Following low turnout of voters during the last midterm elections— especially among groups known to favor the Democratic Party — President Barack Obama has expressed support for the idea of making voting mandatory in the United States.
Obama was in attendance at a town hall meeting at the City Club of Cleveland on Wednesday to provide answers to some questions raised by participants. In response to a question on how to curb the influence of campaign money in elections, the President suggested that mandatory voting might just help to solve the problem. He said voting should not be made difficult to the electorate.
“It would be transformative if everybody voted,” Obama said. “That would counteract money more than anything. If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country.”
Obama noted that mandatory voting is already being practiced in some countries around the world, including Australia.
Any eligible voter that refuses to vote in Australia can be fined or even sent to jail if such an action is repeated.
Obama’s preference for mandatory voting is, no doubt, influenced by the poor showing of his party during last year’s midterm elections as a result of low voter turnout. Just slightly over 36 percent of eligible voters participated in the elections. The United States Election Project described that figure as being the lowest seen after World War II.
It has been observed that those who tend to abstain from voting are mostly young people, low-income workers and minority groups. These are the people who usually favor the Democratic Party. Large turnout of these groups significantly helped Obama to victory is his two elections.
“There’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls,” the President said. “We should want to get them into the polls.”
That statement by Obama was obviously inferring to attempts by the Republicans to make it compulsory for voters in the U.S. to provide photo identification before being allowed to cast ballots. That move has been slammed by both Democrats and the Justice Department, describing it as one capable of making it difficult for people to vote. However, the Republicans think such measures would help to keep voter fraud in check.
The Democratic Party lost control of the Senate to the Republican Party last November, while the latter tightened its hold on the House by gaining extra seats. This happened in spite of Obama’s best efforts to raise funds for his party.