September 22, 2004

Coerced to Vote

Can you be coerced to vote? Should voting be a requirement for an English Lit. class? One professor seems to think so over at Drew University in New Jersey. Appalled by the low voter turnout among college students, Prof. Skaggs has made it a course requirement that her students enter the voting booth. Of course, once they go in they don't have to vote and non-U.S. citizens are exempt from the requirement. This requirement has provoked, according to the article, a lot of controversy. Care to guess where I come out?

Not in favor. I believe it is contrary to our system of government to require a vote. It is clear that sometimes a decision not to vote is a protest and is as much an expression of free speech as a decision to vote. In other words, we have the option of abstaining if we don't like either candidate and we want to send a message that a candidate may win, but that candidate lacks the popular mandate necessary to bend Congress to his or her will. That can be a powerful and important message and you send it by staying home from the polls. I think that this professor, will coming from crunchy good motives, lacks an appreciation of this aspect of our system.

What do you think?

Posted by Random Penseur at September 22, 2004 08:00 AM

I agree with you, in essence. However, I believe that the civil duty of a person wishing to abstain from voting would be better served by tendering a blank vote.

Posted by: Mick at September 22, 2004 09:35 AM

I tend to disagree, although it's hard to vote for someone you don't entirely stand behind, you have to vote for the lesser of the evils (depending on the country you live in that could be many). In Canada at the last election I think voter turnout was around 59%, mostly because no one liked any of the candidates. The apathy has been continually getting worse over the last few terms. If you don't vote, you are allowing your fellow citizens to speak for you, and are you guaranteed they will make the right choice?

Posted by: Oorgo at September 22, 2004 11:02 AM

Sorry, I meant to say civic duty, of course.

Posted by: Mick at September 22, 2004 12:29 PM

Not in favor.

Reminds me of the Lit teacher I had in high school who, for extra credit on tests, would pose questions on Bible verses.

We went round and round on that one.

I won.

I also got an "A". Mwheh.

Posted by: Margi at September 23, 2004 12:11 AM

It's compulsary for everyone in Australia and that seems to work. It comes down to whether voting is a right or obligation. I prefer to think it's the latter.

Posted by: Simon at September 23, 2004 06:59 AM

Personally I think anybody who doesn't vote is an ass, regardless of the reason. There is no "Presidential" vote. It's a vote for the President, Senators, Congressmen, Judges, Assemblymen, Directors of Agriculture, School Superintendants, etc, ad infinitum.

And yet, I support the right not to vote.

Sometimes it's hard living with the dichotomy of Jim.

Posted by: Jim at September 23, 2004 09:45 PM
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