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Democracy Matters - Episode 104: 100% Democracy


by Carah Ong Whaley, PHD

 
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SUMMARY: What would American democracy look like if everyone participated? We discuss 100% Democracy: The Case for Universal Voting with co-authors Miles Rapoport, the Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School, and E.J. Dionne, Jr. senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, university professor at Georgetown University, and visiting professor at Harvard University.


What would American democracy look like if everyone participated? 

Americans turned out to vote in record numbers in the 2020 presidential election and turnout has been on the rise in other recent elections. However, voter turnout in the United States still lags behind other countries. In this episode, we discuss 100% Democracy:  The Case for Universal Voting with co-authors Miles Rapoport, the Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School, and E.J. Dionne, Jr. senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, university professor at Georgetown University, and visiting professor at Harvard University. 

Universal voting is in effect in 26 democratic countries in Europe, Latin America, Asia. Most notably, Australia adopted nationwide mandatory voting almost 100 years ago, in 1924. The participation rate immediately jumped from 60% to 90% and has stayed there in almost every election since. 

Rapoport and Dionne make the case that universal civic-duty voting would make the voting electorate more fully representative of the universe of American citizens and that campaigns would significantly improve, since candidates and parties would have to appeal to all voters. “When the electorate is fully reflective of the population as a whole, the responsiveness of government is likely to increase,” Rapoport says during our conversation. Instead of the “enrage to engage” that comes with great cost to our democracy, universal voting “would almost certainly produce a less ideological electorate,” says Dionne. The implementation of universal voting could also significantly improve civic culture in the United States. 

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Published: Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Last Updated: Wednesday, May 18, 2022

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