One of the main hurdles to democracy is voter turnout. This has been an issue that has troubled many political scientists for decades. Some political scientists have proposed solutions to this problem. One of these solutions is to make voting compulsory, This sounds good in theory but in reality, it is not practical because it opposes the American values laid forth in the Bill of Rights and Constitution, many voters do not vote based upon merits, and many theories on voting prove compulsory voting to be ineffective.
The Constitution and the Bill of Rights specifically protect the civil liberties of United States citizens, which include their right to dissent on voting. By forcing citizens of the United States to vote, the government is infringing on their civil liberties. The First Amendment to the Constitution protects an individual‘s right to free speech. Compulsory voting violates this amendment because the right to vote includes one’s freedom to express or not to express political ideas.
By forcing an individual to vote, the government is forcing him to express his political ideas. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments protect an individual’s right to privacy and property by protecting against illegal searches and seizures It also guarantees an individual the right to life, liberty, and property with due process of law. Compulsory voting violates these amendments because the right to vote allows an individual privacy in his beliefs, and it is an individual’s intellectual property. It is up to that individual to decide to vote.
Forcing an individual to vote is the equivalent of illegally searching and seizing his intellectual property while violating his privacy. Compulsory voting clearly opposes the American values laid forth in the Bill of Rights and Constitution by violating many of its central principles In the United States there have been many studies, like The American Voter, that analyze how people vote.
The American Voter defines four types of voters—ideological voters, group benefits voters, nature of the times voters, and no issue voters. It found that ideological voters informed people that vote based on political issues, composed a small percentage of the voting public. Most voters do not vote based on an active knowledge of politics. The American Voter also found that many people voted for candidates based on general party platforms rather than the platform of the individual candidate. For example, a person that is a union member will vote for the Democrats because Democrats generally support unions, More voters are in this category than in the ideological voter category, Many people are nature of the times voters, who vote based on the direction of the country at a particular time They often vote based upon the state of the economy.
If these voters believe the direction of the country is in good standing, they re-elect current government officials, but if they believe it is not in good standing, they vote for the candidates opposing the incumbents It is an attempt to vote out current government officials. The largest group, according to The American Voter, is the no-issue or no-content voters, who vote for parties or candidates solely based upon their personalities Intelligent reasoning does not play a role in their decision. Because many people are uneducated in terms of politics, the real question is whether it is in the best interest of the United States for them to vote If the largest group in the public knows little about politics, is it intelligent to force them to vote? Obviously, compulsory voting is not a good idea if the majority of the public that cares little and knows little about politics is going to determine who the leaders of the United States are.
Many of the major theories on voting are based upon the assumption that the citizens of the United States are educated about politics and actively desire to participate in politics. In reality this is not the case, The Traditional American Democratic Theory states that there are five requirements for democracy participation, equality, inclusion, citizen decision-making, and informed citizens This theory states that democracy requires citizens to participate in government, to make decisions, and to be informed, In order for citizens to positively influence politics they must be informed. If the uninformed citizens were forced to vote, this would negatively impact the United States because uninformed citizens would be making major decisions and impacting the country more than the informed citizens, According to the Rational Choice Theory, people always do what is the most convenient.
Because of this, some people would view compulsory voting as an inconvenience. This theory states that there is a free rider phenomenon that people want more benefits while doing less. People have little interest in participating in government because they want someone else to fight for their interests without them being involved. Many people believe their vote is worth little because they are just one out of the many millions that vote Because people do what is easiest and think their vote is worth little, compulsory voting would result in people voting for anyone rather than making a rational decision. This would encourage people to care less about politics. Because many people think the government is corrupt, compulsory voting would only reinforce this belief, According to the Rational Choice Theory voters do not want to be informed about politics; they simply do what is easiest.
Because of this, many people either vote randomly orjust vote based upon what other people tell them. This lack of informed citizens greatly threatens successful democracy. By instituting compulsory voting, more people would vote that do not care about politics, Compulsory voting is not practical because it forces people who are uninformed to vote. It would only result in people becoming angry at the government because they are being coerced to vote. By allowing citizens of the United States to have the freedom to choose or neglect to vote, more people that are informed citizens will vote. This will result in a more educated voting populous and therefore a more effectively run democracy.