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The Case for Compulsory Voting in Minnesota

The Case for Compulsory Voting in Minnesota

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Published by elmauter
As part of my MA program in Organizational Leadership at St. Catherine University, I recently took a strategic communications class. Over the course of the class, I applied different written and oral treatments to my chosen topic of compulsory voting. I explored the political and civic culture of Minnesota and potential channels for advocacy. This is my final position paper.
As part of my MA program in Organizational Leadership at St. Catherine University, I recently took a strategic communications class. Over the course of the class, I applied different written and oral treatments to my chosen topic of compulsory voting. I explored the political and civic culture of Minnesota and potential channels for advocacy. This is my final position paper.

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Published by: elmauter on Feb 21, 2013
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Erica Mauter ORLD 6300 - Position Paper 1The Case for Compulsory Voting in MinnesotaErica L. MauterSt. Catherine UniversityORLD 6300
Strategic CommunicationPosition Paper
FinalNovember 12, 2012
 
Erica Mauter ORLD 6300 - Position Paper 2Every election year, Minnesotans pride themselves on being at or near the top of thenation in voter turnout. 2012 was no exception: Minnesotans cast a record number oballots with a turnout of 76% of eligible voters (Minnesota Office of the Secretary of State,2012). Minnesota also has a long history of political progressivism balanced with
pragmatism and a strong culture of civic engagement. The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation’s
Minnesota Compass social indicators project uses voter turnout as one metric for civicengagement (Wilder Research, 2012). Given this political and cultural environment, I posit that efforts to improve voter turnout in Minnesota would be welcome and that one methodfor doing so would be to enact a system of compulsory voting for all eligible voters inMinnesota.Compulsory voting is simply a legal requirement to participate in elections. Typically ina compulsory voting system, all eligible voters are required to register to vote, and thenonce registered are required to cast a ballot in an election.Before we talk about the effects of compulsory voting on turnout, le
t’s first talk about 
how we measure turnout. There are five different numbers to consider when talking about voter turnout. The first two talk about the number of people in the voting pool. The votingage population is simply the number of residents who are 18 years of age or older. Aneligible voter is a resident who is of voting age and meets all other eligibility criteria. Giventhose numbers, turnout is measured in three ways: 1) as a percentage of the voting agepopulation, 2) as a percentage of eligible voters, or 3) as a percentage of registered voters.Most international voter turnout data is presented as percentage of registered voters andpercentage of voting age population. When we talk about turnout in the United States, weusually talk in terms of percentage of eligible voters.
 
Erica Mauter ORLD 6300 - Position Paper 3The Benefits of Compulsory VotingProponents of compulsory voting identify the following benefits: elimination of partisanadvantage imbued by turnout discrepancies, electoral engagement as reflected in votingparticipation rates, consideration of the entire electorate by candidates, improvedlegitimacy of the elected government, additional resources for the government, and
fulfillment of citizens’ civic duty (Evans, 2006). Let’s look at each of these factors.
 
Partisan Advantage in Turnout Discrepancies
 Compulsory voting would eliminate voter access issues and hence reduce or eliminatepartisan advantage caused by voter suppression or turnout activities. When the entireelectorate is participating, these tactics are rendered moot. For example, it is a commonpolitical tactic to put divisive social issues on the ballot to drive turnout of voters who aremost moved by such an issue and thus to have the side effect of increasing votes forcandidates in a particular party. As another example, in the United States, common wisdomis that improved turnout tends to favor the Democratic Party. There are many recent examples of state-level legislation that restricts the ability to cast a ballot; those effortshave been led by the Republican party. Broader turnout also eliminates the effects of the
“enthusiasm gap” between the registered and likely voters of each party.
 
Electoral Engagement: Voting Participation Rates
Evans’ (2006) report for the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) refutes opponents’
argument that compulsory voting leads to increased numbers of ballots representing adeliberate intent to
not 
 
vote. In Australia, there are two such kinds of ballots: “informalvotes” and “donkey votes.” Informal votes are incomplete or
incorrectly completed ballots.Donkey votes are complete ballots submitted with non-random (thus, presumably, non-

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