the lack of selection/too lazy/unconcerned with becoming involved with the voting process. As such, many do not vote (typically >50% turnout where i live). However, I think that this is not taking part in our system of government and how our lives with respect to the government policies if handled. There is an unwritten option with respect to (at least Canadian) ballots: Refusal of the Ballot. In out last municipal election, I decided that none of the candidates was worthy of my vote. However, I participated in the voting process by accepting my ballot and promptly handing it back with the statement "I refuse my ballot". In essence, I was saying that none of the candidates was worthy of my vote and I was still took the time to participate in the process. I can now bitch about the current government because I have participated in the process; those who stayed home have the right to do so, but i also think that shouldn't bitch because they coudn't bring themselves to participate when the time counted.

    Negative voting (none / 0) (#170)
    by dyskordus on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 07:23:35 PM EST

    In situations like this it would be nice to have the option to vote against one of the candidates. Any votes against the candidate would be subtracted from their total. In effect you would be sending the message "I don't like any of you bastards, but I REALLY don't like you.

    "Reality is less than television."-Brian Oblivion.
    [ Parent ]

    what, vote for tweedle-dee or tweedle-dum? (4.00 / 1) (#166)
    by yxt48s7 on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 10:54:54 AM EST

    I disbelieve that having more people vote is going to affect any outcomes of elections; we're getting a large enough sample of the populace as it is, 25-30% is more than sufficient to get an accurate picture of the beliefs of the US populace. (I'd have to spend some time doin' the math instead of pulling numbers out my rear, but it's at least a 95% confidence level.)

    More importantly, the election results are determined in the media, not by individual voter choices. Evidence you say? How many people that voted really know anything about the candidates other than what they were told by the media...which came directly from the candidates' PR organizations? Seems obvious to be sure, but for the major offices these folks are spending literally millions of dollars to portray themselves in a particular light...which may have nothing to do with their actual beliefs or actions once elected.

    They're very good at telling people what they think they want to hear...the outcome of the election isn't "who is best" but "who is able to gauge what the majority of the people want to hear". Again obvious, but I disbelieve having more people voting will make for better results; frankly, spending more time and effort judging the quality of the respective PR organizations is a waste.

    If I had that kind of money to spend, I could get my dog elected to congress...and I'm sure he'd make a great congressman, bwahahahah.

    Local elections are admitedly a different story money-wise, but they get even lower voter turnout and it's tough to be concerned with who gets to be dogcatcher this year, especially again because nobody knows who these candidates actually are. The local issues I care about aren't going to be on the mayor's main agenda, at least in a large city...and I don't have the time to go around interviewing all the candidates to see how they feel about the things I care about. This is true for a lot of folks.

    I think what I'm actually saying is that when the population gets above a certain size, it's difficult (if not impossible) to believe that the majority of voters can actually know who a candidate is. It's all touchy-feely vague guesswork. Heck, [insert nasty dictator here] could run for office and if she had a sufficiently good PR organization and enough money, she'd get elected.

    And does it really matter? I think it's tweedle-dee or tweedle-dum, distinguishing between Joe Rich #1 and Joe Rich #2 is well-nigh impossible anyway. Random folks from the sticks aren't going to have a successful run for a major office, not the way things are now.

    Higher turnout not required for statistical reason (none / 0) (#167)
    by pavlos on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 02:57:44 PM EST

    The reason that higher turnout is supposed to be a good thing is not statistical. 25% of the population, if randomly chosen, is definitely enough for a statistically accurate result. In a large country such as yours, even 1% would be perfectly sufficient, if randomly chosen.

    The issue is that unless turnout is very high, say 95%, it is reasonable to fear that turnout may be unevenly distributed in the population. For example, there may be a substantial group (ethnic minorities, women, young people, poor people, etc.) who are especially under-represented. I think that if we leave aside whether it really happens, whose "fault" it is, how to fix it, etc., all would agree that this would lead to bad government.

    Other than that, I agree that better candidates and better candidate-voter communication would do far more good than higher turnout.


    [ Parent ]

    I agree (3.50 / 2) (#168)
    by Velocity on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 06:48:07 PM EST

    I agree with this argument, i see too many people who are simply ignorant about the current stats of government, and when the election does take place the're absoultly inraged about George Bush. In my personal opinion there should be no "middle ground" such as not voting. In a recent school survay taken on my campus there were three answers, yes, no, and maybe. The majority of all answers upon that quiz were maybe! That's rediculus. Lets give an example: Do you think you're learning? A: Maybe. A useless answer to make a useless survay. And not voting is just like putting maybe, its letting someone else choose for you. And although the public should choose to vote, the majority of the public are ignorant! People love "having" rights, but if you don't take advantage of them, what's the use? People need a kick in the butt!

    i disagree, for one (4.00 / 2) (#171)
    by Rainy on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 07:52:28 PM EST

    You list a bunch of supposed 'advantages' of compulsory voting, but you apparently can't be bothered to actually prove them. And no, they're not self-obvious, far from it. Besides, there are at least 2 strong arguments against i can think of from the top of my head. Firstly, people who aren't interested enough to vote, shouldn't. Their vote would be meaningless if it was forcefully extracted from them. It would be worse than meaningless: it'd likely go to candidate specifically pitching for the non-thinking crowd. Second, there's an implicit assumption that low turnout is *BAD*. From where I stand, it may very well be the sign that people are content with the way things are. You know, I lived in USSR just as it was falling apart and people got their first taste of really choosing their representatives - and turnout was huge, precisely because almost everyone was unhappy with how the country was. There was huge interest about elections on all levels. Low turnout in US is a sign that the country is healthy. President is there to fix what's wrong with the country, and if nothing was wrong, he wouldnt' be needed. US is far from being perfectly healthy, but it seems to be closer to that than UK or most other countries, hence the low turnout.
    Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
    A Middle Way (none / 0) (#172)
    by chetohevia on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 08:39:14 PM EST

    Rather than *require* voting (which may or may not be a good idea) consider a middle way; this is what Chile has been doing since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship. It's a pretty good system:

    - Registration is optional, but if you register, you have to vote. That way, you know how many votes to expect, and the registration system isn't overwhelmed by people who register and then don't vote.

    - You may enter a blank or spoiled ballot, or a
    write-in. That way, you're not required to vote for anyone you don't want.

    - This one is key: election day is a national holiday, and all but the most essential businesses are closed. Alcohol sales are banned nationwide for the 24 hours surrounding the election.

    The campaign system is pretty good too-- every night, during a predefined campaign season, every station devotes a half hour or an hour (I can't remember which) to free ads. The alloted time for each party is based on the previous year's showing in congressional elections. (There are about a dozen parties, from far left to far right). That way, the majority of people are informed about what's going on.

    Combine that with having nothing else to do on election day, and you've got a pretty reasonable chance that the turnout will be reasonably high, and the voters reasonably well informed.

    Even so, the chilean elections show fewer and fewer people are registering to vote, and there are record numbers of spoiled ballots. So, maybe even that won't stop people from becoming disillusioned with their leaders. After all, you can't please everyone. :(


    [ Parent ]
    why?? (none / 0) (#185)
    by Rainy on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 04:43:46 AM EST

    What's so good about making it easy for people to vote? The biggest problem I see is that it's too easy - people go and vote without strong conviction based on facts, they go and vote because they have a vague idea that they're democrats or republicans, Why do I think so? Glad you asked. I look at campaigns and I see slogans, stamped and approved replies, fake smiles and so on. The common denominator's too low. How about, to vote you have to climb a tall mountain or something? *anything*! Make it too easy and the lazy will vote, and that ain't good even for the lazy ;-)
    Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
    [ Parent ]
    People aren't happy.. (none / 0) (#183)
    by MikeFM on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 01:11:00 AM EST

    I for one wouldn't say people in the US are satisfied at all with the way things are but have largely just given up because the two leading parties hold sucha large amount of power and really don't differ very much in their general policies. Add that most of them lie outright in what they intend to do and the rest get squashed by the system. And the final blow is the bullshit that anybody who doesn't vote for someone in those two parties is wasting their vote. You don't have to win for your vote to count. That isn't the point at all. If someone asks your favorite color you don't have to say 'red' just because most other people probably will.

    I'd not force everyone to vote but would give a tax break to people that did and I'd highly limit how much each representative could advertise. Political propaganda is bad for everyone. If nobody is allowed to take contributions for their campaign then there can't be campaign kickbacks. If nobody is allowed to promote politics via 'push' media then people will actually have to see who is registered for each office and investigate what each one stands for. Any political debate that is on 'push' media should have to allow everyone registered as running for that office in that election.

    *shrugs* Overall I think eventually we'll hit something like the nomad tribes in Distraction that use a big trust network to select and deselect our leaders dynamiclly. Maybe not exactly that but now that real democracy is possible it'll become much more dynamic. Many systems may be tried as we tune things towards a working modern system. Even sites like this and Slashdot are bringing such moderation forward in science. :)

    I didn't vote this year because they sent back my voter registration card after they stopped accepting them. Essentially I wasn't allowed to vote.

    [ Parent ]
    Don't make sense to me (none / 0) (#184)
    by Rainy on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 04:37:01 AM EST

    If people weren't happy with two leading parties, two leading parties wouldn't be leading. We got about half a country who didn't vote, right? If they were unhappy with both parties, they'd all vote for greens or libertarians and we'd have greens or libertarians in the white house. I personally see two reasons why people wouldn't vote: 1. they aren't intelligent enough to choose and realize it (and I salute them for that) and 2. they're happy with political leadership of either party. What's this 'give up' nonsense? Anybody with half a brain must realize that even if certain candidate doesn't win enough votes, the number is still counted and it's in the open - in four years all new candidates will take that number into account. It's not boolean true/false thing.
    Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
    [ Parent ]
    No, please, no, oh, please no (4.00 / 1) (#179)
    by weirdling on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 06:07:28 PM EST

    Change the US to a parliamentarian system? You've got to be kidding. That system is so worthless compared to the senate/house combo that we'd be in exactly the same scrape one finds Canada, England, Australia, and South Africa right now.
    Let me explain. In the US, for those of you who don't know, there are three branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. A parliamentarian system really only has two branches, as the Queen is a figurehead. Not only that, the parliamentarian system has really only one powerful house, since the House of Lords essentially has been marginalized. And, to make matters worse, the *most popular* MP in parliament gets to be the effective head of the government. This is not a good recipe for representation, as that person may represent a very small plurality, rather than at least a 48% plurality, as GW represents here in the US. Now, the US has two houses, and they have to *agree* on *any* law. What this means is that the house (the lower house) proposes legislation and the senate (the upper house) passes it. In reality, they both propose legislation and talk constantly while refining it into something that both can pass. Now, in the house, the representation is truly proportional, and, barring gerrymandering, is rather effective at getting the voice of the people. All states get a minimum number of congresscritters (one, I believe), and get more according to their census numbers, so a conservative state can pick up a congresscritter or two if its state grows in numbers. However, each state gets exactly two senators, which are elected by the entire state, rather than by their district, meaning that they represent the collective view of the state as a whole. What this means is Montana has two senators, just like California, so California can't steamroll Montana. The parliamentary system cannot approach this level of state's rights protections, which is exactly why the founding fathers diverged from the old, broken parliamentary system and created the new system the US uses, which was unique for the time. Now, for the executive branch. In the parliamentary system, the effective executive is the Queen. Her only real power is the ability to dissolve parliament, effectively over-ruling the will of the people. Good idea, that. In the US, the president is elected in a popular election based on returns from the states (how those returns are generated isn't really a federal matter so long as its fair), and as such, represents a large portion of the sentiments of the entire country. Don't believe me? Go look at a map which shows just how few states Gore won. Bush won that majority of the states by a large margin while Gore won the populist states such as New York and California. That being said, Bush is at least as popular as Gore, and thus, represents the interests of a larger part of the population of the US than does the Prime Minister, or the Queen, for that matter. Now, the president can veto legislation, effectively requiring that any legislation he doesn't like be bi-partisan to some degree, as a veto-proof congress is rare. The effect of this is that since the US normally elects a president of the opposite party that controls the congress, nothing that isn't at least mildly bipartisan gets passed; hence no possible hijacking of the country. This is why Dole lost to Clinton: the congress and senate were majority Republican, and Dole was a long-time senate Republican with a lot of pull in the party, so would have been way too powerful as president; hence my staunchly Republican brother-in-law voted for Clinton.
    The US system's major flaw is that it enforces a two-party system. Since the presidency has garnered way more power than the constitution originally intended (it was enacted merely to enable the government to function when congress was out of session), the president has become an important position, yet there is no way for third parties to get a foot in. In the congress, there are several independants, but they are not a majority, and the duopolists work very hard at maintaining their lead, which is largely what the recent campaign-finance reform bill will help do.
    What the parliamentary system has done for countries in Europe is to make them effective socialist states (US definition here), as the populist areas have more than enough political clout to steamroll the less populist districts. This isn't really representational, and has led to at least one Canadian province going into open revolt against policies enacted by their federal government. When people start saying that the US needs to 'get with the program' and 'emulate Europe', I go home and clean my guns and think about how nice it is that I still live in a *free* country where I can expect *equal* representation, even if that representation isn't exactly what I want, and I thank $DEITY$ that the US has a strong enough army and laws that state that no other country can ever gain sovereignty over us. Then I begin to wonder why Europe cares. What the heck difference does it make if we follow you or not? Don't you have enough cojones to do your own thing?

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    Geography and Popularity (4.00 / 1) (#181)
    by Aztech on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 11:12:26 PM EST

    "Go look at a map which shows just how few states Gore won. Bush won that majority of the states by a large margin"
    Wining great expanses of empty land is not the same as winning people. Take a look at the political map of Great Britain, looking at all that blue in England you may be lead to believe that the Tories did quite well... yet they did pitifully, Labour have around x2.5 times the number of seats. Take a look at the red enclave that is London, it looks tiny and insignificant relative to the rest of the picture, yet New Labour won dozens of seats there.

    In short, Geography is meaningless and cannot be used to justify a mandate.

    Also, you can't really compare the Prime Minister's popularity to that of the President, in the Parliamentary system you vote for a party or an ideal rather than a single person. The fact that personality over policy has crept into the British political agenda has been treated with contempt recently and is largely blamed as large contributor to apathy. It's the dulling down of politics to what The Sun does to the news.

    [ Parent ]
    Ah, geography (none / 0) (#190)
    by weirdling on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 08:33:47 PM EST

    That is the central issue. The US is rather large, and demographics change a lot. What is good for New York isn't necessarily good for Montana, as an example of polar opposites. Actually, upstate New York is almost a polar opposite to New York City, as is Northern California to Southern California. However, inside the states, the strength of the populous areas has taken over the state government, much to the chagrin of the rest of the state. If the same thing happened nation-wide, some of us would be screwed.
    Anyway, the point is that in the US, we apportion based on states (geography), and population. As a representative democracy, it works rather well to keep New York and California from running the nation, which would be disastrous to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, the Dakotas, the Carolinas, Texas, most of the Deep South, etc.
    This is one reason I'm so heavily opposed to the parliamentary system without a strong house of lords, which no modern democracy would ever go for.
    I like geography being used to define a mandate.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    We need FEWER voters (none / 0) (#182)
    by jazman_777 on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 06:31:00 PM EST

    Most of them are voting the Statist ticket. The limit: if you get government money, you can't vote. It's a conflict of interest.

    Poking A Few Holes In This Argument (5.00 / 1) (#186)
    by Steve B on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 08:20:02 AM EST

    If it's good enough for the Selective Service (compulsory military registration), then it's good enough for voters.

    This argument is on the level of a small child's whine that all his friends are doing whatever it is he wants to do. The fact that the government has been able to get away with one abuse of freedom is hardly a compelling reason to let them extend their arrogations.

    Avoids illegally barring voters from polling stations through intimidation and other nefarious means.

    It would do nothing of the sort -- a corrupt official could simply cook the books to make it seem that the illegally barred voter had already voted, or didn't live in that jurisdiction, or was not a citizen, or something. If anything, it would make it possible for malicious officials to prevent someone from voting, and then add insult to injury by levying a fine for failure to vote.

    The current judicial ambivalence as to whether voters votes are ever counted would get a fierce kick in the rear.

    Compulsory voting makes it possible to clearly read a punchcard ballot that does not have one and only one chad cleanly punched for each selection? Does it also give you whiter teeth and a better sex life?

    Civics classes have declined in recent decades, and citizens are more politically ignorant than ever.

    OK, compulsory voting makes people smarter, just like the diploma the Wizard of Oz gave the Scarecrow. I guess the brain boost would include the ability to read the aforementioned ambiguous ballots.

    Compulsory voting gives strong incentives on the part of citizens to learn more about the system

    I know from personal experience that this simply does not work. One of my classes had required participation in a spelling bee that was optional for everyone else. Well, they could make me show up, but they couldn't make me learn to spell any better than I did anyway.

    Apathetic cynicism is no longer an option.

    Are you going to make the ballots out of Tyvek[tm] so that voters can't tear them in half and dump the pieces in the box?

    Of course apathetic cynicism remains an option, and would only increase if you insist on corralling people who aren't impressed by any of the candidates.

    The American two-party system stagnates because anyone who would choose alternatives such as a socialist or nationalist party never casts a vote for one.

    This has nothing to do with the sheer number of people who show up. It is, rather, a function of systemic features of the system (e.g. winner-take-all) combined with election-fixing by the dominant parties (e.g. ballot access barriers).

    Australia doesn't have compulsory voting. (none / 0) (#197)
    by TheMgt on Sun Jun 24, 2001 at 04:55:38 AM EST

    You have to go to the polling station but you don't have to actually vote.

    In Favor of Compulsory Voting | 195 comments (187 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
    Display: Sort:


    All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
    See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
    Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
    Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
    My heart's the long stairs.

    Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!