Pace University

Should Voting Be Mandatory in the United States?

In Politics & Society on April 26, 2016 at 7:26 pm

By Chelsea Newburg

Alternative Solutions to Low Voter Turnout

While there are many opinions on whether mandatory voting legislation should be introduced, most Americans agree that something needs to be done about low voter turn out. According to elections expert Michael McDonald, only 19.7% of eligible New Yorkers cast a ballot in the New York primary election on April 19, the second lowest turnout for a 2016 election primary with Louisiana in first at 18.2%. These numbers are cause for concern, but what can be done?

Many alternative solutions have been proposed to increase voter turn out. Some have suggested an incentive based approach, including tax deductions for voters or free meals provided at polling places. While greater incentives may encourage more voters to turn up at the polls, opposers have argued that it would not encourage voters to arrive at the polls well-informed on the issues or candidates and could result in higher rates of random voting done in order to attain the incentive.

Others have suggested longer polling location hours or making Election Day a national holiday in order to allow full time workers to participate in greater numbers. Additionally, automatic voter registration upon getting a driver’s license has been suggested in order to ease the large number of voters who miss lengthy registration deadlines. Automatic voter registration would create an opt out system of voter registration instead of an opt in.

Lastly, many have suggested that our current system of voting should simply be reformed. Many have suggested a registration system that allows voters to vote in any election, not just for the party with which they have registered. Others argue that primary elections should be consistent across states instead of our current system of state run open elections, closed elections, and caucuses.

What do you think about these solutions? Can you think of any other ways to increase voter turn out?

Making a Murderer: The Case that Rocked the Nation

In Politics & Society on April 24, 2016 at 9:25 pm

Netflix sensation. Addicting, binge-worthy 10-part television. And…socially and politically important? Making a Murderer featured a case that rocked the nation.

Steven Avery spent 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. After DNA exonerated him, he sued the county of Manitowoc, Wisconsin for wrongful imprisonment. Avery was seeking $36 million in in damages.

However, in the midst of this lawsuit, the unthinkable happened: Steven Avery was arrested again. This time, for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Halbach, a photographer for an auto magazine, was last seen shooting a vehicle on the Avery family’s auto salvage yard. After her vehicle and charred remains were found on the property, Steven Avery was arrested for her murder.

The Netflix series follows Avery, his family, and his defense team as they put forth the unthinkable: Manitowoc county, Wisconsin framed Avery for a murder somebody else committed. Spurned by the lawsuit, they sought to make Steven Avery pay for shedding light on the department’s malpractices. And the evidence, sadly, points to this.

A key to Halbach’s vehicle materializes behind a bookshelf after days of searching. The bones appear to have been dumped behind Steven Avery’s trailer on the property. And, most shockingly: A vial of blood from Avery’s 1988 rape conviction-the very blood vial that provided the sample used to exonerate him in 2005-is found to have been opened and tampered with.

But the thing that gives all this evidence it’s gravitas is the fact that the Manitowoc County Sherriff’s department was involved in the investigation, a clear conflict of interest. Avery was still in the process of suing the county and the department at the time. A special prosecutor had been brought in, and neighboring Calumet County was to lead the investigation. Manitowoc was only to secure the crime scene for the investigators. However, Manitowoc lieutenant James Lenk discovered the mysterious key at the center of the defense’s case.

Why did this case rock the nation? Viewers of Making a Murderer will tell you that it’s an obvious miscarriage of justice. But, it’s one unlike we’re used to seeing in the mass media. Both Avery and Halbach are white Wisconsinites. Corruption has seeped where we believe justice to be the most fair: rural America. It made a nation realize that the problems in our criminal justice system run deeper and wider than racial tensions.

Should Voting Be Mandatory in the United States?

In Politics & Society on April 24, 2016 at 8:07 pm

Case Study: The 2016 Democratic Primary Election

By Chelsea Newburg

In the heat of the Democratic primary for the 2016 presidential election, one can’t help but wonder if the results would be different if voting was compulsory in the US as it is in Australia. The NY Times exit polls for the April 19th New York Democratic primary show that 65% of voters ages 18-29 support Bernie Sanders, while 63% of voters ages 45 – 64 support Clinton. But this is not necessarily an even swap for Sanders, as only 18% of voters showing up to the polls are ages 18-29, while 39% of voters are ages 45 – 64. This voter disparity exists over many other demographic lines as well, including wealth/income and race/ethnicity. In all of American history, higher income, older, white voters are more likely to show up to the polls than all other groups. Proponents of compulsory voting argue that for our democracy to be legitimate, it must represent the opinions of every eligible American citizen, not just the groups that tend to choose to vote.

President Obama recently said that mandatory voting would be ‘transformative,’ suggesting that it would improve participation from low-income citizens, youth and minorities – demographics that the Democratic Party would benefit from. Under the current voluntary voting system in America, non-voters are disproportionately low-income, young, less educated, and non-white. Their reasons for not voting are vast – from difficult registration requirements, ignorance, apathy, distrust in American government, etc. – and the result is elected officials that represent the interests and values of a relatively small and homogenous group of Americans. Perhaps, compulsory voting would help to fill the vacuum in participation by evening out disparities in voter income, age, and race. Some sources, such as the New York Times, have suggested that if compulsory voting was a policy in the United States, Bernie Sanders would be winning in many more states than he is under our current voting system.

The chances of compulsory voting being introduced in the United States are limited. Republicans are often the strongest opposers of mandatory voting adoption, claiming arguments of freedom of speech and personal liberty. A recent national survey by You Gov reports that while 54% of Americans are in favor of automatic voter registration, 66% of Americans oppose mandatory voting. There are many policies that, if implemented, could improve abysmal voter turn out in American elections. My next blog post will take a look a few of the alternatives that we discussed during our deliberation in class and that are been proposed by American political theorists and commentators.


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