Suppose with a nudge the U.S. voting rate in 2014 went up from the typical 40 percent to 50 percent and maybe from 60 percent to 70 percent in a presidential year — which is only a modest turnout by the standard of other democracies on this planet. Are we so sure that our system of government would still be so dysfunctional? Even a nudge of just two points would still justify a letter.
Of course, we liberals especially should be much more than nudge-niks; and if it were possible legislatively, we should be swinging a stick. If we require people to serve on juries, we can require them to vote — yes, compulsory voting, just like in Australia and Belgium. “Oh, it’s in the Constitution that we don’t have to vote.” Where? In the text, there is neither an absolute right to vote nor a right not to vote. It simply requires the eligibility be the same as eligibility for voting for the state legislature. “Oh, it violates our right to conscience, or the First Amendment.” How? It’s fine to cast a blank ballot, as they do in Australia, which has compulsory voting — and where you’re fined if you don’t. Once they go to the polling place, they can do whatever they like.
Besides, not every abridgment of speech or conduct violates the First Amendment, and there is nothing “content based” about an obligation to cast a vote of some kind, blank or not, which is neutral as to for whom or how the citizen votes at all. Spare me the First Amendment — tell it to the tea party.
It is true the Constitution is broken. But let’s not blame the Founders too much. It was our own era that came up with the “silent” filibuster. It was our digital age that perfected the gerrymander.