The Conservative Case for Compulsory Voting (2023)

A terrible idea whose time has come.

Figuring out how to save the nation is obviously a high priority for conservatives. But however we plan to save it, we can’t make much progress until we start winning more elections than we lose. One of the most interesting debates currently playing out on the Right is how to respond to the mail-in/absentee/early voting ploys that the Democrats have now perfected—tactics that gave a somnambulant Joe Biden the Oval Office in 2020, neutralized a “red wave” in the 2022 midterm elections, and which seem sufficient to ensure Democratic rule well into the future.

There is no palatable choice for how to proceed in the face of these manipulations. Ned Ryun and Erik Root advocate one option in their essay “Fortify-or-Die.” Their title alludes to a report in TIME magazine (conveniently published two weeks after Joe Biden’s installation as president) which admitted that there was a “behind the scenes” “conspiracy” and “shadow effort” to “fortify” electoral procedures and manipulate precedents in order to deny Trump a second term. For Ryun and Root, if conservatives want to win elections, they now face no choice but to learn and master the dirty tricks that the Left has refined to maintain their stranglehold on Our (read: “Their”) Democracy.

Glenn Ellmers gives an articulate account of the other option: we refuse to descend to their level. He argues that to play the Left’s game would simply accept that our “elections” have very little to do with the “will of the majority” and are instead brutal contests of power politics bereft of any principles that formerly held sway in our constitutional republic. Ellmers rightly notes that because the Left has been fully committed to this kind of realpolitik for the better part of a century, it is extremely unlikely that we could beat them at their own craven machinations. Essentially, he argues for the long game: we allow the Left to rack up win after rigged win in the short term and wait for their hubris and authoritarian inclinations to drive the nation into the ground, thereby finally and completely offending the little-d democratic sensibilities of the American people. These outcomes, it is hypothesized, would pave the way for a restoration of the Constitution (and the electoral fortunes of conservatives).

(Video) How does compulsory voting affect the election equation?

There are merits to both options, but we need to make a choice—and quickly. If we must choose one of the two, I am partial to Ellmers’s path: it seems to me that to accept a challenge where we race Democrats to final, total, autocratic rule-by-fiat would be tantamount to abandoning democracy altogether. But I’m not wholly convinced that these are the only two options.

There is a third option, which may both improve the Right’s prospects for electoral success and increase the prospects for the restoration of America’s founding principles. Many conservatives won’t like it, but we should make voting mandatory for all American citizens who are old enough to vote. This could be a better cure for our maladies than the ones described above. Only five years ago, I would have agreed that this is a horrible idea, and even now, there would need to be much careful consideration done before making voting compulsory.

Unpredictability Enables Manipulation and Fraud

Compared to other western nations, the United States has a very high turnout rate for registered voters. But it is also true that the percentage of voting-age citizens who actually cast a ballot is comparatively low in America. In large part, this is because we have an “opt-in” process for voter registration. Whereas many nations automatically register citizens as eligible voters once they reach the minimum age—Australia, Argentina, and Brazil are among the countries which mandate voting and enforce participation by means of fines—we require citizens actively to decide to register and complete the necessary paperwork. This means that many Americans are never registered. But it also means that those who are registered are highly likely to cast a ballot—they registered out of a political motivation that logically carries over into the act of voting. These numbers matter because the predictability of voter behavior is a powerful tool for assessing the fairness of an election.

(Video) The Professors 504 - Mandatory Voting

People who are skeptical of conservatives’ claims that there is considerable fraud in our elections (especially in 2020 and 2022) dismiss those assertions because they say that they haven’t been presented with “hard evidence.” This is largely true. Nevertheless, there were a number of statistical anomalies and curious coincidences that occurred in the 2020 presidential election, for example. Still, under the current system, the mere existence of an anomaly doesn’t prove any malfeasance. If there was so much ballot manipulation, critics ask, why hasn’t anyone been able to prove criminal wrongdoing?

Of course, it was always an exaggeration that there was no proof of fraud. But even if that was true, it misses an important point: most of the procedural changes prior to recent elections ensured that many of the means for proving fraud were deliberately erased. The absence of reliable chain-of-custody records; sending mail-in ballots to every registered voter; allowing third-party ballot harvesting; setting up unsupervised locations for collecting ballots; allowing mail-in ballots with no signatures; closing off the ballot-counting process from public view—all of these measures have allowed forms of manipulation that would be very hard to exhaustively prove. The U.S. boasts one of the highest turnout rates of registered voters in the world, with 94 percent. But bad actors can use the inactive 6 percent on the voting rolls in some profoundly undemocratic ways—ways that could certainly flip elections in a nation that is divided down the middle politically.

As a result of these trends, the outcomes of our elections are hard to predict. There’s no way to know how many people will vote with any degree of precision, much less who they will vote for. This indeterminacy makes it harder to prove fraud. It’s worth recalling that in 2020, Joe Biden broke the record to become the presidential candidate who received the most votes ever—and he didn’t just break the record; he smashed it by over 10 million votes. This should seem strange to you. After all, Biden was a doddering old man who campaigned from his basement. He only won the nomination because other candidates (who were generating much more enthusiasm than he was in the early primaries) dropped out of the race. Any ballot-fraud denialist will assure us that Biden’s 81 million votes didn’t come from Biden-lovers but rather from Trump-haters. But Trump also broke the old record for the highest vote total by about 4 million ballots. Further, he increased his total from 2016. Odd, then, that he is the only incumbent ever to gain votes in his reelection bid but lose reelection. Nothing to see here, though. The election was safe and secure. Maybe our safest ever.

Still…since 2004, U.S. presidential elections have been reliably racking up total counts between 120 and 130 million votes. Doesn’t it seem strange that while the 2016 election topped out at about 129 million ballots cast, 2020 saw that number jump by about 25 million votes? Suspicious. But again, this “proves” nothing. Sure, the fraud denialists will tell us, there might have been a few bad ballots mixed in. But nothing large-scale. Nothing “systemic.” People were just really motivated this time.

(Video) E.J. Dionne Jr. and Miles Rapoport: The Case for Universal Voting

And maybe they are right. We can’t say, partly because the fact of the matter is that we have no reliable means to predict how many ballots will be cast. It might be 120 million. It might be 150 million. Who knows? Rest easy, though. Vote by mail is safe and secure.

Vote or Die

Mandatory voting would partially solve these problems. We would have a very good idea of how many ballots there should be based on census data—not only nationally but in every individual town and city in America. While it is true that there would remain other ways to manipulate the election, we would have a precise number of votes that we would expect to be cast in, say, Philadelphia or Atlanta. Any total that exceeds the maximum number of ballots could only be explained by fraud. Some might say that we couldn’t ensure that everyone votes so the totals would be lower than we would expect. But after a few cycles, we could anticipate how much lower the totals tend to be. And anyway, it wouldn’t be that hard to get everyone to vote—if authorities took the requirement seriously. The IRS expects you to file a tax return, and you know it. So, you file a tax return.

Those with libertarian sensibilities will no doubt take offense that the government would now be denying citizens the freedom not to vote. But in most countries where voting is mandatory, people have the right to cast a blank ballot or a null vote. Compulsory voting doesn’t so much demand that you vote—it demands that you check in at your polling place on election day (or return the mail-in ballot that you received). Plus, if everyone was required to vote, there would be a good case for making voting day a national holiday—something the Left has desired for generations.

(Video) Book Talk — 100% Democracy: The Case for Universal Voting

Another potential benefit of mandatory voting proposals is that they would be very difficult for the Left to oppose. After all, they are the great champions of voting rights, access, enfranchisement, and inclusion. They despise suppression of votes—or so they say. How, then, could they reject a plan to require every eligible citizen to cast a ballot? In truth, the Left would hate this plan, if only because the current inability to forecast the total number of votes benefits them: the unpredictability helps to conceal any large-scale fraud. Still, it’s hard to imagine what objections would be available for the Left to resist a plan for universal voting.

Mandatory voting would also certainly disrupt the patterns we have come to expect from the popular vote totals. What would the results of a presidential election in New York state look like if every New Yorker had to cast a ballot? How about Texas? Montana? We don’t know, but I suspect that we might learn that silent majorities still exist—perhaps in some unexpected places. We might soon find that conservatives would be calling for the elimination of the Electoral College, and progressives would become vocal defenders of that institution.

There are many other benefits (and some drawbacks) to compulsory participation. It would encourage the vast numbers of Americans who are simply uninterested (or uninformed) to educate themselves. In that way, the plan might usher in a new era of civic participation. It would also incentivize candidates to moderate their positions. Right now, our election procedures encourage candidates to motivate the base of their party. But in a compulsory system, the political junkies and ideological purists would be a minority of the electorate. If those running for office began trying to appeal to the average American rather than the average Fox News or CNN viewer, we may finally find a means to begin the depolarization that much of the nation desires.

I agree with most readers that in an ideal situation, citizens of a free society should be able to choose whether they wish to participate in the political process. But we do not live in an ideal situation. Compulsory voting would be such a disruption to the practices of voting and campaigning that it would fundamentally transform the practice of retail politics in America. In effect, we would be pressing the “reset” button on our democracy. And while it is true that there would be ways to manipulate this process too, they would necessarily be different ways than the ones currently practiced, which disproportionately benefit the Left. At least then if we wanted to rig our elections, both sides would have to learn to do it again—this time starting from square one.

(Video) The CONSERVATIVE Case For Unionizing Amazon: Emily Jashinsky

There are undoubtedly many problems with this proposal, and it may, in fact, be a terrible idea. But our current electoral situation is pretty terrible in its own right. The choices before us—keep our hands clean and lose a rigged game or accept the debasement of our elections and beat the Left by debasing them further—both seem intolerable. And of course, it remains to be seen whether the Right would even be allowed to use the tactics currently employed by the Left—at the point that conservatives mastered these techniques, the rules would probably change again. I’m not sure if these really are the only options, but to them I add mandatory voting. They want inclusion and accessibility? Maybe we should let them have it.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.


What is the issue of compulsory voting? ›

Bias. Compulsory voting means that candidates have to address the needs of all the voters. If voting were voluntary, the experience of countries like the United States is that poorer and less educated people would tend not to vote. This would skew the political system (further) toward the well off and well educated.

Is compulsory voting constitutional? ›

While the Constitution says voting is compulsory, the Electoral Code does not mention penalties for not voting.

What is compulsory voting quizlet? ›

Compulsory voting prevents the influence of the few who participate on the election results of becoming too strong. Pro 4. It contributes to the stability of the government since political apathy and a low voter turnout are threats for democracy.

Is it mandatory to vote? ›

Is Voting Mandatory in the United States? In the U.S., no one is required by law to vote in any local, state, or presidential election. According to the U.S. Constitution, voting is a right. Many constitutional amendments have been ratified since the first election.

Is compulsory voting better? ›

It is unfair to force people to vote if they don't support any of the candidates. Political parties do not have to try very hard because people have to vote. Compulsory voting is a better indication of public opinion.

When did compulsory voting start? ›

New South Wales and Tasmania introduced compulsory voting in 1928, Western Australia in 1936 and South Australia in 1942.

What law makes voting compulsory? ›

In 1912, the former Electoral Act was amended to make enrolment compulsory. In 1924, to increase voter turnout and reduce party campaign expenditure, the Electoral Act was amended to make voting at federal elections compulsory.

Where in the Constitution does it say everyone has the right to vote? ›


SECTION 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of ser- vitude. SECTION 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

What countries is it compulsory to vote? ›

Appendix G – Countries with compulsory voting
CountryStatus*Population *
AustraliaFree19 900 000
AustriaFree8 200 000
BelgiumFree10 400 000
BoliviaPartly free8 600 000
20 more rows

What are the 3 types of voting? ›

Mixed member majoritarian. Single non-transferable vote.

Which of the following is an argument against a policy of mandatory voting quizlet? ›

Which of the following is an argument against a policy of mandatory voting? Mandatory voting would force people to choose among candidates fro whom they have no real preference.

Which of the following might be considered a disadvantage of mandatory voting quizlet? ›

Which of the following might be considered a disadvantage of mandatory voting? The possibility of uninformed voters skewing election results might be considered a disadvantage of mandatory voting.

What if I dont want to vote? ›

If you are currently registered to vote in California and would like to cancel your voter registration, you can complete the California Voter Registration Cancellation Request Form (PDF) and submit it to your county elections office.

Can vote be wasted? ›

In electoral systems, a wasted vote is any vote that is not for an elected candidate or, more broadly, a vote that does not help to elect a candidate. The narrower meaning includes lost votes, votes that are for a losing candidate or party.

How many US citizens are not registered to vote? ›

According to a 2012 study, 24% of the voting-eligible population in the United States are not registered to vote, equaling some 51 million U.S. citizens.

Why do people donkey vote? ›

When a ballot paper is numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc in the same order that the candidates appear, it is known as a 'donkey vote'. Donkey votes could be a voter not understanding how to vote correctly, or not caring how they vote, or could actually express the voter's true preferences.

Why do Canadians choose not to vote? ›

Many eligible Canadians report being too busy as reason for not voting. Not voting because of obligations related to everyday life made up 43% of all reasons reported by non-voters. This included being too busy (24%), having an illness or disability (11%), or being out of town (9%).

What are some consequences of a person not voting in a compulsory election? ›

The penalty for not voting in New South Wales is a $55 fine.

Why was compulsory voting in federal elections introduced? ›

The significant impetus for compulsory voting came from a sharp decline in voluntary voter turnout from more than 71% at the previous 1919 election to less than 60% at the 1922 elections.

What happened in the Voting Rights Act of 1965? ›

This act was signed into law on August 6, 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson. It outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting.

When were all men allowed to vote? ›

15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Voting Rights (1870)

What does the 14th Amendment say about voting? ›

The 14th Amendment, which conferred citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, was ratified in 1868. In 1870 the 15th Amendment was ratified, which provided specifically that the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on the basis of race, color or previous condition of servitude.

What are three reasons why people do not vote? ›

Political reasons: lack of information about campaign issues and parties' positions; did not like candidates/parties/campaign; felt voting would not make a difference; did not know whom to vote for; not interested in politics.

Is the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional? ›

Holder was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by eliminating critical protections from discrimination. The decision, made on June 25, 2013, held that a key part of The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (the VRA) was unconstitutional and put it on Congress to update the legislation.

Who did the Founding Fathers want to vote? ›

Allow the right [to vote] exclusively to property [owners], and the rights of persons may be oppressed... . Extend it equally to all, and the rights of property [owners] ... may be overruled by a majority without property.... Eventually, the framers of the Constitution left details of voting to the states.

Does the constitution say one person vote? ›

The "one person, one vote" doctrine, which requires electoral districts to be apportioned according to population, thus making each district roughly equal in population, was further affirmed by the Warren Court in the landmark cases that followed Baker, including Gray v.

How long did it take for all American Indians to get the right to vote? ›

Native Americans were not universally granted U.S. citizenship and the right to vote until 1924 — 1924.

What religion Cannot vote? ›

Religious groups that reject participation in politics
ReligionAdherentsLargest national membership
Jehovah's Witnesses8,200,000United States
Baháʼí Faith6,000,000India
Old Order Amish318,000United States
6 more rows

Does everyone in China have the right to vote? ›

Article 3 All citizens of the People's Republic of China who have reached the age of 18 shall have the right to vote and stand for election, regardless of ethnic status, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status or length of residence.

Which countries deny equal voting rights? ›

The correct option is A Fiji.

What is a 3/4 vote called? ›

It can also be called a qualified majority. Common supermajorities include three-fifths (60%), two-thirds (66.66... %), and three-quarters (75%).

What voting system does America use? ›

The most common method used in U.S. elections is the first-past-the-post system, where the highest-polling candidate wins the election. Under this system, a candidate only requires a plurality of votes to win, rather than an outright majority.

Is Pennsylvania a blue state? ›

Pennsylvania currently has a split government, with the governor's office being held by a Democrat Josh Shapiro and both houses of the state legislature being controlled by the Republican Party. In the United States Senate, Pennsylvania is represented by Democrats Bob Casey Jr. and John Fetterman.

Which large country was the first to give universal voting rights? ›

The first country to grant equal voting rights to all people was New Zealand, in 1893.

What is the paradox of voting quizlet citizens? ›

A voting paradox occurs when the result of a vote is contradictory, or opposite of the expected outcome. There are many different types of voting paradoxes, such as the Condorcet Paradox, credited to Marquis de Condorcet, in 1785.

What did the Voting Rights Act of 1965 eliminate quizlet? ›

Why did the Voting Rights Act happen? It outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting.

Which type of election usually has the highest voter turnout? ›

Voter turnout in United States presidential elections has historically been higher than the turnout for midterm elections.

How did the 26th Amendment change the electorate? ›

On July 1, 1971, our Nation ratified the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, lowering the voting age to 18.

What is the purpose of a compulsory license? ›

What is compulsory licensing? Compulsory licensing is when a government allows someone else to produce a patented product or process without the consent of the patent owner or plans to use the patent-protected invention itself.

What is the purpose of compulsory licensing? ›

Compulsory license is an authorization granted by the Government to someone else i.e., a third party to produce a patented product without the consent of the patent owner who has been taking undue advantage of exclusive rights granted by patent.

What do you call a person who doesn't want to vote? ›

A "blank (or white) voter" has voted, although their vote may be considered a spoilt vote, depending on each legislation, while an abstaining voter has not voted.

What is the meaning of compulsory voting? ›

Voting is Compulsory

Under the Electoral Act, the actual duty of the elector is to attend a polling place, have their name marked off the certified list, receive a ballot paper and take it to an individual voting booth, mark it, fold the ballot paper and place it in the ballot box.

What is an example of compulsory license? ›

Industries under Compulsory Licensing in India

Distillation and brewing of alcoholic drinks. Cigars and Cigarettes of tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes. Electronic Aerospace and Defence equipment: all types.

What is the difference between compulsory and statutory license? ›

Under statutory license, the rate is fixed by law, whereas in case of compulsory license, the rate is left to be negotiated or decided in court.

What are the examples of compulsory licensing? ›

Cases pertaining to grant of compulsory license

India's first ever compulsory license was granted by the Patent Office on March 9, 2012, to Natco Pharma for the generic production of Bayer Corporation's Nexavar, a life saving medicine used for treating Liver and Kidney Cancer.

What is the history of compulsory license? ›

When was the first license issued? India's first ever compulsory license was granted by the Patent Office on March 9, 2012, to Hyderabad-based Natco Pharma for the production of generic version of Bayer's Nexavar, an anti-cancer agent used in the treatment of liver and kidney cancer.

What is the history of compulsory licensing? ›

As a stipulation, compulsory licensing can be traced back to the UK Statute of Monopolies in 1624, which ruled out monopolies associated with patent, and stated that grants should not be 'mischievous to the state' or hurt trade. However, compulsory licensing only became an official proposal in the early 19th century.

WHO issues a compulsory license? ›

By its very definition, the issuance of a compulsory license implicates three main actors: the government that issues the license; a third-party licensee which can import, manufacture, use, and/or sell copies of the patented medicine; and.

Who has compulsory voting? ›

Appendix G – Countries with compulsory voting
CountryStatus*Population *
AustraliaFree19 900 000
AustriaFree8 200 000
BelgiumFree10 400 000
BoliviaPartly free8 600 000
20 more rows


1. IAPSS Live with Lisa Hill on Compulsory Voting in Australia
(International Association for Political Science Students)
2. Compulsory Voting in Australia - Ask Annabel Crabb: Australian Election & Politics
(Behind the News)
3. The Professors 504 - Mandatory Voting
(WYCC PBS Chicago)
4. CBC News: The National | Mourning Pelé, OPP murder case, Ask At Issue
(CBC News: The National)
5. Our Debt to Society: The Conservative Case for Criminal Justice Reform
(The Heritage Foundation)
6. Law Catches Up To 2020 Right-Wing Election Scammers As 2022 Sees New Intimidation Tactics


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