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California lawmakers introduce legislation that would require citizens to vote
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

California lawmakers introduce legislation that would require citizens to vote

'Democracy is not a spectator sport'

A newly proposed bill in California would require every citizen who is registered to vote to cast ballots in all future elections, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Though it would likely be challenged in court after passage, Assembly Bill 2070, if enacted, would "require a person who qualifies and is registered to vote to cast a ballot, marked or unmarked in whole or in part, at every election held within the territory within which the person resides."

Will there be a punishment?

What happens if a citizen fails to do so? Well, the bill doesn't actually say, instead granting the power to determine a punishment to California's secretary of state.

"The bill would require the Secretary of State to enforce this requirement," is the exact language the legislation uses.

Citing as examples the 30 countries around the world that currently have compulsory voting laws — such as Australia and Belgium — author Assemblyman Marc Levine (D) argues he proposed the bill "with democracy on the line."

"Democracy is not a spectator sport — it requires the active participation of all its citizens," Levine added in a statement regarding the legislation. "California is a national leader on expanding voting rights to its citizens. Those rights come with a responsibility by registered voters to cast their ballot and make sure that their voice is heard by their government."

Hot Air, in its coverage of the news, takes issue with Levine's bit about democracy not being "a spectator sport" but requiring "the active participation of all its citizens":

That's not really true, is it? There are countries that have mandatory voting, including Australia, but they don't have constitutionally mandated free speech. In America, you have the right to vote (assuming you're of age and don't commit any felonies), but not an obligation to do so. You have the right to speak, but also to remain silent if you wish. And voting is a form of speech.

What about illegal aliens with driver's licenses?

"Here's another question," the Hot Air article poses. "What about the illegal aliens who inevitably wind up being mistakenly registered under the motor voter program?"

As of June 1, 2015, California's AB 60 law allows illegal immigrants to obtain a driver's license, except these driver's licenses are not exactly the same as those held by legal residents. For example, the licenses have "a visible distinguishing feature" and do not give the holder access to restricted federal areas or the right to vote.

That said, according to the Sacramento Bee, as of last year, California officials were still unable to confirm whether non-citizens voted in the June 2018 primary elections, which doesn't exactly instill trust in the system. At the very least, you would expect Levine's proposed bill to offer some safeguards against circumstances like this, but no such language yet exists.

The bill may be amended, however, as it still must be referred to a policy committee and is unlikely to be considered until the spring, according to reports.

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