Law prof suggests 'small fine' for not voting
A University of Kentucky law professor is calling for mandatory voting as a method to improve voter turnout and suggested in a statement to Campus Reform imposing a "small fine" on citizens who do not turn out to vote.
Joshua Douglas recently authored the book “Vote for US,” which advocates for voting rights reform. Douglas suggested the use of mandatory voting to curb “a stain in our democracy,” referencing Kentucky’s 30 to 31 percent voter turnout during its 2015 local elections.
"I think that's horrible," Douglas said in an early April interview with WKYT-TV. "I think that it is a stain in our democracy to have such a low turnout and our elected officials be elected by only 30 percent of the people showing up and being decided by roughly 16 percent of the electorate."
According to Douglas, mandatory voting would be the easiest way to ensure voter participation.
"We must do better,” the professor said. “If we have a democracy where every person's vote should count and should be counted, then we have to find ways to improve turnout.”
Douglas further suggested that mandatory voting would lead to a "more informed electorate [in which people would] learn about the candidates," going on to reference Australia’s 90 to 95 percent voter turnout.
But not all University of Kentucky students believe that mandatory voting is the answer to low voter turnout.
“I think forcing citizens to do anything other than obeying the law is unnecessary,” Chandler Smith, chairman of the University of Kentucky College Republicans, told Campus Reform. “I understand that there is a genuine desire for higher voter turnout, but forcing it is not the answer.”
Smith further explains that mandatory voting would lead to a less informed electorate.
“People should vote when they are informed and engaged. The last thing needed is voters who are simply voting for voting’s sake,” he continued. “Voting is a sacred right and should be protected, but not forced upon the citizenry.”
Douglas told Campus Reform in an email early Tuesday, "I'm not naive enough to think that mandatory voting is politically feasible in this country any time soon, but I would look to the experience of countries like Australia, which imposes a small fine (around $25) for not showing up to vote."
"That said, I do think we can improve turnout significantly here if we adopt various pro-voter policies that have been implemented already for various state and local elections, as I explain in my new book," Douglas added.
In Douglas' book, he discusses, among other things, "expanding voter eligibility, easing voter registration rules, making voting more convenient, enhancing accessibility at the polls, providing voters with more choices, finding ways to comply with voter ID rules, giving redistricting back to the voters, pushing back on big money through local and state efforts, using journalism to make the system more accountable, and improving civics education," according to the Amazon description.
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