The Australian voting way might not be the right way for America.
President Barack Obama’s proposal that the US should follow Australia’s lead with compulsory voting has stirred up a storm of protest across America, with some arguing forcing citizens to the polls with threats of fines was un-American.
The topic was debated on US TV, radio and in newspaper and online columns on Thursday.
One of the rising stars of the Republican Party, senator Marco Rubio, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, argued mandatory voting went against living in a free society.
“Not voting is also a legitimate choice that some people make,” Rubio said in an interview on Fox News.
“I wish more people would participate in politics, too, but that is their choice.
“That is the choice of living in a free society.”
Obama cited Australia’s mandatory voting during a town hall meeting in Cleveland on Wednesday, telling the audience “if everybody voted then it would completely change the political map” in the US.
“In Australia and some other countries, there is mandatory voting,” the president said.
“It would be transformative if everybody voted.”
In last year’s US midterm elections there was just a 36.3 per cent voter turnout – the lowest in 72 years.
When Obama was elected to a second term in 2012 there was a 57.5 per cent voter turnout.
In a Washington Post column George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin argued compulsory voting was likely to do more harm than good.
Somin pointed to Switzerland as often being considered one of the best-governed nations in the world, but it had lower voter turnout rates than the US.
“Just as the case of Switzerland demonstrates that you can have good government with very low turnout levels, Australia shows that you can have a relatively well-governed nation with compulsory voting,” he wrote.
“But, at the very least, we should not restrict citizens’ liberty unless there is strong reason to believe that doing so will benefit society.”
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