By Bob Katzen
The Elections Laws Committee held a hearing on a bill that would require eligible voters to cast a ballot in any November General Election or face a fine of $15 that would be added to the non-voter’s state tax liability for each election missed. The measure also clarifies that the voter does not have to actually vote for anyone and is allowed to leave the ballot blank.
“There are two schools of thought when filing legislation,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Dylan Fernandes (D-Falmouth). “One is filing a bill that is rigorously vetted, that has been combed line by line and that you hope only receives marginal edits through the committee process. The other is filing an idea that you believe is worthy of a robust public debate that will reshape the bill. Although it won’t pass this session and may never pass at all, I believe mandatory voting is an idea worth debate and consideration at the Statehouse and by thoughtful citizens across the state because it drives at questions fundamental to our society, which is whether civic participation in democracy is a duty or a right. I filed this bill to spark that debate.”
“Only in Massachusetts could a blatantly unconstitutional reverse-poll tax seem like a good idea,” said Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. “Such craziness is pushing the saying that ‘In Massachusetts everything that is not forbidden is mandatory’ to a third-world extreme. What would follow, ordering voters who they must vote for under penalty of prison?”
“I am in full support of compulsory voting,” said Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, the executive director of MassVOTE. “I just want to make sure it does not disproportionately affect communities of color, low income and new citizens. Maybe consider a sliding scale.”
“It’s a really bad idea and unconstitutional,” said Paul Craney, executive director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “It should never be considered and always rejected. If politicians were successful in taxing voters because they chose not to vote, their next step would be to increase those taxes if you vote the wrong way.”