Obama Solving Voter Apathy by Antagonizing Voters

vote or die

If you’re looking for a solution to voter apathy, the last place you should look is anywhere that involves legislation. Barack Obama predictably suggested that it might not be a bad idea to make voting madatory in the U.S. Anyone that didn’t see this coming must have missed the new Oregon law that will automatically register eligible citizens to vote when they apply for or renew driver’s licenses and I.D.’s.

While it might be tempting to suggest that Obama simply wanted to outdo Oregon with his proposal, it probably has more to do with the fact that just making sure that more people are registered to vote won’t necessarily increase the number of people that actually cast ballots. The real issue is apathy, and the president’s solution is to simply force people to the polls. More cynical observers will also point out that the step after that would be to inform people who they must vote for in a given election.

That said, the real result of any attempt to force people to vote will probably involve anger, which is definitely worse than apathy. Like many ideas from the current administration, this one is focused on offering a quick fix to a perceived problem without evaluating the cause. The vast majority of excuses offered by citizens that choose not to vote center on one of two problems - either a lack of interest in, or information on, the political process; or the general sense that their votes do not really count. Forcing anyone that thinks this way to go to the polls will not resolve the problem, and on the contrary may result in electoral chaos, once they discover how write-in ballots work. Since we really do not want to get into the realm of changing voting procedures due to unintended consequences, it is probably best for everyone to hope that this was just another spur of the moment idea that will not remain in Obama’s mind for long.

The bottom line remains that the only real solution to the problem of voter apathy is education. While it might be tempting for legislators to consider adding Civics to the pile of required subjects that are on standardized tests, that definitely is not a good route to take. Perhaps simply encouraging the return of Civics classes to schools that have removed them would be a start. A far better solution would be to encourage the growth of youth outreach and education by existing political parties, especially in high schools.

It’s fine to suggest that grassroots political organizations would be ideal for this task, but there is at least a little irony involved. Obama’s administration spent quite a bit of time and taxpayer dollars doing everything they possibly could to squash the growth of many of these groups. That definitely did not help the voter apathy problem in general, and may eventually be proven to be a direct part of it. But, it’s not likely that Obama will be upset about that, since he would undoubtedly assume those groups would not have helped his problem - the perpetually anemic turnouts in mid-term elections by Democrats. If he had been honest, he might have said that this law would only apply to those voters.

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