Orszag: Compulsory Voting for All!


Peter Orszag in 2009, part of the Obama brain trust.

Peter Orszag, vice chairman of global banking at Citigroup and former director of the Office of Management and Budget, wants to make voting mandatory for all of-age Americans. 

Writing in Bloomberg, Orszag says it's "our own fault" we get such poor results when we vote: 

Compulsory voting, as exists in Australia and more than two dozen other countries, would fix that problem. As William Galston of the Brookings Institution argues, "Jury duty is mandatory; why not voting?"

Mandating voting has a clear effect: It raises participation rates. Before Australia adopted compulsory voting in 1924, for example, it had turnout rates similar to those of the U.S. After voting became mandatory, participation immediately jumped from 59 percent in the election of 1922 to 91 percent in the election of 1925.

Those "more than two dozens other countries," by the way, include such envies of the world as Libya, Argentina, Congo, Lebanon, Egypt and Nauru. (Actually, Nauru seems interesting.) 

I have never had the pleasure of visiting Australia, but I trust the word of people who tell me it is a good country with a good government. Still, are the differences in electoral results between the United States and Australia so great that we want to impose more paperwork and travel or postage? 

Orszag was not so supportive of democracy in September 2011. (We were so much younger then.) 

To solve the serious problems facing our country, we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.

Breitbart.com says ahoy, irony

The irony, of course, is that the Democrats seem fine with forcing people to the polls, but object strenuously to people showing ID at the polls when they show up voluntarily. Forcing people to vote seems significantly more burdensome than asking them to show identification. But one measure prevents voter fraud, while one promotes liberal constituencies stuffing the ballot box. So that explains that.

I don't know from voter ID laws. I know that in Robert Greenwald's film Koch Bros. Exposed California is listed as one of the states where voting is suppressed by Charles and David Koch (both of whom have given to Reason Foundation and the latter of whom sits on the foundation's board). Like most of the film, this is false: At the beginning of this month I not only was allowed to vote without showing any kind of identification but was told to put my wallet away when I tried to show my California driver's license. 

Finally, you're only required to do jury duty if you register to vote (ymmv).