Some guy who is paid a fat salary by a rich think tank says that the best way to raise voter turnout is to force folks to vote. The New York Times gave him lots of space
This guy fails to see the cause of low interest and low turnout – political powerlessness. Turnout largely follows the power/wealth scale in the US. Turnout increases as you go up the scale, and decreases as you go down it. The wealthiest have the highest turnout, and the most power to get what they want from government.
Indeed, elections and government are dominated by the top 1%. Barack Obama says as much in The Audacity of Hope: When socializing with rich campaign contributors, “I found myself avoiding certain topics during conversations with them. … I had no problem telling [them] that the tax cuts they’d received from George Bush should be reversed. … Still, I know that as a consequence of my fund-raising I became more like the wealthy donors I met …,” page 137. Its them he serves first. These key potential campaign contributors of big money are “the top 1 percent or so of the income scale,” page 136, The Audacity of Hope
The lower you go on the wealth and power scale the more intense is the awareness people have of their political alienation. Why bother to go to the polls when you already know it won’t do you any good?
The solution is to have an election system in which the rich and poor, and the moderate middle class, have genuine equality. When the election system is no longer skewed towards the top, folks will feel more empowered. They will turnout more just to feel the joy of exercising their political power. The US should redistribute electoral power as it should be in an authentic democracy.
But to use government power to force folks to vote, like this think tank guy says, won’t advance democracy. That would be merely another act of humiliation of the 99ers.
William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
Author of Internet Voting Now!