Don't Make Me Do it: Compulsory Voting Isn't the Answer

There are better ways to increase voter turnout.

After reading one of my posts—about the importance of creating an American culture of voting—a friend of mine said, "Why not just pass a law, make people vote?"

This question often comes up in discussions about turnout, and it's a good one. The best model is Australia, which has a law authorizing fines for non-voters that rise with each offense. The law doesn't require Australians to vote for a candidate but merely to show up.

It's worked: Turnout in Australia is among the highest in the world. Is this the right solution for Americans? Peter Orszag makes the case:

The U.S. prides itself as the beacon of democracy, but it's very likely that no American president has ever been elected by a majority of American adults...Compulsory voting, as exists in Australia and more than two dozen other countries would fix that problem. As William Galston of the Brookings Institution argues, 'Jury duty is mandatory: why not voting?'


The jury duty analogy is instructive, but not in the way Orszag and Galston intended. Serving on a jury is a civic responsibility. Voting is a civic responsibility too, but it is also a right. You've probably heard people chastise non-voters by saying, "People fought and died for the right to vote." That's true, but just as someone may choose not to exercise the right to free speech, a person should be able not to exercise the right to vote. Rights cut both ways.

Some people choose not to go to the polls because they don't want to participate in and thereby support a system they see as irredeemably flawed. Although I wouldn't recommend that course of action, I wouldn't want the government to stop people from taking it. Non-voting can be a political act as well, and the law should protect it.

In many countries that don't require people to vote, like Germany, France, and Sweden, people also go the polls in huge numbers. We in the United States can follow those countries and use non-coercive ways to increase voter turnout.

We can, for example, Take Back Tuesday.

Seventh in a series. One/Two/Three/Four/Five/Sixth

This post is part of the Take Back Tuesday campaign to make Voting Day a national holiday. Sign up or encourage your company to join in at

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

via David Leavitt / Twitter

Anyone who has ever worked in retail knows that the worst thing about the job, right after the pay, are the unreasonable cheapskates who "want to talk to your manager" to get some money off an item.

They think that throwing a tantrum will save them a few bucks and don't care if they completely embarrass themselves in the process. Sometimes that involves belittling the poor employee who's just trying to get through their day with an ounce of dignity.

Twitter is rallying around a gal named Tori who works at a Target in Massachusetts after she was tweet-shamed by irate chapekate, journalist, and Twitter troll, David Leavitt.

Keep Reading

Childbirth is the number one reason American women visit the hospital, and it ain't cheap. In fact, it's getting more and more expensive. A new study published in Health Affairs found that the cost of having a baby with employer-sponsored health insurance increased by almost 50% in the past seven years.

The study evaluated "trends in cost-sharing for maternity care for women with employer-based health insurance plans, before and after the Affordable Care Act," which was signed into law in 2010. The study looked at over 657,061 women enrolled in large employer-sponsored health insurance plans who delivered babies between 2008 and 2015, as these plans tend to cover more than plans purchased by small businesses or individuals.

Keep Reading

A meteorite crashed into Earth nearly 800,000 years ago. The meteor was 1.2 miles wide, and the impact was so big, it covered 10% of the planet with debris. However, scientists haven't been able to find the impact site for over a century. That is, until now. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal believes the crash site has been located.

Tektites, which are essentially rocks that have been liquefied from the heat of the impact and then cooled to form glass, help scientists spot the original impact site of a meteor. Upon impact, melted material is thrown into the atmosphere, then falls back to the ground. Even if the original crater has disappeared due to erosion or is hidden by a shift in tectonic plates, tektites give the spot away. Tektites between 750,000 to 35.5 million years old have been found in every continent except Antarctica.

Keep Reading
The Planet