The progressive case against compulsory voting

President Barack Obama recently announced that he supports making voting in the United States compulsory for those who are legally eligible to vote.

I know that I’m going to get a lot of flack from my fellow progressives over this, but I’m opposed to the idea of compulsory voting, in which people who are eligible to vote are legally required to do so.

While Republicans and conservatives oppose compulsory voting because it would likely benefit Democrats electorally, my opposition is for a completely different reason: I believe that compulsory voting violates the civil liberties of the American people. Yes, I’m opposing compulsory voting for the same reason I oppose, among other things, spying on the American people without a warrant and laws that restrict a woman’s right to make reproductive health decisions for herself.

While I strongly support amending the U.S. Constitution to give all U.S. citizens who are at least 18 years of age a constitutionally-protected right to vote, I believe that, while it would probably not be necessary to explicitly state this in a constitutional amendment or other type of law (I’m not an attorney, and I don’t claim to be one, but I’m guessing that the U.S. Constitution would probably have to be amended in order to allow for compulsory voting), those who are legally eligible to vote in this country should have a right to not vote if, for whatever reason, they don’t want to vote. While I believe that voting is a very important civic duty, and I would never discourage anyone from voting, I oppose the idea of forcing people to vote, as doing so would violate the civil liberties of those who decide not to vote.

Make no mistake about it, I strongly support many other measures to provide the American people with increased access to voting and make their vote actually matter, such as replacing the Electoral College with national popular vote presidential elections, restoring and strengthening the Voting Rights Act, implementing automatic voter registration, allowing same-day voter registration, making redistricting non-partisan and completely independent of state legislatures and other legislative bodies, making Election Day a national holiday, repealing the odious Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision via a federal constitutional amendment designed to get big money out of politics, having election authorities pay for postage on absentee ballots so that voters don’t have to pay for postage themselves, making it easier for candidates to get on the ballot, and requiring that elections be conducted in a fair, professional manner in order to allow those who are eligible and willing to vote to cast their ballots and to allow all votes to be properly counted. Additionally, I strongly oppose measures to suppress the vote and make America less democratic, such as voter ID laws and gerrymandering. However, I’m not going to support anything that violates the civil liberties of the American people.

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One thought on “The progressive case against compulsory voting

  1. I went on a web search to see if any progressives opposed forced voting and, after quite a bit of work, found this post. You’re completely correct that forced voting, warrantless spying, and restrictions on the control of one’s body come from the same way of thinking. (Though I should point out that denying First Amendment rights to people when they incoporate does too, and would trample on the freedom of news outlets, advocacy groups, and grassroots organizers.) Thank you for saying this.

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