What If, Just This Once, We Had Mandatory Voting?

Let’s have an experiment.

Before I propose it, let me set the stage a bit. I have long been a critic of most “reforms” to the voting process. While I’m sympathetic to the idea of making Election Day a holiday, or moving it to an “Election Weekend,” I generally dislike early voting and voting by mail. I despise the idea of online voting. And I think lowering the voting age to 16 is absurd. Under normal circumstances, I’d be much more sympathetic to President Trump’s opposition to mail-in voting this November, though not necessarily in agreement with all of his arguments. 

Trump claims that an election by mail would be so rife with fraud and corruption that it would be illegitimate (presumably only if he lost). Fraud should be a concern, but I think he exaggerates the danger considerably. My opposition to mail-in voting is different. I think Election Day should be a national deadline, because deadlines focus the mind and afford everyone the same information to work with. (In the 2020 Democratic primaries, many votes were cast for candidates who dropped out by Election Day.) Voting should take some effort, because that effort separates people who take their vote and their citizenship seriously from those who don’t. I also think Election Day is an important civic ritual. 

But, as noted above, these are not normal times. It’s entirely reasonable that governors and other state officials would want to forgo mass-gathering events during a pandemic. We’re seeing a dismaying resurgence in COVID-19 cases because people stopped social distancing for protests, parties and pub crawls. 

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