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22 Mar 2015 05:17 PM EST

-by Drew Kolar, Editor; Image: A New York City “Vote Here” sign (Image Source: Drew Kolar)

This week, President Barack Obama mentioned the idea of mandatory voting—which in turn brought about a national debate on the issue.

“It would be transformative if everybody voted,” the president explained. “That would counteract money more than anything.”


“The people who tend not to vote are young, they’re lower income, they’re skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups,” Obama said. “There’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls.”

It is true that young Americans, lower-income and minority groups often have the lowest turnout rates during election days. But would forcing all U.S. citizens to vote actually work?

Well, in a sense, no—especially with the Republicans of this nation adamantly opposing anything Obama says, even if it may be a good idea. Mandatory voting would definitely change the face of our government as we know it, especially with more of a progressive, younger crowd having to hit the polls, but the opposition in our country’s current state is unfortunately too strong.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was one of the first to jump at the chance to criticize the idea.

 “I don't put anything past him. I mean, there are a lot of things that have already happened that I never thought I would see,” he told Fox News.

Democrats, however, seem to be in support of the idea—or rather, in support of Obama voicing his opinion while noting that it isn’t necessarily a proposition for a policy change. White House press secretary Josh Earnest noted, “The president was not making a specific policy prescription for the United States.”

“I think the overall conversation was purely about giving power back to the people,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) told The Hill. “The president is not saying mandatory voting for Democrats. He’s suggesting that all people should be encouraged to vote, whatever their views may be.”

Mandatory voting does seem to work for some countries, like Australia. Australia is one of a few dozen countries with compulsory voting laws that punish offenders with fines of around $15 to potential jail time or disenfranchisement, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).

Unfortunately, in the U.S., Americans do not like being told what to do—just look at the controversy Obamacare already caused. Of course this time around, Obama was simply putting the idea out there, so the backlash from his comment is mostly uncalled for. The GOP will find just about any excuse to criticize the president these days, and this is just one more for the books.

All that said, perhaps one day in the future the U.S. will institute some form of mandatory voting with stipulations that can be agreed upon by both parties. Jail time would be too drastic of a penalty, but an extra fine, perhaps during tax season, could be imposed to those who do not turn up to vote. Obama’s idea is a good one, but there will definitely be quite a bit of discussion before it could ever be a reality.

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