- - Thursday, August 13, 2015

President Obama has endorsed the idea that the United States, like Australia, should require citizens to vote, under pain of punishment if they don’t. Hillary Clinton supports various schemes to eliminate voter-identification laws and other “impediments” to voting, Bernie Sanders wants election day to be declared a national holiday (maybe on Saturday). Eric Holder leads a crusade to grant felons the vote, and Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia wants to drop voter registration, and prospective voters could just say that they’re citizens and they’re entitled to vote. Trust, not verify.

This is part of a Democratic scheme to “expand the electorate” in states expected to be the key to success in the 2016 presidential election. Democrats are convinced that their voters often fail to show up, either because it’s too much trouble, they’re barred from voting legally, or they’re just not interested in voting. Given the razor-thin margins expected in some states, a few more votes per precinct could make the difference, and guarantee Democratic control of the White House.

It doesn’t matter how many people like a candidate unless the voters show up to mark a ballot for him. That’s why the campaigns spend so much time, effort and money on voter registration drives like the GOTV (Get Out the Vote) campaigns. The way to win, obviously, is to persuade a majority of voters of the superiority of the candidate’s views and qualifications. That must be accompanied, however, by turning out friendly voters and discouraging unfriendly voters.

The common wisdom for decades has been that Democratic voters are less likely to vote than Republicans. If voters can’t be persuaded by good citizenship to make it to the polls, maybe the law can do it — vote, or else. After the “licking” Mr. Obama and Democratic candidates took last year he made it clear that he was listening not to the voters who voted, but to those who didn’t.

The conventional wisdom that Republicans are more eager to vote than Democrats may be correct; the conventional wisdom is occasionally wise. Public-opinion polls in recent years have shown that voters who actually vote break approximately even between the parties. There are other voters who would be reliably Democratic, so the politicians think, and in particular convicted felons and immigrants, particularly those who sneak across the border and who could be made eligible quickly.

Democrats, who dream not of a big tent but a big net, dismiss the idea that there could be abuses of loose voter laws, and thus favor changes that will make voter fraud easier. This would inevitably undermine public confidence in the electoral system and hence undermine the foundation of the republic. That’s a steep price for a few votes.

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