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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Voting should be mandatory in US

Mary Ngo
A personified pencil raises a fist next to a voting ballot featuring a red dog and a blue cat beneath the words: “Let’s Vote!” Voting is critical to democracy and should be mandatory in the United States. (Mary Ngo | Northern Star)

With the 2024 election year, numerous campaigns are taking place. It’s crucial citizens go to the polls and vote. Mandated voting in the U.S. would make sure society’s voices are heard.

One key principle of democracy is that the people are the source of government authority, according to John Locke’s “Of Political or Civil Society.” 

Voting is critical to increase civic engagement and voter turnout. Citizens should participate in the democratic process. Implementing mandatory voting could strengthen democracy by requiring all individuals to be involved.

Voting is currently mandatory in 27 countries, according to International Idea. The U.S. should adopt this policy and increase voter turnout. 

More people voted in the 2020 election with 154,628,000 people voting which is 66.7% of the population, according to the United States Census Bureau. This number is more than the 2016 election, where 137,537,000 voted which was 61.4% of the population, according to the United States Census Bureau

Although voter turnout has recently increased, the U.S. is not on par with other countries, such as Argentina, Sweden and New Zealand, according to the Pew Research Center

Other countries such as Uruguay, Turkey and Peru have a higher percentage of registered voter turnout rate than the U.S., with Uruguay having a 90.1% voter turnout rate, Turkey having an 86.2% voter turnout rate and Peru having a 74.6% voter turnout rate.

Scot Schraufnagel, an NIU political science professor, said individuals who don’t vote could receive fines.

“In research I’ve done we show that on average it increases voter turnout by about 12%, and the penalty varies a lot from country to country, and sometimes it’s as little as a parking ticket like $10,” Schraufnagel said.

Although U.S. citizens right now have the freedom to vote if they choose to, taking away that freedom is necessary. Even if individuals don’t want their voices heard, they are the ones who have to suffer the consequences of having a president that they may not want.

An increase in voter turnout is crucial to a successful democracy. By having fewer votes, there is less representation of how the public truly feels. Although individuals may suffer through having a president that they don’t want, the public would have more of a say if they voted.

Cameron Ryan, a sophomore computer science major, believes barriers to voting should be lowered instead of mandating it. 

“I think a better option is lowering the barriers of entry to voting, such as same-day voter registration, automatic voter registration, increasing access to mail-in ballots and increasing polling locations to decrease wait times,” Ryan said.

Although lowering the barriers of entry to voting is crucial, it wouldn’t make a difference if individuals do not believe their votes matter and are not interested in voting. If citizens do not go to the polls to vote, then lowering the barriers of entry to voting wouldn’t matter, because people would not be voting.

Vanessa Rios, a sophomore psychology major, said mandatory voting could encourage citizens to do more research on candidates.

“It could encourage people to actually find more information on the candidates, but it could also have the reverse effects where people vote only because it’s mandatory,” Rios said. 

Schraufnagel said while mandatory voting would be beneficial, it would require a constitutional amendment.

“If the national government does it, it’ll require constitutional amendments, because the Constitution says the state can set their own laws regarding mandatory voting,” Schraufnagel said. “Nothing is stopping a state right now from making voting mandatory. I suspect if it’ll get anywhere that’s where it’ll start.”

If mandatory voting became law, there would be punishments for not fulfilling your civic, and legal, duty. Potential punishments should range from a fine to jail time. Most other countries such as Australia and Singapore have fines for individuals that don’t vote, according to World Population Review

Fines are a fair punishment for individuals who don’t vote.

People constantly complain about elected officials, but it seems like people who complain about elected officials are the same citizens who don’t vote.

Mandatory voting needs to be implemented in the U.S. to make citizen voices heard.

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