Thoughts on Voting Solutions

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on October 22, 2008

Two middle-aged, Caucasian Australians from Brisbon somehow ended up within conversation distance.  Vacationing in the Big Apple, they sought refuge from the hundreds converging on Adam Clayton Powell Bldg. square on 125th Street in a last ditch effort at voter registration as New York’s deadline loomed.

There was much music, many folks, the thump of dancehall and hip hop in the crisp Fall air and lots of clipboards.  Something about this festive hour some two hundred yards away from the Apollo disturbed newfound Aussie friends.

“You register to vote?” they frowned.

“Yeah …,” confused.

“Why’s that?”

“Wait – I don’t understand. What do you mean?”

Not knowing much about Australian politics, student of American politics got schooled on Australia’s compulsory voting system.  How you get fined in Australia if you don’t vote.  How Australian elections are “boring” but at least every citizen participates.  They were stunned that we weren’t doing the same thing in the U.S., assuming mandatory voting was the norm. A small group of us schooled them back.  Still, after 20 minutes of pleasant exchanges over our political systems, we felt a bit stupid. The rush of college kids rushing to fetch last minute registrations was surreal in the wake of our Australian conversation.

It led to an overflow of thoughts.  Why not compulsory voting here?  The answer seems obvious: we’re a democracy and democracies shouldn’t force citizens to do anything.  Still, we force people to pay taxes; we force drivers to pay tolls. The very fabric of a functioning society is based on compulsion by law – what’s the difference if we’re forced to vote?

We just appear rather ridiculous scrambling to register the unregistered every four years.  The Ultimate Solution to the voting problem may be contained within the compulsory voting model.

Early voting as a key solution may not be that bad of a consideration … considering the current system’s inability to handle massive overflow at the polls.  We’re seeing signs of that in this election as an unprecedented number of voters are overwhelming the polls.  So, early voting is the anti-mea culpa, states can avoid criticism for not handling the obvious by expanded offering of early voting.  Watch this become a more dominant trend, particularly as Presidential cycles get longer.


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