President Obama is floating the idea of mandatory voting, arguing it "may end up being a better strategy in the short term" for counteracting the influence of money in politics.
"In Australia and some other countries there's mandatory voting," Obama said during a town-hall meeting in Cleveland on Wednesday.
"It would be transformative if everybody voted. That would counteract money more than anything. If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map of this country."
The remarks came in response to a question about the corrosive role of money in politics. Before veering into mandatory voting, Obama said the U.S. should be making voting easier and vowed that his Department of Justice would defend voting rights.
At least two-dozen countries have compulsory voting laws in some form, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Around half enforce those laws, with penalties, including potential fines, in places such as Australia.
Of eligible voters in the U.S., fewer than 37 percent cast ballots during the 2014 midterm elections, according to the United States Election Project.
Obama noted that people who typically don't vote are young, lower-income and come from minority communities.
"There's a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls. We should want to get them into the polls," Obama said.
Some Republicans are expressing alarm about Obama's remarks. Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Memo: Biden's immigration problems reach crescendo in Del Rio Democrats face bleak outlook in Florida The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems attempt to tie government funding, Ida relief to debt limit MORE (R-Fla.), a potential 2016 contender, saying he wouldn't put it past the president to seek compulsory voting.
“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," Rubio said Wednesday on Fox News's "Hannity.
Obama's remarks came just two days after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed the nation's first law automatically registering eligible voters when they get a new driver's license or state ID.