Forcing the vote is not democratic

By Dan Streib

At first blush, national polling seems like a great idea. With our all-too-human ballot counters, our current system of electing presidents has always been at great risk for miscounts. The fact is, in our country’s current electoral process, potential acts of fraud and incompetence can go largely unchecked.

In allowing anonymous telephone responses to be monitored by anyone willing to check, national polling goes a long way to remedy these problems. But the question proponents of this idea seem unwilling to ask is this: are new and unexpected problems created by this measure?

The answer is an unequivocal yes.

With voting, only those who wish to vote actually vote. With polling, respondents do indeed have an option to pass, but some may feel compelled to answer. It would be like forcibly placing somebody into a voting booth and saying “vote!” Reactions of different people to the pressure of the “which president” phone call would have to be somehow tested in a study. This, however, is difficult to do without first implementing the system.

Despite numerous complaints by voters about voting not really making a difference, one has to imagine a similarly frustrated citizen confronted with the possibility of not even getting to directly influence the selection of our president! The thought train would go something like this: “If I might not get called, then why on earth would I waste my time watching the news. What are the chances of them calling me, anyway?”

Thus, we have more uninformed poll respondents. Combine that problem with the first, and we’ll still have a better sampling of the entire country’s wishes. Problem is, the entire country’s opinion would no longer matter much, anyway – the nation would be more apathetic and uninformed than it is now.

And honestly, if polling succeeded without the aforementioned problems of inaccurate samples and increasing voter apathy – meaning that random samplings better measured the entire country’s wishes – the best it could do would be to closely mimic the effect of an undesirable compulsory vote.

In a compulsory vote, those who don’t care about voting have to vote in the elections anyway. This hurts the spirit of the vote.

Think about it this way: when you were younger and were forced to clean up your room, did you ever do a good job?

Honestly, even with a possible punishment awaiting a job poorly done, most kids did only the minimum to meet their parents’ standards. Yet if a kid personally likes having a clean room or is rewarded by having friends over, the young one will accomplish the task of giving his room that sparkling shine with gusto and bravado!

That’s the benefit of freedom. We complain about voter apathy, but at least we let those who wish to contribute to the electoral process have a method of input unimpeded by those who could care less.

So do Americans truly want to enact a system that, at its best, resembles compulsory voting? No, we don’t. And do we want to risk the other drawbacks of inaccurate samples and increasing voter apathy? Definitely not.

But on second thought, this measure does indeed deserve to be put on the ballot. With all those who don’t like to vote voting against it, we’ll have the highest voter turnout in years.