Colorado Town Considers Mandatory Voting

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As Americans, it’s our right to vote in elections, but one Colorado town is considering whether to make it a requirement.

There is a growing movement in Ridgway, a small town in southwest Colorado, to become the first place in the nation to make voting mandatory. The idea is that anyone who fails to vote without a decent excuse would be fined a certain amount of money. According to The Denver Post, the Town Council has already agreed to “put the matter on the ballot for a recent town election as a nonbinding opinion question.”

Like all great revolutionary movements, this one began in a bar. Tom Hennessy, the owner of a local hotspot, pitched the idea to town officials and managed to get enough support to put the issue on the ballot. Hennessy has referred to this movement as a potential “paradigm shift” that could affect the entire country. But, for the time being, there is still some hesitation surrounding the cause.

"I thought it was a neat idea (in the bar). When I heard Tom was going to bring it to the Town Council, I gulped," Pat Willits, Ridgway’s mayor, told The Denver Post. (And just as an aside, the Post notes that the mayor also works part-time in a bar. You know a town is small when the mayor needs another part-time gig.) Still, some hope that this will at least begin a valuable discussion about voting.

So just how bad is Ridgway’s voter turnout? There are 790 registered voters and the Post reports that in one election, just 82 showed up.

Dozens of countries around the world have passed legislation requiring citizens to vote, including Australia, Brazil and Egypt. But over the years, several polls have shown that the vast majority of Americans oppose the idea of compulsory voting.

Obviously, a democracy is founded on the right of citizens to have a voice in their government, but would it strengthen or weaken our democracy if we forced people to vote? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section.

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