The 2024 presidential election will be here faster than the public expects, which makes improving voter participation an immediate concern.
Short term are needed to prevent another election fraught with successful attempts to disenfranchise voters. But we’ve also got to think longer term about reinvigorating our democracy, especially considering that young people are one of the groups that votes the most inconsistently — or not at all.
In 100% Democracy: The Case for Universal Voting, E.J. Dionne and Miles Rapoport make the intriguing argument that the best way to prevent voter suppression is to make voting a legal requirement. They are quick to point out that this is not a radical idea, providing the example of the Australian universal voting system, which produced a turnout of 91.9% in 2019.
Universal voting, which they call civic duty voting, would make voting a compulsory civic responsibility as well as a right.
The authors directly address concerns and legal claims against universal voting, addressing the difficulties culture in the U.S. would create in implementing this policy. Some Americans have expressed discomfort with the idea of compulsory voting, which acts as a large barrier for those trying to demystify it.
Advocacy for universal voting isn’t just a response to combating voter suppression. Dionne and Rapoport argue that it is time we re-assert that voting is a civic duty.
The call to fulfilling civic duties was well-balanced with the practical reality that many people do not vote because it is too difficult, not because they reject participating in democracy. Universal voting has the power to make voting easier and normalize it as a default in America.
Dionne and Rapoport also go much further than merely laying out what they see as the steps to implementing universal voting. Readers will find a compelling and thorough justification for the practice, both constitutionally and philosophically.
Dionne and Rapoport base their position on the Constitution’s preamble, asserting that our current voting system fails to live up even to the opening words: “‘We the People,’ are central to the arguments for universal civic duty voting, and a government built on wide participation in our elections would be far more likely to advance the other purposed the Preamble describes – none more so that the quest for justice, domestic tranquility, and liberty.”
The key constitutional attack against civic duty voting is derived from the First Amendment. The argument is that requiring citizens to vote equates to forced and coerced speech. The authors stress the importance of clarifying between “mandatory participation” and “mandatory voting.”
A universal voting system would allow people to vote “none of the above” on their ballots or provide a legitimate reason for not making selections.
Examples of other civic duties with mandatory defaults include jury duty, the national census, and dues (local, state, and federal taxes).
These suggest that civic duty voting can successfully be defended in our courts against the argument that it is coerced speech.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is hoping to better understand the issue of voter suppression, how it has impacted past elections, and how to advocate for a lasting solution.
A plethora of disinformation has helped purposely and successfully confuse many voters on this issue, making this book’s summary of election fraud claims and the use of voter suppression a very powerful, effective tool.
Relatively short, succinct, and made easy to understand, Dionne and Rapoport have created a comprehensive guide to how America can adopt the ultimate voting justice reform: universal voting.