President Barack Obama on Wednesday suggested that if American voters want to "counteract" the role of money in politics, it may be worth making voting mandatory. "It would be transformative if everybody voted," Obama said during a town hall event in Cleveland, Ohio. "That would counteract (campaign) money more than anything. If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country."
[M]andatory voting wouldn't necessarily benefit one party or another. But it would, by definition, mean that more Americans' views are represented in government, and in particular that minorities and economically vulnerable people would have more of a voice. And both parties should be competing for their vote, rather than being able to ignore their needs. It may be, in the end, that Republicans win that competition — but first it has to be a competition. The best objection to compulsory voting is that it impinges on peoples' freedom to not vote. But we make citizens perform actions for the collective benefit of society all the time, including everything from objections to mandatory jury duty to taxes to the individual mandate for health insurance. In each of those cases, there's a collective action problem. We want individuals to be on juries or pay taxes or buy health insurance even though doing so would be, from their point of view, irrational. Voting is the same way. Any given voter has very little chance of influencing the election, but if nobody voted the result would be disastrous. So we need people to make choices that might not benefit them personally for the system to work. Traditionally, that's been an argument for mandates. It might be worth considering adding one for voting as well.