Cervantes: The freedom to choose


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On March 19, the leader of the free world made a comment in regards to the U.S. voting policy, stating that it would be better if all American citizens voted. According to CNN, President Obama said, “In Australia, and some other countries, there’s mandatory voting,” and “It would be transformative if everybody voted. That would counteract money more than anything.”

When I first heard this, I sat back and prepared for the avalanche of backlash that was going to cascade from news outlets. After all, this is Obama, the president who would probably get criticized for eating Chinese food with a fork. So, imagine my surprise when I see that this comment is just fluttering through the masses with only a few disgruntled murmurs. While I usually think that we, as American citizens, can be too critical of our elected leaders, I do believe that this remark should get noticed a little more.

To be perfectly honest, a mandatory-voting policy is an awful idea.

Let it be said that this comes from no political agenda but rather my concern for what is implied with this mandatory-voting notion.

Obama said a reason that younger individuals make up such a small demographic of the voter turnout is because their views contradict that of those who enable “big money politics.” I decided to test this theory. I asked a sample group of college-age citizens, all of whom abstained from voting in the latest Iowa election, what they thought of the “big money politics” and how it correlated to stagnant ballot use. The answers I received ranged from apathetic annoyance directed at politicians to simply not believing in either of the candidates. Despite what the president said, it seems as if  “big money politics” isn’t the issue.

This faulty reasoning is not the worst aspect of his statement, however. The implication of a forced vote is, for lack of a better word, disgusting, because it endorses the demolition of individual choice.

The ability to choose is a most democratic quality, one that allows us three of America’s most prominent freedoms: speech, religion, and leadership. That means that we, as citizens, have a choice on whether we wish to exercise these rights. To do away with any of these choices undermines the fundamental philosophies of our nation.

Let’s say that a mandatory-voting law is enacted. If this happened, the democratic process would not be advanced. Yes, more people would vote, but they would be even less invested than before.

Because choice would be taken away from them, the act of voting would be viewed on par with that of a chore. The level of selective care that average modern voters put into their partisan choices would drop drastically. This would increase voter apathy, and therefore damage our nation’s democratic progression.

I do worry about the lethargic political interest that members of my generation hold. If voting numbers are truly a problem, evaluate ways to rectify it. But don’t force the public’s decision-making in a way that fuels apathetic behavior. The freedom of choice is not negotiable.

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