Peter Orszag, former head of the Obama Office of Management and Budget, is desperate. With even Roll Call recognizing that President Obama is fighting an uphill battle for re-election, Orszag is floating a trial balloon: mandatory voting. His call for forced voting comes in an op/ed for Bloomberg News:
The U.S. prides itself as the beacon of democracy, but it’s very likely no U.S. president has ever been elected by a majority of American adults.
It’s our own fault — because voter participation rates are running below 60 percent, a candidate would have to win 85 percent or more of the vote to be elected by a majority.
Compulsory voting, as exists in Australia and more than two dozen other countries, would fix that problem. As William Galston of the Brookings Institution argues, “Jury duty is mandatory; why not voting?”
During the 2008 election cycle, voter participation was approximately 64 percent; in 2004, it was about the same. Orszag wants that number up. Why?
Beyond simply raising participation, compulsory voting could alter the role of money in elections. Turn-out-the-vote efforts, often bankrolled by big-money groups, would become largely irrelevant. Negative advertising could be less effective, because a central aim of such ads is to discourage participation in the opponent’s camp.