Mandatory voting is authoritarian

For me, this is a proactive political choice. But maybe some Americans don’t vote because they are anarchists, or monarchists, or nihilists. Some Americans might not be satisfied with any of their choices. Some might rather be watching cartoons. It’s none of Dionne’s business. The last thing we should do is make those who aren’t interested, motivated, or feel unprepared to make sound decisions act against their will.

Whenever I mention that compelling people to participate in the political system is authoritarian, someone will ridicule me by noting that voting is the hallmark of “democracy.” One wonders if citizens of, say, Hong Kong, who had no real vote as British colonial subjects for 150 years, feel freer today than they did 30 years ago. Sure, mandatory voting exists in Australia and Belgium. But it also exists in Bolivia, Congo, Dominican Republic, Egypt, and Lebanon. In fact, historically speaking, authoritarian states often adopt compulsory voting as a way of creating a false sense of democratic legitimacy. If you’re compelling people to participate, you’re not doing “democracy.”

2020 saw record turnout — though calling it a “turnout” is a bit misleading, since the involvement was largely a function of states’ haphazardly mailing out paper ballots to everyone. All mandatory-voting advocates are doing is further degrading the importance of elections and incentivizing more demagoguery. If they truly believed democracy was sacred — rather than a way to accumulate power — they’d want Americans to put more effort in voting for the president than they do in ordering Chinese takeout. And they certainly wouldn’t want to force anyone to do it.