Thursday, March 29, 2012

Let's bring everyone back in...

American systems are broken. Our political system is broke. Our economic system is broken. Our judicial system is broke. Our educational system is broke. I’m not going to go into examples of how and why these systems are broken, but I think that while people may disagree over the levels of dysfunction in these institutions, most people would agree that they’re all messed up and headed in the wrong direction.
So, short of completely overhauling our system – which basically would be mean scrapping our constitution and re-writing it (not a bad idea, but a proposal fraught with its own issues of who to write it and how to change it) – what we need is to change the way the people in this country interact with their institutions; government and other.
One major change that would help connect people more to their political system – and in my opinion, thereby connect them more to all of the institutions in our lives – would be to create a compulsory voting system in this country. Compulsory (or mandatory) voting would be helpful, because not only would it push voting numbers up to more democratic levels (the mid-terms had a 37% voter participation rate – disgraceful), but would also re-engage citizens in the politics and political process. In addition, voter participation on the level that we’re seeing in the Australia (95%), which has a fine-based mandatory voting process, would help weed out extreme candidates, and stifle ascension of highly partisan groups such as the tea party from become major political forces.
Voting day can also be made a mandatory national holiday, so that citizens have no excuses for not turning out to vote, and companies have no excuses for remaining open. Mobile voting centers can be setup to aid elderly or infirmed voters with the process, and those who are absolutely unable to participate may get a waiver through an extensive process of unenrollment, that would need to be re-submitted for every election.
Voting should be compulsory for both local and national elections. The reason this is important is because if we have extremists in our local office, they become our experienced lawmakers, and therefore will tend to move onto the next level. Rick Santorum is a perfect example of this. Santorum is a highly-partisan, ultra-religious extremist, but because he has moved through the levels of politics using a hard Christian-conservative bloc as his base, he’s been able to make his way all the way into a primary fight for the Republican nomination as President of the United States. But Rick Santorum in no way reflects the general feelings or beliefs of even a large minority in this country. His base is small, but fierce; they always vote, and always get their friends to vote. And when no one else is voting, it’s the extremists on both sides that decide both our local and national elections.
The argument against compulsory voting is that it infringes upon our rights. Personally, I feel that this argument is flimsy. There are several things that the government – whether local or federal – requires us to do. We’re required to sign up for selective service. We’re required to pay taxes. We’re required to serve on juries. And there are always caveats to these laws and people who flout the system, but on the whole, the majority of people participate in these activities. In addition, each citizen should only be required to register and show up on Election Day, they have no requirement to vote for a specific candidate, or vote for any candidate at all. There should be options to either write in a person’s own selection, or to completely abstain and select something like “I do not wish to vote”. This would give people who have a moral (or religious) opposition to the voting or political process a chance to withhold their active participation. And for those who say that they don’t want to participate because the system is broken, what is a better way to change the system than participate. The system is what the system is, and if we can’t completely overhaul it, isn’t it better to be able to change it from within.
The arguments against compulsory voting are mainly hyperbolic, and have nothing to do with any real negative impacts on the political process or the country in general. Therefore, to reduce hyper-partisanship, increase voter participation and engagement, and restore democracy to our fragile and disintegrating institutions, it’s time to implement compulsory voting into our local and national electoral processes.

13 comments:

Dyl said...

What about anarchists who don't want to participate in any type of government function?

mpm210 said...

I respect their opinion; but unfortunately the current government structure we have is a republic, and therefore we will have to get rid of that structure before they have their way.

Do they pay taxes?
Do they sign up for selective service?
Do they serve on juries?

I recognize that it seems antithetical to force democracy by making something like political participation mandatory, but the downside is simply constitutional, while the plus side is momentous.

In addition, people can abstain from participating by simply marking "I abstain from voting". You're making your point, but still doing your part as a citizen.

Dyl said...

So when we spoke earlier you said there would be something like a $100 fine if an individual chose not to participate in the mandatory vote. And since anarchists will be forced to go against their beliefs and vote, they will be fined the $100, right?

Dyl said...

I'm sorry, that last line should have read "And since anarchists will be forced to go against their beliefs and vote, they will be fined the $100 if they adhere to their own political beliefs, right?"

mpm210 said...

If they choose not to show up, yes, they would be fined. If they show up and choose, "I abstain from voting", then they will not be charged a fine.

But I ask again, do we live in an anarchist society? Do anarchists not have to pay taxes? Do anarchists not have to sign up for selective service? Do anarchists not have to serve on juries?
While they can choose not to participate in these, there are consequences (fines, jail time, etc.).

Dyl said...

We are not an anarchist society, but anarchists live in our society. If you fine them for not participating in a government functions that are counter to their political beliefs, then you are fining them for their political beliefs. That's fascism. And I use that as the most egregious example. It applies to anyone who disagrees with compulsive voting and you fine them for it. You're forcing people to do something they disagree with politically because you think you know what is best for them. And then you're punishing them for noncompliance. That's an authoritarian, fascist mindset.

And I'll address your other arguments (especially selective service) after you address this.

mpm210 said...

I don't think it's necessary to address how Anarchists would like society to be in a Democracy. It's moot. I'm sure there are many things Anarchists would like to be different, and feel are totalitarian, but unfortunately they live in a society (I'm sure I agree with many of those things).

I can't really separate their views on taxes, juries, selective service, or education, from this. I feel that they are (or would be) the same type of issues.

Selective service is forcing someone to possibly give up their life; taxes are forcing someone to give up their money. Mandatory voting is forcing for a positive, and I don't understand the vehenement abhorrence of it.

Dyl said...

It's a necessity to address Anarchists' view of our society because they are members of our society and have a right to their political viewpoints without being oppressed by the federal government. It seems that we both understand that what you're advocating is fascism, so let's move on to how you justify it.

Just because the government forces citizens to do certain thing does not make it right for them to force them to do more. That's a logical fallacy. Building upon bad behavior is a negative, not a positive.

The example of Selective Service is the most confusing, so let's start there. I don't understand the logic behind thinking that since we're forced to fight wars for our ruling class, it is reasonable to force us to vote for the ruling class and legitimize their decisions like ill conceived war making. This seems very backwards to me. I could see making voting mandatory first, then being outraged that the people we vote for can force us to fight wars for them. I don't understand accepting that the ruling class can force us to fight for them and using that as a good reason to force us to vote.

Taxes? I'm sure your as upset as I am with many taxing policies as they are now, I remember some of our conversations. It's unfair and unjust that we pay large amounts of taxes without any say in how they are spent. Spending on Defense is out of control, as you know. The GDP of Iran--that country that poses such a danger to the US--is one-third the size of our Defense spending alone. (please imagine 3 paragraphs about the ills of the military/media/industrial complex in this space). Personally I believe, and I think it would be hard to argue against by people who support a free society, that the people should have much more participation and influence over how and what their tax dollars are funding with the option not to fund certain programs at all.

And requiring people to serve on juries is just silly. Why would any innocent person want to be tried by a jury of their peers full of people who don't want to be there? That really needs to change.

But, again, none of this matters because these are all separate issues. Just because we're forced to fund the Defense Department, or fight wars or serve on juries against our will does not mean in any logical sense that it is okay to force people to vote.

mpm210 said...

Not to catch you in a gotcha, but you just showed me exactly what I wanted you to show me; that you, regardless of institution, are against it. Therefore, I could say that we should implement anything (positive or negative) and you wouldn't support it.

Also, just so you know, if you participate in the electoral process, you do - in fact - have control over how your tax dollars are spent, because you can vote out people that don't spend money in the ways we want them to. But we live in a Democracy (majority rules), so you wouldn't always get to choose anyway. If you want to live in a society that operates differently, you're probably going to have to move to a different country.

Dyl said...

I don't see how that's a "gotcha". Just because I addressed your arguments doesn't mean I'm against every institution, let's leave out the ad hominems. That's another logical fallacy and it certainly doesn't add anything to the conversation with regard to mandatory voting.

So it seems you agree that the examples you gave have nothing to do with the validity or rightness of compulsory voting, so let's move on. You've been writing "Mandatory voting is forcing for a positive" in different ways quite a few times. Can you restate what positives you think it offers?

mpm210 said...

It is supporting of a Democratic society (which we live in - at least in theory), like other measures of democratic participation (taxes, jury duty, etc.).
Do you think that political participation under 50% is democratic?
You still haven't answered my question about anarchists and taxes, juries, selective service, mandatory education for children.

Dyl said...

I'm pretty sure I did answer your question about anarchists. But if you want to ask it again, I'll answer it again.

If only 50% of a population wants to vote, and are able to vote, then yes I consider that to be democratic. Why do you want to solve a problem that you consider to be undemocratic with an undemocratic solution? Why do you consider it to be democratic to force people to vote? Why would you want to force people to vote in the first place? Instead of focusing on that, why not work to make voting more accessible? Why not help the people who want to vote yet are unable to due to work or family obligations or whathaveyou? Won't that promote democracy more than forcing people to do something they don't want to do? You have a good idea with a national holiday devoted to election day. Let's build on that. Maybe instead of just a single day for voting we could extend it to a week or two. Mail-in ballots in Oregon work really well, maybe we could promote extending that throughout the 50 states and territories. I'd even support making it illegal to fire an employee who misses work to go vote if you really want to kick start some legislation.

So yeah. The problem to me is the ease and accessibility of the voting process. I would like to see higher participation in our elections, it's just that forcing people to vote and fining them if the don't want to is the wrong way to go.

mpm210 said...

I really respect that solutions-based comment. And I agree with you; low turnout is a symptom of a larger problem, and mandatory voting does not solve the problem, but simply focuses on the symptoms. So I think all of your ideas are very good, and I think that we should try to do those things as well. Maybe that is where we should start.
I guess my idea was that mandatory voting would be have the effect of creating more political (not just voting) participation and interest, instead of the other way around.
You're right, though, I do that it is perfectly democratic to force people to vote. I mean, I'm not saying we should have the military walking around with guns literally forcing people to vote; but there should be minor penalties for not voting (fines, community service, etc.). I think we just have a difference of opinion about that fact, and that's alright. I think our perspectives on freedom, liberty, and democracy are probably a little bit different.