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November 08, 2006


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The voter turnout in the U.S. is shameful. Mandatory voting should be implemented if we cared about the government actually reflecting the will of the people.

Why it is not a national holiday is beyond me as well. We get Christmas off to celebrate the birth of Jesus on an arbitrary day chosen to do so by some Emperor of Rome, yet we are supposed to squeeze voting in our work days. There should be two full days of national holiday, and the first day should be designed to be spent researching candidates and issues. Businesses should be closed that day.

Why people vote against measures to increase voting, I don't know. I stopped trying to explain the irrationality of the public a long time ago, but Saul, I'm very glad you still try. Probably something to do with wanting only those who care enough to vote, to vote, no matter what they support. But that is a stretch.

The Australian system of fining people $20 for not voting sounds very reasonable to me.

There are veste dinterests in this compnay who know that if more of the masses voted, their political control would be undermined. Is it any wonder the wealthy and republicans are the ones who typically try to diminish voter turnout?


"country," I meant, not "company."


Being from Arizona there was a bit of talk about it and most of those people said they worried that the only people who would care would be people who buy lottery tickets...and well, those are not really the brightest bulbs in the box.

In Australia, are we sure the people who go to avoid a fine are not just ticking boxes to get out of there?

Because that's what Arizona was trying to avoid. Increasing numbers doesn't mean increased votes.



I´m all for another national holiday. But I sincerely doubt that I´ll be using those two days to research candidates´ opinions. I´ll be having a party with my friends and family.

However, it may add to the excitement of the election day, and may add a bit of a cultural inclination to appreciate the importance of the vote.


In a democracy, it is right and priviledge of every citizen to vote or not to vote as he or she decides. The government should not use carrots or sticks to persuade people to vote who are too apathetic to care who governs them; we who care should not want them to help decide who governs us.

Adam L

I agree that wishing for increased voter turnout is politically correct. It says something about the strength and vibrancy of our democracy. However, I feel less sure that increasing voter turnout will lead to better substantive outcomes. Of course, your opinion of this varies on whether you preference process and legitimacy or sound and beneficial outcomes.
My reasoning is this: I would say that the majority of Americans who are not voting are not those who pay close attention to the political process in the first place. Those who seriously follow news and politics are more likely to vote than those who do not. So those who are not voting most likely would have voted uninformed opinions. Whether this would work depends on how much you trust the voters to get it right based on personal biases or a good "guess."
A better solution to the problem than paying people to vote would be paying them to read the newspaper. In fact, perhaps instead of paying them to read it, why not pay for a subscription to a newspaper of the voter's choice? Of course you could not force them to read it, but they would probably be more willing to if it were free and delivered to their front door.


Well David, some might frame it as a duty, perhaps the only civic duty.

And it isn't just apathy, as U of C dork economists will tell you, voting doesn't make sense from a cost benefit analysis. It is that basline of costs and benefits I'm most concerned with whereby what the goevernment does and doesn't do factors in whether you are willing to recognize it or not.

And saying people are apatehtic does not paint an accurate picture. Most people are too uneducated to understand the importance of voting to their own lives.

What government can do is lower the costs of voting by making election day a national holiday.

And because government should lower the costs of voting, I see no problem with increasing the costs of not voting by fining people $20 who do not show up at the polls (they would still be able not to vote).

In a democracy, if you really cared about democracy, you would want the government to accurately reflect the will of the people.

It is telling that republicans and those with a vested interest in the status quo are the ones who try to stifle democracy by increaing the costs and hurdles involved in voting.

Would you be man enough to admit a national holiday on election day is a good idea? Or are you so invested in disenfranchising the poor and uneducated that you would oppose such a holiday such that only the relatively wealthy and educated continue to vote.

Someone who really believes in democracy would see voting as a duty and the fact that so few people vote a sytemic problem with our democracy. But then again, Republicans only want a democracy insofar as it is limited to reflecting their agenda.


Good point Adam.

We should also adequately educate the public, which we fail miserably at doing.

Then again, a well educated populace that votes is a complete nightmare for those who have the wealth and power and don't share it.


I am surprised that voters in Arizona turned down a vote-by-mail scheme. We have such a scheme here in Oregon, and it greatly reduces the hassle of voting. I sit down with my wife at some convenient time, go over each of the candidates and propositions, discuss the relative merits of each, and then we make a decision. Most of the time we vote the same way, but sometimes we vote against each other. Then we just sign the envelope and mail everything in.

People elsewhere seem concerned about vote fraud. I am not aware of any substantial suspicions of vote fraud since the mail-in vote was made universal in Oregon. Perhaps this is only because Oregon has a politically clean environment. But certainly any state using electronic voting machines without a paper trail is far less secure against vote fraud than is Oregon.

Can anybody explain to me the primary arguments cited in Arizona against vote-by-mail? What kind of groups supported it and what kind of groups opposed it?


Eras, I'm not familiar with this specific controversy, but one problem that occurs to me is that people could easily miss the ballot in the mail. I know that I tend to throw most of my mail in the trash after a relatively cursory glance -- if it's not a bill, a personal letter (exceedingly rare nowadays), or something I quickly recognize as otherwise important, I may never open it. In general, anyone who truly needs to get ahold of me has 1) my work address, 2) any one of three email addresses, and 3) my work number, cell phone number, or home phone number, so I don't really regard the US mail as my primary source of communication with, well, anyone. I get so much junk mail every day that I could very easily mistake a ballot for another "URGENT -- DATED MATERIAL" credit card offer or the like.

Now perhaps if the government would limit what corporate advertisers are allowed to print on their envelopes... ah, but that would require Congresspersons extricating themselves from the ironclap grip of the corporate-payrolled lobbyists.


Arguments against were because there's no way to check ID thus no way to know who actually voted. People said if you don't get off your butt and go to the polls, then you deserve your voice to not be heard.

It's a great sign people aren't voting as much. It may mean that things are pretty much fine & there's no reason to go vote. I mean a vote on whether or not to have a $1million lottery for voters....people are grabbing at straws to find something for us to vote on.
People vote for different reasons..I vote because I love the process, I love that I'm allowed to vote. Some people vote when an issue strikes them as important. Some believe their vote doesn't count & a nonvote *is* their vote. How great that we live somewhere where we're not told what is supposed to matter to us.
I vote NO on fining people.


Priscieve, you raise an interesting issue: do we really want everybody to vote? After all, there are a lot of stupid people out there whose voting decisions would be made with a dartboard. Allowing people to make their own decision whether or not to vote seems like a fair-minded way to address the issue.


I reject entirely the elitist argument that the only people who deserve to vote are those willing to stand in the freezing rain (not a consideration in Arizona, I admit) for several hours for the chance to vote. What's the difference between using hassle to select the determined voters and using a poll tax? Shouldn't we go to some lengths to insure that the people who refuse to vote do so ONLY because they have no desire to do so? To put it another way, does our republic win or lose when somebody who wants to vote fails to do so because of the hassle of voting?

I think that we should make it as easy and convenient as possible to vote. I suggest that we look to business for a few pointers. If I am interested in purchasing a consumer good, the business does not require me to come to their store at a specified time in order to purchase their goods. They'll take my order by telephone, by mail, or over the Internet -- any way I want. If I do go to the store, I am not met by scowling old fogeys who carefully check my financial credentials to verify that I'm qualified to give them my money. I'm met by smiling people who are eager to help and make me feel comfortable. And if I choose to give them my money, even though I could be a cheat, they take my money with my signature as all the proof they need (well, not quite -- they'll require an ID with a check or a credit card). But if I purchase over the Internet, all I need is a password. If I purchase by mail, all I need is a signature. If I purchase by telephone, all I need is my voice. Why should voting be more difficult than purchasing goods, or getting money out of an ATM? The businessman has just as strong an interest in security as the republic, yet the businessman manages quite well on convenient security systems.



I should have been clear that it was not MY position that the only people who deserve to vote are those who leave their house...just that someone was looking for the arguments against & those are what I heard.

I definitely think the process of voting is unnecessarily a hassle and I have a job where I can easily leave, I'm perfectly healthy, I have a car, etc.

In all honestly, these measures (show an ID, stand in the sun,etc) are really because people are worried about illegal residents finding a way to vote.


BTW, there's a simple system in Oregon for preventing vote fraud: voters must provide their signatures when they register, and sign the outer envelope when they vote. The poll worker then compares the signature on the envelope with the signature on the registration. It's even more reliable than our system for bank checks, because the sales clerk who accepts the bank check has nothing to compare the signature against. Moreover, because the task is concentrated in a small number of people, the state can afford to give them special training in detecting forged signatures.

And one other thing: Oregon reduced it vote-counting costs by 30% when it moved to its vote by mail system.

It's much more convenient, encourages more deliberate voting, far less susceptible to errors, cheaper, and more resistant to fraud. Why is this a debate?

Bob Loblaw

This is an old thread, but I don't think voting procedure will ever be a wholly untimely topic.

"Some believe their vote doesn't count & a nonvote *is* their vote."

One reform that I think could be helpful would be a "None of the above" option that people could vote for on their ballot. This may encourage people who otherwise hate all the choices to have an official outlet on the ballot to voice their distaste. If NOTA won, a new emergency election would take place with entirely new candidates. This might be most effective with a different voting structure than plurality wins: some form of run-off voting.

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