Compulsory Voting.— The abstention of voters from the polls is a recognized evil for which the remedy cominonly proposed is com pulsory voting, secured by imposing penalties for failure to vote. If more than a fourth of the electors abstain from voting, a very inade quate expression of public opinion is obtained and oftentimes the result of an election would have been eztirely different bad the stay-at homes voted, since a mere plurality of those voting decides most contests in the United States. A large portion of those not voting do not renaain away from the polls either vol untarily or from unworthy motives. Many are debarred by tax qualifications; others are kept away by a change of residence shortly before election, or by reason of their employment (such as sailors, railroad employees, traveling men, students, etc.) ; and more than 300,000 men of voting age are deprived of the fran chise as insane, paupers, prisoners or deficient in the educational tests required by some States. Sickness, accident and the infirmities of age account for the absence of thousands, since over 600,000 voters are over 70 years of age, while errors in registering or in casting ballots deprived many of votes. In the South thousands of negroes and many whites have been deprived of their votes by laws enacted with that one object in view. Hence some esti mate that not more .than 20 per cent of the absentee.s fail. to cast a ballot through negli gence. Nevertheless, various remedies have been tried both in this country and in Europe. In Belgium, Switzerland and some. other Euro pean countrtes punishments are inflicted on non voter& In Belgiurn, for the first offense, the culprit is at once cited to appear before a jus tice, who reprimands or fines him; the second offense is more severely punished, and the narne of the refractory citizen is published by the magistrate and posted on the gates of the town hall. The man who, without excuse, has ab stained from voting four times in 10 years is considered unworthy of citizenship ; his name is public office. In 1636 the general court of the Plymouth colony provided that "for default in case of appearance at the election without due excuse, each delinquent to be amerced 3s ster."
The custom continued certainly beyond 1671, for in the revision of the laws then published the fine was put at 10 shillings. Other colonies had similar laws, Virginia maintaining hers throughout her history. Her first law on the subject made the fine 100 pounds of tobacco, and in 1662 this was increased to 200 pounds. Some of the New England towns fined free men who came late to the town meeting. None of the States have revived the colonial idea of a money fine, probably because the evil is diminishing, rather than increasing. Some of the States (as Illinois) have attempted to penal ize persons who fail to vote by requiring that jury-men be drawn first from among the. non voters, but this would benefit the suffrage more than the jury system because those neglecting one civic duty could not be considered ex ceptionally eligible for the paid performance of a more responsible public service. Another penalty proposed is the disfranchisement of the voter who once omits to vote until he shall have purged himself by paying a fine. But this would work no hardship to most of tbe apathetic citizens and to a large number of non voters would do an injustice since they stay away through no fault or choice of their own. Furthermore, many abstain from voting as an effective rebtilce to party leaders because they consider the party candidate unworthy and are unwilling to vote for the candidate of any other party. The most effective remedy appears to be in educating the voter to his civic responsi bilities, in rendering the voting process easy, in presenting live, vital and interesting issues, and an persuading the individual voter that lus ballot is of the utinost importance. To a considerable extent interest in elections has been quickened in those States which have direct legislation and direct primaries.
Cumulative Voting.— See M INORITY AND PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION.