This letter is about U.S. citizens who fail to vote. While many consider the 2016 presidential election a “soap opera” or “reality show,” it may be more important than ever for Americans to vote.
In all elections, why aren’t U.S. citizens required by law to vote? Wouldn’t such a law make sense? Is voting mandatory anywhere else in the world?
— Eleanor M., Anchorage, Alaska
In the United States, it is unlikely “compulsory voting” will ever become a legal requirement. Some might claim that mandatory voting would be undemocratic. Personally, I have heard very little discussion on the topic. Still, there are elaborate, valid arguments for and against compulsory voting.
In any case, whether mandatory voting makes sense is merely one’s opinion. I have mixed feelings on the subject. At one time, I thought every U.S. citizen who was entitled to vote should vote. Though not an absolute obligation, I considered it a responsibility. Then, after writing on this subject in my column (not recently), some readers reminded me that the voting issue is more complex than simply “Everyone should vote.”
Those letters from readers raised my consciousness. Specifically, a vote without any knowledge of the candidate or the issues is not a meaningful vote. Accordingly, the ideal solution is for U.S. citizens to become knowledgeable rather than remain unknowledgeable.
Regarding this year’s presidential election on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, it is such a “soap opera” and “reality show” (using your terms) that the American public along with the rest of world are somewhat informed without even trying. Unless someone has totally hibernated, it would be difficult to miss what is going on among the candidates and the issues. That said, people seem to be hearing more about the candidates than the issues.
In answer to your third question, compulsory voting is required in certain other countries. Most of them are Latin American nations. Some, supposedly, enforce it via fine, community service, etc. Others, clearly, do not enforce it.
Australia, the only country also classified as a continent and an island, seems to fine some citizens for failure to vote. Belgium introduced compulsory voting in 1894; allegedly, though not necessarily verified, the Belgian government has fined some citizens recently for not voting. According to several sources, North Korea requires its citizens 18 and older to vote; where only one candidate appears on the ballot, its system apparently determines which individuals are actually present in North Korea.
Meanwhile, there are as many variations as there are countries with compulsory voting.
Jerry Romansky is a syndicated columnist. Readers are invited to write in English or Spanish: Ask Jerry, P.O. Box 42444, Washington DC 20015. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and (because of spam situation) write the name of your newspaper in subject heading. Questions of popular interest are answered in the column. Unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.