Dumbed-down law would force voting – Daily News



Though you’re sometimes embarrassed that your ignorant Uncle Burt’s rarely casting a ballot contributes to California’s mediocre voter-turnout, you could be even more chagrined if a bill by a Bay Area lawmaker were to pass.

That’s because you may not like the votes cast by a know-nothing such as your Unc, yet AB2070 by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, would require him to do so.

Oh, sure — though the bill would mandate that all registered voters return their ballots, either by mail or to a vote center, a person could still avoid the pokey even if the ballot were left blank.

But don’t get to the polls one way or another, Californian, and you could be breaking rocks in the hot sun before you know it.

You might charitably say the proposed law is well-intended, since in theory a democracy works best when all participate. But in the real world, a democracy actually works best when well-informed and motivated voters make the effort to study the issues and make intelligent decisions about who and what will best represent their views in government.

Levine’s proposal is not unprecedented. Almost 30 countries around the world have some sort of compulsory voting, and a few of them bother to enforce the edict. Even otherwise rational nations such as Costa Rica and Australia require citizens to vote, and in by-the-book Belgium, it’s been the law since 1893.

That doesn’t mean it’s not nuts. Because as of our most recent election, we’re really doing pretty well on turnout — around 64% of California’s registered voters cast ballots in 2018. That was the highest midterm turnout in nearly 40 years. But it’s not good enough for Levine: “We’re missing a huge swath of voters who are affected by what we do,” the assemblyman said. “Too many Californians are opting out and having decisions made for them and to them that are not in their best interest.”

The authoritarian mindset, defaulting to coercion when cornered, remains a mystery to those of us with a laissez-faire worldview.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t call out such heavy-handedness as the danger to freedom of choice that it is. We’d rather Californians bone up on the issues and vote. If they decline to, though, we’ll all be better off when they stay far from a polling place.