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Stephen L. Carter

Want More Voters? Pay Them

Why punish people who don't vote when you could reward them instead?
Plenty of booths available.

Plenty of booths available.

Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Barack Obama recently mooted the idea of making voting mandatory, as a means of increasing turnout. It’s true that U.S. citizens are less likely to go to the polls than those of many (not all) other democracies. Nevertheless, with all due respect to the president, I don’t much like his idea. And if getting more people to the polls is the goal, I have a better suggestion.

Let me spell out my biases. I’m a happy nonvoter. More to the point, I find that I am more at peace when I don’t bother following electoral politics than when I do. Staying away from the polls helps me to focus on my work, to take a relaxed attitude toward life, even to be a better husband and father than I otherwise might. So naturally I’m distressed at the thought that my government would even consider using coercion to disturb my peace of mind.