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EDITORIAL: Mandatory voting

President Barack Obama loves using the heavy hand of government to make Americans do what he wants them to do. Obamacare’s array of mandates — especially tax penalties for those who fail to purchase health insurance — is the most obvious proof of his fondness for coercion. His latest big idea: compulsory voting.

While visiting Cleveland last week, the president was asked by someone in his audience how the country could best limit campaign spending and the influence of money on elections. He pointed to Australia, which requires all citizens to vote. Mandatory voting would be a check on money, he said.

As noted last week by The Wall Street Journal editorial board, the opposite likely holds true. Pushing more voters to the polls would compel campaigns and super PACs to spend at least as much to reach every citizen possible.

But the more important question here is how President Obama would propose enforcing a federal mandate to vote. Australia imposes a $20 fine for first-time offenders, nonpayment of which can lead to prosecution and reimbursement of court costs. Who would assess that penalty in America? The IRS?

Enforcement costs would vastly exceed whatever revenue Washington collected from nonvoters. Which leads to another question: How could the president justify a fine for not voting — which for many citizens is an act of political expression clearly protected by the First Amendment — while opposing a requirement that citizens present photo identification before voting? To be constitutional, voter IDs must be made available free of charge. So are we being told that free voter IDs are more burdensome on minorities and the lower class than a fine for not voting?

We have a better idea: a smaller government that spends less time bossing us around.

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