Last week my thoughts on third parties and mandatory voting were published in the Boulder Daily Camera:
No one likes to hold their nose and vote for a candidate they perceive as the “lesser of two evils.” But voting for your favorite minor-party candidate can help elect the “greater of two evils.” The preferential voting systems mentioned above could remedy this. Another benefit is that if minor parties had a chance to win, media gatekeepers would report on them more. This would help publicize worthwhile policy proposals that major parties don’t mention.
But don’t expect elected officials to support any such change. They support self-serving campaign finance laws and ballot access regulations that protect incumbents and the two major parties at the expense of minor-party candidates.
In any case, it’s wrong to claim, as some do, that voting should be mandatory or that it’s a “civic duty.” Our only obligations as citizens is to abstain from violating the rights of others.
To vote is to express a political opinion or preference. Just as government should not prohibit such expression, nor should government mandate it. Who benefits when you’re forced to express a preference for a politician you consider to be “the lesser of two evils?” The politician, of course. Votes signal approval, and government should not force citizens to express approval for ideas or candidates they dislike.
I credit this perspective on mandatory voting to Ayn Rand, who wrote in a letter dated February 21 1950:
A proposal to introduce compulsory voting is worse than mere looting of material property. Such a proposal establishes the principle that the government has the right to use compulsion against the human mind and to force an expression of political opinion from men who do not choose to express it.