Mandatory voting — a Soviet idea that should be reborn in the U.S.

If you’re old enough to remember the Soviet Union, you’re also old enough to remember that, when the American news reported that voter turnout was 50 or 60% for a given election, the Soviets would boast that they had 100% turnout for all elections.  Even I, a child, realized that there was a connection between that high voter turnout and the fact that the Communist party candidates routinely received . . . wait for it . . . 100% of the votes cast by 100% of the population.

In those countries that haven’t yet become Leftist dictatorships, mandatory voting is still Leftist party-line voting, because coercion is the only way to drag to the polls people who are so inert they can function only if the government provides continuing, low-level maintenance for them.  Is it any surprise, therefore, that a Leftist wants to use the power of the state to force American voters to the polls?

Peter Orszag, former head of the Obama Office of Management and Budget, is desperate. With even Roll Call recognizing that President Obama is fighting an uphill battle for re-election, Orszag is floating a trial balloon: mandatory voting. His call for forced voting comes in an op/ed for Bloomberg News:

The U.S. prides itself as the beacon of democracy, but it’s very likely no U.S. president has ever been elected by a majority of American adults.

It’s our own fault — because voter participation rates are running below 60 percent, a candidate would have to win 85 percent or more of the vote to be elected by a majority.

Compulsory voting, as exists in Australia and more than two dozen other countries, would fix that problem. As William Galston of the Brookings Institution argues, “Jury duty is mandatory; why not voting?”

Don’t you just love the thought of police knocking on doors and hauling people off to the voting booth? The whole thing also makes me wonder what the penalty would be for not voting. How many years before we start vanishing during the night and showing up in various Gulags (Detroit, maybe?)?

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  • MacG

    I might go for that if they required voter ID’s.
    But what’s the penalty for not voting?  Vote goes to the other party?

  • Indigo Red

    Currently there are 23 countries with compulsory voting and only 10 countries actually enforce the law. Penalties for not voting range from a fine like Switzerland (8 Swiss francs) to disenfranchisement as in Belgium (masochist says, “beat me”; the sadist says, “no” – each gets what they wanted in the first place.) In each of the 23 countries, an estimated 1-2% of the vote is a random candidate selection to fulfill a legal requirement even though the purpose of mandatory voting is to encourage voters to study candidates and issues.

    Here’s what would happen in America – folks will go to the polls and purposefully deface their ballots. Not just those who don’t want to vote but enthusiastic voters  who have a greater objection to being forced to vote. America is a rare place that accepts that non-voting is an active right not just the act of a lazy person.

  • JKB

    I tell them what, before we start hauling off the non-voters to the gulag, how about we stop the Democrat efforts to disenfranchise the military vote?

    We’ll just make a law that any State or local voting board that does not have the ballots in the hands of the soldier, sailor, Marine or airman in the remotest duty station in time to return it before the ballot is guilty of a felony with a 10 year mandatory, no parole, no pardon sentence in the worst prisons in the country.

  • Bookworm

    Interesting point, JKB. I was just telling my daughter the other day about this passive-aggressive disenfranchisement of those who put their lives on the line for our freedoms.  She was appropriately horrified and disgusted.

  • Libby

    Gosh, you’d think Orszag would be satisfied with the number of US citizens who are so committed to voting that they even do it from the grave! I wonder who Orszag thinks would be escorting US citizens to the voting booths? Sounds like the perfect job for ACORN and the unions, since most of us in the private sector are at work on election day. Heck, they may even help citizens fill out all of the paperwork for absentee voting just to be sure the votes are counted. Hard to imagine how this wouldn’t result in Democrat victories in every election.

  • Ymarsakar

    We already have mandatory voting in the US. It’s called the Saddam effect, where he got 99% of the vote. 93%+ of DC residents voted for Obama. 95%+ of blacks nation wide voted for Obama, including the US military’s black demographics. 75%+ of Jews voted for Obama.

    If that’s not mandatory voting… what do you think is? 

  • bkivey

    “Jury duty is mandatory; why not voting?”
    Ooh, ooh, I want to play!
    “Car insurance is mandatory, why not health insurance?”
    “Union dues are mandatory, why not political campaign contributions?”
    “Taxes are mandatory, why not voluntary service to the poor?”
    Sophistry: Crack for the morally corrupt.

  • Tonestaple

    I can’t go with “mandatory” but I could go with something like, if you don’t vote for three elections in a row – city, county, state, federal, doesn’t matter – then you are stricken from the rolls.  You would get notice that you are being stricken and that you can re-register per the usual rules in your jurisdiction any time you want to, so there’s no barrier to your voting in the future, but only if you take some teensy bit of interest.

  • Ymarsakar

    Many people get out of jury duty by simply stating that they think the defendant is guilty due to media reports and internet research. They’ll find out all the reasons the prosecutor and other lawyers will stop juries from going in, and then check those specific ones off so that they get bonuses from both sides.

  • Ymarsakar

    The problem right now is not whether people vote or not. It’s that people who get sugar from the government, vote disproportionately more than those who are actually funding the boondoggles.

    Thus a method to balance this is to give people a choice. Either you can have 100% welfare and luxury for your 5 fatherless children, or you can vote. But not both at the same time.

    And for the tax payers, their taxes can only be rerouted to welfare if they vote. This might have the opposite intention of people abstaining from voting and keeping their taxes or having it spent elsewhere, but that would actually be a more enfranchised power than the current system. If you aren’t dictating where your taxes go via voting, then your taxes should not be funding child sexual slavery organizations like ACORN, terrorist PR departments like CAIR, or Planned Parenthood. Or the Left and their Democrat minions. If you don’t want to join the fight, at least get off the battlefield rather than being used as a human shield.

  • jj

    I’m not in favor of “mandatory” much of anything.  I don’t do “mandatory” well.  If people don’t want to get off their asses and vote – fine.  I don’t give a damn about people who are that witlessly disengaged anyway, and feel no need at all to pursue them to elicit their participation.  And zero guilt that they don’t participate.

  • Kevin_B

    My country, Belgium, has mandatory voting. Or, at least, you have to register at the voting office (right word?) with your ID-card and the letter from the government calling you to voting. You have to enter the voting boot as well, but you can vote blank, of course. 
    While I would still vote without, I don’t like it. Surprise, surprise… the left-wing parties around here want to keep it, the right-wing don’t.

  • socratease

    I’d support it, on one condition: The candidate “None Of The Above” has to appear on every ballot, and if it wins there is a re-election in which none of the above candidates can participate.

  • eric-odessit

    Those who have seen my comments before know that I grew up in the former Soviet Union.  So, a bit of clarification about “mandatory” voting there.
    There was no law that said that you had to vote.  Usually on the election day (always a Sunday) one member of the household would take everybody’s internal passports, go to the polling place and cast votes for everybody in the household.  Since for every position there was only one candidate, that candidate would always get 100%.  If you simply did not check that single candidate’s name in the ballot, your vote would not count at all.
    Young people (college students or recent graduates) were made to “volunteer” by the officials at their place of work or college to help out at polling places.  They had to remain there until everybody had voted.  Obviously, not the best way to spend your Sunday.  So, in the late afternoon some of them would start going door to door, begging people to go vote: they just wanted to go home.  Usually people would just vote because they felt sorry for those youngsters.
    Sometimes not voting was a form of protest in order to get the officials to fix something.  For example, once my parents refused to vote because we did not have water pressure  in the faucets in our apartment.  After initial visit by election “volunteer” a representative of local district executive committee showed up, accompanied by some other plain-closed guy.  That other guy was KGB: he needed to make sure that the protest was not political.  My parents were assured that everything will be fixed, so they voted.  Several years later the problem was finally fixed, after my Dad wrote a letter addressed to Gorbachev.  Needless to say that the letter never got to Gorbachev, simply someone got sufficiently scared to take care of the problem.
    So, the voting was not mandatory.  It was simply easier to vote than not.

  • Bookworm

    Eric-odessit:  Thank you so much for that insight into the way things worked in the Soviet Union.  All I remember from childhood was the Soviet post of 99% participation with the candidates winning by a 100% margin.  My takeaway was that democracy and freedom are not the same thing.

  • Ymarsakar

    Eric, was it true what they said about the Soviets and their ancillary protectorate states making cardboard box cars?

  • eric-odessit

    No, of course not.  The cars were made of metal.  They may have been under-powered and uncomfortable (depending on the model), but, other than that, they were OK.  My family did not have a car there, but my father-in-law did have a car.
    Usually what you said about the Eastern Block cars is said about Trabant (  an East German car that looked really poor when compared to BMW.
    Poland had their version of Fiat, and Czech Skoda was one of the oldest makes in Europe.
    In the old Soviet Union there were  Volga (luxury car), Moskvich, Zhiguli (also known as Lada, the Russian version of Fiat) and Zaporozhets (the cheapest one).  The joke about Zaporozhets was that it was the quietest car in the world: when you are inside, your knees are covering your ears.