Kentucky professor calls for mandatory voting in elections to counter low turnout

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A University of Kentucky law professor is suggesting mandatory voting may be the change necessary to improve voter turnout.

In presidential elections, usually 60 percent of the population votes. In midterm elections 30 to 40 percent vote. In local elections, at least in Kentucky in 2015, turn-out was 30 to 31 percent.

University of Kentucky law professor Josh Douglas wrote a book called "Vote For Us" to discuss how to change the future of voting, and he points to the current turnout as a reason why change is needed.

"I think that's horrible," Douglas said when looking at Kentucky's turnout. "I think that it is a stain in our democracy to have such a low turnout and our elected officials be elected by only 30 percent of the people showing up and being decided by roughly 16 percent of the electorate."

Douglas calls mandatory voting the easy way to ensure better participation.

"We must do better. If we have a democracy where every person's vote should count and should be counted, then we have to find ways to improve turnout," Douglas said. "I think we'd have a more informed electorate to learn about the candidates."

Douglas points to Australia where turnout is 90 to 95 percent, and he says there is no indication voters are less educated. He also believes the political ramifications of mandatory voting shouldn't be a deterrent to stop mandatory voting from happening.

"I don't think it matters for the conversations as to whether we should increase voter turnout," Douglas answered.

Many believe mandatory voting would just lead to more voter fraud, putting a strain on the voting process.

"There's no good reason not to make it easy to vote so long as we also insure safeguards," Douglas said.

In the US, just because everyone doesn't have to vote, some states appear to make the process easier. Oregon, Washington and Colorado have universal vote by mail statewide--where the ballot comes to the home, and residents have a few weeks to study it. "And what we've found in these states is that people actually take the time to educate themselves because they are able to from the comfort of their homes and they have some time to do it."

Douglas' book chronicles those across the country that are working to increase voter interest, and in turn, turnout. "Voting and participation is a way people can feel some type of ownership in our country and it's laws."

Kentucky's primary elections are May 21st.



 
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