During America’s founding, the Constitution’s framers did not believe in the one man, one vote concept unless on considers that one male landowner was afforded one vote and women, the poor, and minorities were not allowed to choose the nation’s leaders. However, that was the late 18th century and women were birth machines and minorities were non-entities as far as voting rights were concerned, but this is 2012 and there is no reason every American should not have the right to vote in a timely manner.
Now that the election is over, it is time for this country to address the deplorable state of voting and start seriously considering transforming America into an easily accessible democracy. The news that thousands of voters waited in line for 3 to 5 hours to cast their vote puts America behind every civilized country on Earth, and with Republican voter suppression tactics contributes to the anemic voter turnout (60%) plaguing America. During his victory speech last night, President Obama mentioned that “we have to fix” the fact that voters were forced to wait in long lines for hours on end just to exercise their right to vote, and hopefully it is remedied because without easy access to the ballot box, millions of Americans will continue sitting out elections and their chance to shape the course of their own lives.
On some level, one can hardly blame many voters from sitting out elections after their right to vote is challenged or subverted, and it is the reason many among the poor, unemployed, homeless, and young Americans fail to have their voices heard. The consequence of disenfranchising voters is giving more power to the well-off who drive policies geared disproportionately to their interests, and perpetuates social and economic inequality that is killing economic opportunity for all Americans. There is one simple solution to expand voter rolls and although it may not be popular now, mandatory voting would arrest turnout decline and close the socioeconomic voting gap.
Mandatory voting is the only mechanism that can increase voter turnout to the 90% range, and subsequently, when 90% of the population votes there is less wealth inequality, lower levels of electoral corruption, and higher levels of satisfaction with democracy. Critics claim it violates autonomy and independence, but no more so than mandatory taxation, automobile liability insurance, jury duty, or the requirement to educate children. A good example of mandatory voting is in Australia, where their well-managed mandatory voting regime is free of corruption, easily accessible, economically feasible, and enjoys a more than 70% approval rating.
Another remedy is a national voting holiday that gives every American the time to vote that, in and of itself, would relieve the tortuous 5 hour wait to cast a ballot, and would definitely encourage more participation in democracy. America’s three major automobile makers give their employees the day off work to vote in what Vice President of Product Design for Chrysler called an opportunity for workers to “vote and enjoy your freedoms.” It is not a guarantee that every worker will exercise their right to vote, but it would give those who do vote the opportunity to vote early in the day and avoid 4-hour long lines at their polling places.
If Americans do not want special interests and Republicans restricting their right to vote, they must pressure their representatives to pass laws giving them easier access to the ballot box, and whether it is mandatory voting or a national voting holiday, something has to change or democracy will suffer. The vision of people waiting in four hour-long lines to cast a vote is typical in a banana republic, but for America, it informs there are forces hell-bent on electoral malfeasance, and it is no small coincidence it is unique to Republican controlled states.