Jewish World Review Oct. 27, 2004 / 12 Mar-Cheshvan 5765

Dan Abrams

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Consumer Reports

Why it's time to make voting mandatory | It may surprise you to know that from Australia to Italy, Switzerland to Turkey, 33 countries — most of them with true democracies — require citizens to vote. Now, before you get on the horn to the ACLU screaming about how some insane lawyer on TV was talking about making you do this, hear me out.

I'm proposing effectively a symbolic law. More akin to a morality-based law than one that would be vigorously enforced as a criminal statute. Unlike some countries like Belgium and Luxembourg where the enforcement is tough and the fines can be steep, under my proposed system the fines will be small and the enforcement weak. And if you don't want to vote, you don't have to.

Just provide an explanation — any explanation: You hate the candidates, your toenail polish hadn't dried yet on the morning of the election, it was too cold out, whatever. It's almost like a no-fault divorce.

The goal is not to examine your reasoning, but to remind eligible citizens that it's more than a right to vote. It's an obligation. A message to all who say they don't have time or they forgot. It's not unconstitutional or undemocratic to say you have to do certain things for your country.

I had to register in case there's ever a draft. I've served on a jury. When it comes to jury duty, if you refuse to serve, you can be forced to serve time yourself. This greatest nation in the world has one of the worst records for voter turnout. So why is it so jarring to say that citizens be required to vote in presidential elections once every four years?

Voter turnout is expected to be high in this contentious election. But still, tens of millions will decide they had better things to do. I think it is time to provide them with a serious reminder.

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JWR contributor Dan Abrams anchors “The Abrams Report,” Monday through Friday from 9-10 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV. He also covers legal stories for “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” “Today” and “Dateline NBC.” To visit his website, click here. Comment by clicking here.



© 2004, MSNBC