President Obama recently suggested that voting should be mandatory in the U.S. It's already mandatory in 26 countries, in bastions of democracy such as North Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Egypt . Some agree with Obama and think everyone should vote. I actually think that is a terrible idea. Mandatory voting is a basic denial of freedom of expression. Sometimes one may not vote because their is not much choice and none of the candidates represent your point of view. One may not vote because you know you are going to vote Republican and your wife is going to vote Democrat so if you both abstain you have the same impact as if you had both voted. One may not vote because one simply does not care and pays no attention to politics or current events and feels unqualified to choose their leaders.
Not only do I think mandatory voting is a terrible idea, but I think pressuring people to vote by making them think it is their patriotic duty and making them feel guilty is a bad idea. The Tennessean ran an essay recently and lamented Tennessee's low voter turnout. "Civic engagement and voter participation are essential to preserving and protecting our democracy," the author said. I don't agree. I don't think simply having a greater number of voters helps preserve and protect our democracy. I would prefer a smaller number of informed voters rather than a larger number of uninformed voters.