Is Compulsory Voting a Good Idea?

compulsory votingPresident Obama mentioned the idea of compulsory voting at a town hall event in March, bringing new attention to the concept. In an article for the Washington Post, Shane Singh, an associate professor in the University of Georgia’s Department of International Affairs, points out the pluses and minuses. On the plus side, more people vote when not voting is illegal, and that could have the effect of reducing income inequality and increasing Americans’ political sophistication.

But Singh says the big minus is that compulsory voting may sour people on democracy.

The reasoning is straightforward: when people are forced to do something that they don’t want to do, they often come to dislike whoever is making them do it. So those who don’t want to vote may come to have less favorable attitudes toward the political system that forces them to vote.

Singh’s research found that both people who want to vote and people who don’t want to vote are more likely to be dissatisfied with democracy in countries with compulsory voting. As some people have argued, “the right to vote also includes the right not to vote.”

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