Obama Says Mandatory Voting Would 'Completely Change' U.S. Political Map

At a town hall meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, the president gave support to the idea of compulsory voting.

US President Barack Obama delivers a speech on the economy on February 6, 2015 at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, Indiana.

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Talk about a change election. 

At a town hall meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, Wednesday, President Obama discussed the idea of mandatory voting, and said “that may end up being a better strategy in the short term" in helping to diminish the influence that money has on politics in the post-Citizens United era. 

“It would be transformative if everybody voted,” Obama said during the event. “That would counteract [campaign] money more than anything. If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country.”

Compulsory voting is the official law of the land in 22 countries, though only 11 actively enforce penalties to citizens who do not. A woeful percentage of Americans who are eligible to vote, actually do so—just 36.4 percent did during the 2014 midterms, the lowest number since World War II. 

“The people who tend not to vote are young, they’re lower income, they’re skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups,” Obama, who had never publicly commented on the subject, said. “And they’re the folks who are scratching and climbing to get into the middle class and they’re working hard. There’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls. We should want to get them into the polls.”

Of course, mandatory voting might well be a self-serving argument for Democrats. In August of 2012, for instance, a USA Today/Suffolk University poll found that, by a two to one margin, unregistered voters would have cast a ballot for Obama over Romney, if they were eligible to do so. 

Why don't more people take the time to register and show up on election day? It's fair to say there's no single reason. Oregon is poised to find out whether automatic voter registration will increase actual turnout, having become the first state to pass a law that will use Department of Motor Vehicle information to register state residents to vote without them having to fill out a form. 

That's still a long way from passing a nationwide mandatory voting law and enforcing fines on those who skip out on casting a ballot come election day, and Obama gave no indication that he would try and pursue such a plan. 

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