Voter turnout in America was at an all-time low in the 2016 Presidential Election, with only 58.1% of the United States’ voting-eligible population turning up to the ballots to exercise their right to vote, according to the United States Election Project. In fact, the number of eligible voters in the presidential election has been steadily declining in the past 10 years, with the same number decreasing from 61.6% in 2008 to 58.6% in 2012.
With turnout decreasing so fast, the question must be asked if morale for voting is decreasing and if voting should be a mandatory activity for all American citizens. Those with a proclivity to keep political ideologies and opinions close to their chest may find the idea unnerving; furthermore, some even argue that mandatory voting, more commonly referred to as compulsory voting, counteracts the right to (and, arguably, not to) vote that the Fifteenth Amendment guarantees.
However, it seems to me that the inquiry as to the potential effectiveness of compulsory voting is far more monumental yet so futile.
The U.S. system of electing it’s highest office is certainly an unorthodox relative to other countries’ systems of government, specifically those who are currently enforcing compulsory voting. As a nation, we have relied on the Electoral College in this regard since the Constitution was written.
The vote of the people taken during the Presidential Election typically suedes each member of the Electoral College based on the majority opinion of their constituents; however, lobbying members of the Electoral College as well as the members simply ignoring constituent opinion to vote their conscience is not unheard-of and may sway an election more so than the people do.
America even bore witness to this sad reality in the 2016 election when the majority vote for Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton was overwhelming, but the Electoral College favored President Trump. As a result, being an individual voter in a presidential election has little effect at all, even if every citizen were to participate.
So, while a smaller country Like Argentina (who has enforced compulsory voting since 1912 and has a small population of 44.27 million) may benefit from individual voting because of direct elections of majority vote, the U.S. may not. With this in mind, I believe that mandatory voting would not make a difference in Presidential Elections unless the U.S. eventually eliminates the electoral college.
This, in my opinion, would be the most effective method of allowing representatives to plainly observe voter trends and create a more pure democracy where the highest office of the land is selected by the people that the holder of it affects most.
In our current state, this country would not benefit much from compulsory voting, which wouldn’t put a dent in the chances of one candidate sitting in the Oval Office on any given January 20 over another.