Speaking Wednesday on the influence of money in U.S. elections, President Barack Obama floated the idea of mandatory voting, saying it would "completely change the political map in this country," but the White House backtracked on Thursday following a bit of backlash from pundits.
"In Australia, and some other countries, there's mandatory voting," Obama said while speaking to a civic group in Cleveland, reported USA Today. "If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country. That would counteract [campaign money] more than anything."
Obama added that the people who usually don't 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."
Voter turnout fell from 62.3 percent of eligible citizens voting in 2008 to only about 57.5 percent in 2012.
Following Obama's comments, a number critics berated the president for even suggesting such a thing.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., notably said, "Here's the point he refuses to point out or that he misses: not voting is also a legitimate choice that some people make. I wish more people would participate in politics, too, but that is their choice - that is the choice of living in a free society," reported The Washington Times.
Others, like Reason's Scott Shackford, expanded on Rubio's comment with a similar point: "Mandatory voting is a violation of our civil rights, just as denying a citizen a right to vote is a violation. Casting a vote is speech. It is showing support or opposition to a candidate or proposal. Making voting mandatory means voting is no longer a right. It's an obligation. It's forced speech. If we were forced to attend a church, but had a choice of several churches, we would still (most of us, anyway) recognize that this is a violation of our freedom to decline to practice religion at all. Not voting isn't just an expression of apathy. It's also a form of protest."
On Thursday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest made an effort to clarify what Obama was actually saying.
"The president was not making a specific policy prescription for the United States," Earnest said, adding that Obama was simply giving "a pretty open-ended answer" to a question regarding the impact of money in elections, reported The Washington Times.