Thursday, March 19, 2015

The President was wrong...again

Yesterday in Cleveland, Barak Obama was speaking to a civic group, and he had a suggestion which he admitted would be hard to implement, but would be “fun” to try. The President’s big idea? Make voting mandatory, presumably for all people over 18 in good health and sound of mind.
This is not the first time this idea of making everyone for someone, even if its themselves, every election unless they can prove they were dying of cancer or something, has come into the public debate in recent years. The president reminded everyone that the people who usually do not vote in politics are the mainly the minorities, the less educated, in fact, the overall less privileged, who tend historically to vote more Democratic. And of course, it would be harder for a few men like the Koch brothers or George Soros to buy an election if everybody voted.
And the president is right, voter turnout is a problem, in last year’s midterm elections, just around 36% of Americans voted. And in 2012 when we were electing the President of the United States, over 40% of American citizens who could have did not exercise their right to vote. So it is understandable why our president would want more people to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
However, the president’s remedy is wrong. The president says there should be a law, but the facts are against him. Exhibition one: Amendment One to the United States Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The first two parts of that amendment are all that is needed to debunk the president’s well-meaning but wrong solution to the voter turnout problem.
Firstly: There are those whose religion forbids them from voting. Just last year I ran into a group of them, called Hutterites, in Minnesota. These well educated, good, upstanding citizens, aside from clothes many would see as old fashioned, were in every respect like just about everybody else, except for some deeply held and sincere religious beliefs, one of which was that they should not vote in governmental elections. What happens to these people? Are they to be fined, are they thrown in jail because of their beliefs? I am sure these sort of people did not cross the president’s mind when he made his statement, he may have never heard of them, but the fact remains, this would inhibit free exercise of more than one religion.
Secondly: And also free speech. There are some who use form of free speech we may not disagree with, some we may even find terrible and in extremely bad taste, not to say unpatriotic, such as burning the flag, but it is legal, because it is a form of free speech, and the constitution says we cannot abolish it.

And so too is not voting. If a person or group of people want to boycott an election to make a statement, if they want to boycott all elections, that is their right, it is their privilege, not to vote. And there is nothing we can do about that.
The president was well meaning here, but wrong, again.

Andrew C. Abbott


  1. Might it also be a contradiction of the clause "Congress shall make no law respecting…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances"? Assuming voting can be called a "petition," and a candidate a "grievance." (This might be totally naïve, but I thought it sounded good.)

    1. If you are saying what I think you are, then yes, it could be. I am limited in the amount of words I can write per article, however. But good point!