Americans are required to pay taxes, serve on juries, get their kids vaccinated, get driver’s licenses, and sometimes go to war for their country. So why not ask — or require — every American to vote?
In 100% Democracy, Dionne and Rapoport argue that universal participation in our elections should be a cornerstone of our system. It would be the surest way to protect against voter suppression and the active disenfranchisement of a large share of our citizens. And it would create a system true to the Declaration of Independence’s aspirations by calling for a government based on the consent of all of the governed.
It’s not as radical or utopian as it sounds: in Australia, where everyone is required to vote (Australians can vote “none of the above,” but they have to show up), 91.9 percent of Australians voted in the last major election in 2019, versus 60.1 percent in America’s 2016 presidential race. Australia hosts voting-day parties and actively celebrates this key civic duty.
It is time for the United States to take a major leap forward and recognize voting as both a fundamental civil right and a solemn civic duty required of every eligible U.S. citizen.
E.J. Dionne, Jr. is the author of Code Red: How Progressives and Moderates Can Unite to Save Our Country and co-author (with Miles Rapoport) of 100% Democracy. He is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, university professor at Georgetown University, and visiting professor at Harvard University. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.
Miles Rapoport is the Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School. He formerly served in the Connecticut state legislature and as secretary of the state. He also served as president of Demos and of Common Cause. The co-author (with E.J. Dionne) of 100% Democracy, he lives in West Hartford, Connecticut.
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