Eleven weeks before Election Day we can’t know who will win the presidency. But we can know with near certainty that voter turnout will be abysmal and that the results will be not so much a mandate as a skewed sampling of about half the electorate.
Many reforms could increase turnout, from same-day registration to voting on weekends. But the most basic is also the most appropriate: making voting mandatory. Here’s why.
Mandatory voting would make elections truly valid. “Protecting the integrity of our elections” is the rationale Republicans give for the cynically restrictive voter ID laws they’ve enacted in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. But if we truly cared about the integrity of elections, we should ensure that they reflect the will of all eligible voters.
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Second, as William Galston of the Brookings Institution argues, it would temper the polarization of our politics. In today’s electorate, hardcore partisan believers are over-represented; independents and moderates are under-represented. If the full range of voters actually voted, our political leaders, who are exquisitely attuned followers, would go where the votes are: away from the extremes. And they would become more responsive to the younger, poorer and less educated Americans who don’t currently vote.
Third, mandatory voting would prompt more Americans to pay attention to the choices. Those of us who lament the decline of civic knowledge generally focus on the supply side of the equation: more civics education. A mandate would stimulate the demand side, motivating more voters to learn what they were voting on (just as a draft makes the drafted motivated to learn what they’d fight for).
There are many arguments against mandatory voting; each reflects a lack of faith in democracy itself. One says that increasing the number of uninformed voters will lead to worse policymaking. That presumes, however, that policymaking today sets a high-water mark of enlightenment. It also sets up a viciously antidemocratic circle: if you don’t vote you must be stupid and if you are stupid you mustn’t vote.
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Another critique claims that requiring the vote devalues it, and that compelled voters will protest by voting carelessly. But in Australia, where voting became compulsory in 1924, that’s been a marginal issue. The existence of a mandate has made voting a meaningful shared national experience.
Some Republicans will oppose mandatory voting for the reason they now push voter IDs: to win. (Conventional wisdom says the more people who vote, the worse the GOP does). But if a tactic of disenfranchisement and electorate-amputation makes sense for the party (which is debatable), it is terrible for the country. As former director of the Office of Management and Budget Peter Orzsag has pointed out, we can’t know what the ultimate partisan impact would be. One day Republicans could benefit.
The most visceral critique is that mandating voting is just un-American. Yet jury duty, the draft, going to school, and taxpaying all have been compulsory without being called communist (OK, three out of four). At issue is what makes something American — and what makes liberty liberty. The Revolution and the framing of the Constitution were not about the right merely to be let alone or to do whatever one pleased. They were about our liberty to govern and represent ourselves. Core to that liberty is electing representatives and voting on public issues.
That is why the best reason for mandatory voting has nothing to do with today’s politics. It’s about redeeming the central promise of American citizenship. Generations marched, fought and died for the right to vote. The least we can do now is treat that right like a responsibility.
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Writing Prompt - Expository Essay
Voting is an Important Act of Citizenship
Many US citizens do not exercise their right to vote at any level of government. They give up their right to important input on issues because they do not take the time to investigate the issues or go to the polls to cast a ballot for a candidate that may have similar values. Some think that one vote does not make a difference so why should they bother.Often elections are decided by a very small percentage of those eligible and registered to vote.
Your job is to explain the value of having and exercising the right to vote. Use the five-paragraph form for the explanation.
Be sure to think of reasons why it is important to vote. Think of the kinds of laws that effect the average individual. Think how the stated platforms of the various parties influence the outcomes of actions of lawmaking bodies.
Use a planner.
Be sure to state that it is important to vote in your topic sentence. That is the assignment. You do not have a choice.
Think of three good reasons why everyone should vote.
Once you have written them down, think about some supporting reasons or examples. If you can think of some examples from history, you might be able to include some concrete give examples from the past of how a law came about or was changed by the actions of the lawmakers. Or you can give examples from the present or recent times to explain how voting does make a difference. Feel free to reference things that have happened in your school that could parallel events in the local, state or national government. Think of some excuses that you might have heard and explain why they are not valid.
This is a difficult task, but it is not important if you put your mind to it.
Once you have the three reasons and have three supporting facts or ideas for each one, it is time to plan for the summary ending.
Be sure that you have a strong summary and restate, in an original manner, the main points of your essay. It is necessary to restate and remind people of the main facts that you brought out throughout the essay. It is necessary to remind them of the focus and the main points that you have brought out.
When you have finished the planner, it is time to write.
Try to think of a good opening sentence that clearly focuses in on the topic. Be sure that it is sufficiently broad to cover your points, but not so broad as to loose the interest of the reader right off the bat. Using something like, "voting is important." Does not create interest or clearly define the topic.
As you write, take time to phrase each sentence in your mind. Pay attention to the arrangement of the sentence that went before so that you are varying the sentence structure. Be sure that the subject and the verb agree. Try to write inactive voice as it is so much more powerful.
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