Ever since 2000 when the Republican Party stole the presidency from Al Gore, the GOP has been getting bolder  dirtier in their tactics to gain and keep political power.

Since 2010, the unprecedented level of  obstruction by the GOP-led House has been joined by an aggressive nationwide GOP redistricting strategy  begun after the census (and mid-term elections) to ensure Republican dominance.

The latest weapon in the GOP’s arsenal is voter suppression which can be achieved by making it harder:  to register to vote,  to prove eligibility,  to vote early,  and to vote by mail.   It is estimated that as many as  5 million voters could be affected by these voter suppression tactics nationwide.

So, I’ve been researching about what could be done to stop voter suppression and it seems that an effective way is through compulsory voting, which requires the citizens of a nation to vote.  Wikipedia explains:

If everybody must vote, then restrictions on voting are easily identified and steps are taken to remove them. It is a measure to prevent disenfranchisement of the socially disadvantaged. Countries with compulsory voting generally hold elections on a Saturday or Sunday as evidenced in nations such as Australia, to ensure that working people can fulfill their duty to cast their vote. Postal and pre-poll voting is provided to people who cannot vote on polling day, and mobile voting booths may also be taken to old age homes and hospitals to cater for immobilized citizens.

Imagine that, a country taking measures “to prevent disenfranchisement of the socially disadvantaged.”  Here in the U.S.,  it is precisely the socially disadvantaged—who usually vote for Democrats— who are targeted fo voter suppression by the GOP.

Besides eliminating voter suppression, compulsory voting has other advantages such as:  a large voter turnout, a more informed electorate, a reduction in the power of lobbyists, and a decrease in campaign costs (related to getting voters to the polls).  But there is a controversial side to compulsory voting.  The failure to vote can lead to fines or mandatory community service. Currently, 23 countries have compulsory voting but only 10 enforce it.
I can already hear the Republicans’ arguments against compulsory voting.  They will say that it interferes with freedom of speech, with religious freedom, and—probably— that we’d be acting like a communist dictatorship.  Well, for starters, citizens of communist dictatorships are not forced to vote, because elections are not held in countries governed by dictators (communist or otherwise).  As far as those citizens pertaining to religious groups that forbid them to take part in the political process, they could be exempted.
That leaves the freedom of speech argument.  But, frankly,  I have a hard time accepting any type of freedom-infringement argument from a group who has no problem with the concept of forcing a probe up women’s vaginas whether they want it or not.

I don’t know if compulsory voting is the cure for voter suppression, but it seems to have many advantages worth looking into.  However, the chances of compulsory voting ever becoming a reality in the U.S. are nil.  Considering how much they risk to lose, the Republican party would  make sure to poison public opinion against it before we could even have an intelligent debate on its merits.

If you think I’m exaggerating, consider the case of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.  It was so expertly and negatively spinned by the GOP that even when voters agreed with its individual provisions they were still rejecting it.   I can only begin to imagine what they would do to discredit and malign “those who would take away our individual freedom and force us to vote.”

It’s too bad  that these days we are so often forced to listen to their BS and to live with their decisions.


Note: Originally published on October 1, 2012