Should Voting Be Mandatory?

In a panel by CNN following the most recent midterm elections, contributors including Donna Brazile, Gretchen Helmke, Bonnie Meguid and William Galston argued that voting in the United States should be compulsory, pointing specifically to low voter turnout in the last midterm election. While I admire these contributors’ enthusiasm, I don’t believe that a mandatory voting law would be best for our country.

The right for every citizen of the United States to vote is an essential part of our democratic system. As a nation, we should always strive to make it as easy as possible for all citizens to have the chance to vote. That being said, I don’t think one necessarily has to vote just because we have the right to vote.

I believe it’s my responsibility as a citizen to remove myself from the voting process if, come election day, I feel like I don’t know enough about the candidates or simply feel like I can’t definitively support one. I most definitely should not be compelled by law to vote for someone that I don’t support completely.

Voting for the sake of voting isn’t true democracy, and it isn’t an accurate representation of what the majority of our country wants. Just as laws preventing certain people from voting misconstrues an elected official’s mandate, so too does forcing those who have no inclination, or enough knowledge regarding the election, to vote.

As someone who has recently gained eligibility to vote, I have definitely felt a sense of societal pressure to be excited about my right to vote. Fair enough. It is exciting to feel like I’m a part of the process in choosing the next leader of the free world. It’s exciting to feel like I have some sort of power as a citizen, even though a single vote is probably insignificant compared to the U.S. population of 300 million people. However, I believe it’s important to remember the responsibility that comes with this right.

If I do vote, I want to be certain of who and what I’m voting for before I endorse them by ballot. I’d hope that other citizens do the same. Yes, one vote out of millions may seem rather insignificant, but I don’t see that as an excuse to simply throw my vote away. I’d hope that others don’t do the same. Voting for the sake of voting en masse gives an inaccurate picture of a country’s desires, as does abstaining from voting despite having a strong inclination toward a candidate. However, voting certainly should not be forced upon everyone in our country.

In an ideal world, everyone would be educated about the candidates and then develop a strong inclination toward one. Ideally, everyone would be registered, know with certainty who they’d want to represent our country and would vote. This ideal world would give our next president the clearest mandate to lead us forward.

Unfortunately, this utopia does not exist. Not everyone has the time, or maybe even the interest, to learn everything about each candidate. Additionally, many people may simply not care for anyone who is running, which is certainly a possibility with the current pool of candidates in the presidential race.

So come Election Day, I may decide that I don’t feel strongly enough about any of the candidates and not vote at all. And in that case, I will sit back and enjoy the spectacle of the electoral process without feel the slightest tinge of guilt.

Zack Ashley is a College freshman from New York City, New York. 

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