Should we force Americans to vote?

A group of more than 20 election scholars and voting rights advocates have this year been urging Americans to think about the benefits of adopting compulsory voting. The group, led by the Brookings Institution and Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, put out a report in July making the case for what they more palatably refer to as “universal civic duty voting.” Their hope is that as more Americans consider ways the voting system may more accurately reflect the country’s makeup, compulsory voting — and all the reforms that would likely come with it — may start to look attractive.

“Compulsory voting says that every person’s vote matters, every person’s perspective matters, and that everyone has a right to representation in a representative form of government,” said Janai S. Nelson, the associate director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and a coauthor of the report.

Advocates for compulsory voting know they have a long way to go before it could ever become a national reality, but they’re hoping it could be tried out on a smaller scale first. Now that the election is over, they’re speaking with local elected officials, state legislatures, and civil rights groups to see who might be willing to be the country’s compulsory voting guinea pig. They’re also planning to pen a model bill to show how it could work in practice nationwide.