A Democrat New York assemblywoman has a solution for low turnout typically among poor and minority voting blocs: fine them if they fail to cast ballots.
Manhattan-based Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick (D) filed a “compulsory voting” bill, requiring all eligible New York residents to register and cast ballots, or face a $10 fine unless they can provide “a valid excuse” for not voting. The current bill text does not give guidance on what kind of reasons for failing to vote would be acceptable.
Assemblywoman Glick writes in the bill’s summary memo that “mandatory voting would drastically increase civic participation and transform the political arena by making politicians more reflective of the constituents that elected them.” Her reasoning closely echoed former President Barack Obama’s 2015 pitch for a federal plan, noting “it would be transformative if everybody voted … the people who tend not to vote are young, they’re lower income, they’re skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups,” according to CNN.
A significant debate among Democrat circles has occurred since the 2016 presidential election about how to improve leftist turnout, yielding discussions related to dissolving the Electoral College or creating more automatic voter registration regimes in states where it would be politically palatable. FiveThirtyEight noted shortly after the dust settled in November that turnout was generally down in states where Hillary Clinton won—though overall participation across the nation was higher than 2012. In their study, California and Maryland exhibited the greatest cuts in turnout, while New York was just short of the previous presidential contest’s figures.
There was finger-pointing as well before all the votes were even counted. Mere hours before the victory speech, left-leaning outlets were in preemptive pushback mode; arguing that black voters should not be the ones to fault if Donald Trump were the eventual victor. Essence published an angry missive directed at white liberals like New York Magazine, saying that “blame of [a Trump victory] should not fall on the backs of minorities.” The black publication bemoaned the political media’s alleged obsession with filing stories that sought to “humanize Donald Trump supporters” while Republican “voter suppression” was helping “Real Estate Hitler” carve a path to the White House. The blame game quickly spread beyond racial and elite periodicals, with Samantha Bee exclaiming on basic cable shortly afterward that she “doesn’t want to hear a Goddamn word” about black voter turnout.
Regardless of where the justified blame lies in the 2016 Election among the left, responding to lower voter turnout among allegedly marginalized cohorts with fines serves as a curious correction in the least.
A compulsory voting law could likely face rocky terrain in the courts. Though no reasonable judge would move to strike down a policy that purports to improve voter participation, several federal laws protect a citizen’s right to determine their own levels of engagement.
Despite claims of hoping to advance civil rights by promoting redistricting reform, automatic voter registration, a national popular vote, or even ballot taxes, the contemporary Democrat Party at all levels simply appear to be still trying to get their collective Cousin Pookie to the polls—or risk a prolonged residence in the political wilderness.