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Published on Nov 1, 2012
To increase voter turnout, some countries require citizens to vote or face a penalty. Prof. Jason Brennan outlines several reasons the United States should not adopt such a law. For example, political scientists have found that most citizens are badly informed and that people tend to make systematic mistakes about the most basic issues in economics, sociology, and political science. Instead of being concerned about improving voter turnout, Brennan thinks we should be worried about whether the people who do vote are making well-informed decisions. Bad decisions in the voting booth contribute to bad policies. If a citizen does not want to vote because he doesn't feel informed—or for any other reason—he should be allowed to abstain from voting. Brennan concludes that mandatory voting would guarantee high turnout but not better government.