Americans don’t vote.
Not all of us, of course. Tens of millions of us do vote. But far too many of us don’t.
In the 2012 presidential election, only about 57.5 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. The 2014 midterm election had historically low turnouts: Only 36.4 percent of the electorate voted. That means nearly two-thirds of us didn’t bother to go to the polls.
Efforts to tweak the election process to increase turnout have largely been ineffectual. Early voting doesn’t actually increase turnout. Nor does moving elections to weekends. Making registration easier hasn’t had much of an effect either.
There is one reform that would certainly increase turnout, though: compulsory voting. If you required people to vote, voting rates would increase substantially. In Australia, all eligible citizens are required to vote; if they don’t they are fined $20. Not much of a penalty — but effective enough that voting rates in Australia are in the neighborhood of 80 percent.
There’s not much popular or political enthusiasm for compulsory voting in the U.S.