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By Lowell Ponte, Special for USDR
“It would be transformative if everybody voted,” as Australians are required to do, President Barack Obama on March 18 told an audience in Cleveland.
Mr. Obama suggested that mandatory American voting “would counteract [campaign] money more than anything. If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country.”
Most of us saw this as Obama trying to change the national headlines from the embarrassing Israeli voter repudiation of his left-of-center candidates. His 16 top political operatives and $350,000 diverted from State Department taxpayer funds had been unable to defeat conservative Benjamin Netanyahu.
Obama’s idea — in effect, a reverse poll tax on non-voters — has cooled as scholars noted that we do not have a national election in America. We have 50 state elections, and a constitutional amendment would need approval of three-fourths of those states to make nationwide voting compulsory.
Even so, with the 2016 presidential run beginning, we can learn much from considering President Obama’s trial balloon . . . and from Australia.
“Actually, the voting part of ‘mandatory voting’ is a misnomer” in Australia, wrote journalist Eric Weiner. “All Australian citizens over the age of 18 must register and show up at a polling station, but they need not actually vote. They can deface their ballot or write in Skippy the Bush Kangaroo (Australia’s version of Lassie) — or do nothing at all.”
Those who do not show up might receive a form letter, which they can resolve with a fine typically of $20. Or, wrote Weiner, they can offer “any number of excuses, including illness (no note from your doctor required), travel, religious objections, or just plain forgetfulness,” which is what 95 percent do. As of mid-2013, nearly one-fifth of Australians aged 18-24 had not registered to vote.
President Obama’s Democratic Party lost the House of Representatives in 2010’s congressional elections and the Senate in 2014, blocking his power to enact left-liberal laws. His alternative, Obama said, is that he has a pen. He can rule by decree like a king while vetoing all congressional legislation to stop him.
After a landslide defeat in 2014, Obama absurdly claimed to represent “the two-thirds of Americans who did not vote,” as if this gave him a monarch’s mandate.
In our democratic republic, a third of eligible voters never register at all for their own reasons, such as privacy or to avoid jury duty.
Obama was re-elected in 2012, winning just over half the vote. But only about half of registered voters cast ballots — and Obama won only half of those votes.
In other words, he was re-elected by roughly one-half of one-third (i.e., one-sixth) of America’s eligible voters — citizens of sufficient age and qualified to register, a third of whom did not. Obama’s “mandate” comes from only about 17 percent of eligible voters.
Americans have a right to “vote with their feet” against both the “stupid party” and the “evil party.” [Countries that tried and ended mandatory voting include: Austria (most regions), Switzerland (except one canton), Chile, Fiji, Guatemala, Italy, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Spain, and Venezuela.]
Instead of coercion, what might positively inspire people to vote?
Australia offers forms of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) that offer voters more choice: not an “evil of two lessers” but the ability to vote rank order — showing their first, second, and third preferences or more. This lets them choose first the candidate they genuinely want — the Libertarian, Socialist, or whatever — without throwing their vote away or helping elect the worst major candidate.
If we had presidential Instant Runoff Voting in 1992, a majority of Ross Perot voters likely would have made George H.W. Bush their second choice, and this would have defeated Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s low 43 percent plurality victory. In 2000 Florida, Ralph Nader voters likely would have made Gore their second choice, defeating George W. Bush.
Political scientist Norm Ornstein has suggested making numbered ballot stubs into lottery tickets with a million-dollar prize. I’ve called for candidates and ballot measures offering every voter $10, but only if their side wins. These are less of a bribe than promising taxpayer money to welfare recipients, felons, and non-citizens who vote. What do you think?
Lowell Ponte is co-author, with Craig R. Smith, of “The Great Withdrawal”; “Crashing the Dollar: How to Survive a Global Currency Collapse”; “The Great Debasement: The 100-Year Dying of the Dollar and How to Get America’s Money Back”; “The Inflation Deception: Six Ways Government Tricks Us . . . And Seven Ways to Stop It”; and “Re-Making Money: Ways to Restore America’s Optimistic Golden Age.” Read more reports from Lowell Ponte