Fact Check

President Obama Wants Mandatory Voting?

Rumor: President Obama has proposed a constitutional amendment to make voting mandatory in the U.S.

Published Mar 19, 2015


Claim:   President Obama has proposed a constitutional amendment to make voting mandatory in the U.S.


Example:   [Collected via Twitter, March 2015]

Obama believes voting should be MANDATORY
Government TELLING you what to do


Now Obama wants a Constitutional amendment to make voting mandatory
Think about it. Why? Don't mess with my Constitution, just obey it.


Obama proposes a constitutional amendment, making voting mandatory. I wish this were fake, but it's very real.


When a right is forced upon people by law it is no longer a right, but an infringement upon their rights as free citizens #mandatoryvoting


Origins:   On 18 March 2015, President Obama appeared before the City Club of Cleveland at the Cleveland Convention Center to discuss civic issues such as middle-class economics and manufacturing. In the course of a discussion about the how money influences elections, President Obama mentioned that mandatory voting was one strategy that could be employed to try to offset the of political spending:

"Other countries have mandatory voting," Mr. Obama said at a town hall-style event in Cleveland, Ohio, citing places like Australia. "It would be transformative if everybody voted — that would counteract money more than anything."

The president continued, "The people who tend not to vote are young, they're lower income, they're skewed more heavily toward immigrant groups and minorities ... There's a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls."

Although he suggested that adopting mandatory voting rules could be a feasible "short-term" solution to the problem of money in politics, President Obama stopped short of actually calling for a constitutional amendment to bring that requirement about, saying only that in the long term it would be "fun" to go through the extensive process of adopting a constitutional amendment. Nonetheless, "news" outlets such as the Washington Times published superficial reports of the President's remarks under misleading headlines such as "Obama calls for mandatory voting in U.S."

As of November 2014, there are 11 countries that have and enforce mandatory voting rules, most notably Australia:

Australia adopted compulsory voting in 1924 after turnout plunged from more than 70 percent in 1919 to less than 60 percent in 1922. By contrast, recent turnout by eligible voters in U.S. presidential election years has barely cracked 60 percent; in midterm elections, it has been hovering in the low 40s.

Australians who fail to vote can be fined (or, in theory, jailed for repeated no-shows). Interestingly, the mandate to vote is overwhelmingly popular, with about three-fourths of those polled supporting the requirement.

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus opined in a column on the subject that it was unlikely the United States would follow Australia's example:

The United States is not about to go the way of Australia. The same partisan forces that agitate for voter ID laws or less opportunity for early voting hours would block any change on the assumption that it would work to their electoral disadvantage.

Last updated:   19 March 2015


    Condon, Stephanie.   "Obama Suggests Mandatory Voting Might Be a Good Idea."

    CBS News.   18 March 2015.

    "Mandatory Voting? Obama Says It Would Be 'Transformative'."

    Associated Press.   18 March 2015.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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