Mandatory voting bill proposed in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KPIX/CNN) – California State Assemblyman Marc Levine for the 10th District believes the freedom to vote is so important that the government should require people to do it. To opponents, that sounds downright un-American.

Levine’s bill, AB 2070, would require anyone registered to vote in California to cast a ballot in every election in the area the person resides. The ballot can be a partial one, or even blank, but it must be cast or non-voters will be penalized.

Assemblyman Levine said, “We need to change the culture of voting. We need to make it something that people expect to do, that they know it’s a civic obligation and with greater turnout, we can have far more positive results.”

That sounds like the heavy hand of government to Jack Wilkinson, the Chairman of the Marin County Republican Central Committee. He said, “Freedom is a two-sided coin. You’re free to vote or not to vote. You can’t force people to do something unless you’re controlling the outcome of what they do, which is what this bill will lead to.”

Yolanda Bellisimo, a political science professor at College of Marin, says punishing registered voters for not casting a ballot will probably increase voting a bit but only in the short term. “Then what you might find is that you’ll have less people registered to vote,” she explained. “That sort of defeats the purpose? That defeats the purpose, exactly.”

Out on the campus, the proposal drew a mixed response. College of Marin student Braulio Resendiz Cordova said, “If they force people to vote it’s going to be like jury duty and people are going to hate it even more. We’re not supposed to hate to vote. We’re supposed to enjoy it.”

Eric Garro supports mandatory voting. He said, “I’m from Costa Rica and I think it’s an obligation of any citizen to come and vote. If they don’t want to vote for anybody, vote for nobody, but it is an obligation to be a part of society.”

Some countries, like Belgium and Australia, fine people for not voting. And in Bolivia, if people cannot prove they voted, their salary can be withheld at the bank. Levine says he just wants to encourage voting in California, even if it means forcing people to do it.

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