BEACON HILL DISCUSSIONS ON PAYING FINE FOR NOT VOTING

By Bob Katzen

This proposal 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) who intends to refile the proposal. “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.”

“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 totally ridiculous and just as radical,” said Paul Craney, executive director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “If politicians can ‘fine’ voters for not voting, they will feel empowered to penalize voters for not voting for their preferred candidate. This legislation should be rejected at every step of the way.”

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