Speaking at a townhall event in Ohio, President Barack Obama voiced the contention that compulsory voting by the American electorate could actually reduce the influence of money in elections and curtail alleged suppression of the electoral franchise. The supposed goal of this change is at odds with Obama’s actual political practice. It was Obama who raised a record fundraising amount of nearly $1 billion for his 2008 re-election campaign. Speaking to the crowd in Cleveland OH, Obama said “It would be transformative if everybody voted. That would counteract [campaign] money more than anything. If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country.”
Regarding observors’ criticisms about how difficult it is to measure the influence of advertising, for example, on voters who are not otherwise motivated by a mandate to vote, Obama said that his opponents are motivated to suppress voter turnout. Said Obama “The people who tend not to vote are young, they’re lower income, they’re skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups. And they’re the folks who are scratching and climbing to get into the middle class and they’re working hard. There’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls. We should want to get them into the polls.”
Obama’s political career had its beginnings in voter registration campaigns in the Chicago area. Speaking at the town hall, he expressed concern about the poor turnout among Democrats during the recently held mid-term election that rendered a solid Republican congress. The president said that mandatory voting would counteract this trend. The Republican voter turnout in the 2014 mid-term election surpassed the Democrats by 5 million, according to the Washington Times. Victoria Taft, writing at IJRreview.com opined “In other words, his reasons for supporting the measure might be political; it’s difficult to imagine the Democrats supporting such a policy if it meant more losses at the ballot box…It’s obvious that the Democrat Party isn’t interesting in changing their policies, and that is why they are keen on changing the rules of the game.”
Currently, about three-fourths of the nations of the world follow the current American practice of non-mandatory voting. Those countries that compel voters to go the polls are mostly in Latin America and Africa. Among them are Argentina and Mexico. However, Australia also has mandatory voting, and voters can be fined if they fail to participate in balloting. In many such countries, voters comply with the mandate by turning in blank ballots as a sign of repudiation. "Other countries have mandatory voting," said Obama while mentioning Australia. "It would be transformative if everybody voted -- that would counteract money more than anything."
Despite millions of dollars expended to induce voter turnout, the number of Americans who go to the polls remains low. In November 2014, the rate was but 36.3 percent. Obama said it would be “fun” to go through the extensive and divisive process of enacting a constitutional amendment to enact his dream of mandatory voting.
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