illustration of a ballot being placed in a ballot box

Nemanja Cosovic/Shutterstock.com (election box); Debate photos courtesy of families

Should Americans Have to Vote?

For the next several months, you’ll probably hear a lot of people talking about who they’ll vote for on Election Day. But chances are, millions of Americans will decide not to vote. In 2016, only about 60 percent of the people who could have voted for president actually did. 

Many people say that’s a problem. Our elected leaders are supposed to represent the interests of all Americans, but that can’t happen if so many citizens don’t vote. One solution is to make voting mandatory, or required. That has worked in Australia, where voter turnout is about 90 percent in most elections. Australians who fail to vote have to pay a fine. 

Not everyone is ready to vote “yes” for mandatory voting, however. Many people argue that requiring Americans to vote won’t guarantee that the best candidates get elected. They say people who don’t want to vote are less likely to learn about the candidates and their views.

Here’s what two of our readers think.

Voting is one of our most important rights. African Americans and women fought for years to gain that right, and in some countries, people still don’t have it. People who don’t vote are taking that right for granted.

But voting is more than a right—it’s also a responsibility. Many people aren’t happy with our leaders, but a lot of those same people don’t vote. If voting were required, it would encourage everybody to make sure their voices are heard.

Voting is an important right, but it’s also a choice. Our country is built on the idea of freedom. Forcing someone to vote takes away that freedom.

Rather than requiring people to vote or punishing them for not voting, we should find ways to encourage them to pick our leaders. For example, it’s hard for many people to take time off work to stand in line at the polls. If Election Day were a national holiday, more people would have time to go vote.

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1. How does the author support the idea that millions of Americans will decide not to vote?

2. Describe the problem and solution presented in paragraph 2.

3. Summarize a main argument against mandatory voting.

Close-Reading Questions

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