John Sides has a nice post up about a suggestion that the way to boost voting rates is to make voting compulsory...but only for first-time voters. The idea would be that since we have evidence that past voters are more likely to vote in the future, the trick is to get people to vote in the first place.
Sounds as if it would work. But I'm not sure that it's a practical reform suggestion. Whether it is depends on whether there are people who would support compulsory first-time voting but would not, for whatever reasons, support full compulsory voting. I doubt if that's a very large group. The objections to compulsory voting -- either from those who simply want to preserve the current electorate, or from those who have principled liberty-based reasons -- would seem to apply to this scheme.
Long-time readers will anticipate, however, that I have a different solution: lower the voting age. If the voting age is lowered to somewhere between 12 and 16, children will first be introduced to voting when they're living with their parents; presumably, parents who care about voting will encourage their children to register and vote. Will that be habit-forming? I don't know; it's possible that voting would be more habit-forming for young adults than it would be for their younger siblings. However, it certainly avoids the whole question of compulsory voting.
In my view, as I've said, the voting age is too high anyway. I'm still ambivalent about the idea of vote-from-birth, although I certainly don't think it's a crazy idea, but as far as 16 year olds? No question in my mind: they should have the franchise. Now, given the lack of support for lowering the voting age over the last forty years, one might reasonably say that this isn't much of a practical proposal either. So there's that. But I'd still prefer it to compulsory first-time voting anyway, and I think the logic of the situation is that dropping the voting age is more likely to be adopted.