Posted 3/24/15 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
While speaking to the Civic Club of Cleveland recently, President Obama pitched the idea of making it mandatory to vote in the United States. And by doing so, Obama said it would be “transformative” and would counteract the influence of money in politics more than anything else.
Part of the rationale for Obama’s suggestion of a mandatory voting requirement may have been the pathetic voter turnout in this past year’s mid-term elections where only 37 percent of this country’s eligible voters went to the polls. And some credit the fact that 144 million Americans stayed away from the voting booth last November with the Republicans gaining control of the U.S. Senate.
Whether or not the outcome of the election would have been different had more voters turned out, Obama, as well as others who think making voting mandatory, is missing the point.
Obama is right. Making voting mandatory would be “transformative,” but it would hardly be the best thing that could happen in the United States.
First, voting is a “right” that is guaranteed to every American citizen. And as such, Americans have the right to vote as well as the right not to vote.
Second, the right to vote should carry with it the responsibility of being a somewhat informed voter. Democracy is better served by having an electorate that understands what they are voting on when they decide to exercise their right to vote at the poll rather than just going into the booth and randomly voting.
And finally, the requirement for mandatory voting by all U.S. citizens would probably be declared unconstitutional.
But if Obama was sincere in making “transformative” changes to this country, there are several areas that he could tackle in his last years in office. But once again, these changes would also probably be considered unconstitutional.
One, he could make citizenship in this country mandatory before any person would be eligible for any of the rights and benefits associated with being a citizen of the United States. Simply showing up in the United States, unless they entered the country with a work and/or student visa, would no longer simply be enough to receive benefits funded by American taxpayers. That would definitely be a “transformative” program.
Second, maybe he could suggest that it be mandatory that everyone in the United States be required to have a job. Talk about transforming America. Can you imagine how much money the government would save in unemployment, food stamps, welfare and other payments if it was mandatory for every voting age American to either be in school, the military or holding down a job?
There is nothing wrong with President Obama pitching abstract ideas when he is making a public address such as he did in Cleveland. But it does pose a problem when the President pitches ideas that fly in the face of the Constitution.