Voting may be your civic duty, but should the government be forcing you to do it? Some members of the Washington State legislature say yes.
Senate Bill 5209 would not only require all citizens be registered to vote, but would go a step further, adopting this language:
The legislation doesn't seem to include any language about consequences for not voting, but the language itself may be enough to frighten some citizens. Is that really the goal of government?
Only 27 countries in the world have adopted this scheme, known as "compulsory voting."
The effort in Washington seems to be the latest attempt by legislators to change the system to increase voter turnout. Washington State already moved to mail-in voting. When that didn't do much for voter turnout, lawmakers decided the problem was citizens didn't have enough stamps. After it added postage, voter turnout remained static.
Now, lawmakers want language that says you're required to vote. Not only is this a bad idea, it's also likely to be unconstitutional. The First Amendment protects your freedom of speech, and also protects you from compelled speech. Even though the legislation says you can leave the ballot blank, and even though there is no enforcement mechanism, requiring someone to submit a ballot is still forced speech.
The Washington legislation has a scheduled hearing on January 31st.