With the quadrennial presidential slugfest too close to call, I wonder if it would be a different story if more people got out to vote. With 130 to 140 million people voting in the US Presidential election, it represents about half of the people who are eligible to vote. Even with my rough maths, it appears possible to get elected President with only a quarter of the population voting for you.
I guess the concept of non-compulsory voting remains a little foreign to me. If I don't vote, then I am likely to end up with a fine. I live in one of a handful of countries that has compulsory voting. As a result, a Federal election in Australia can get over 90% of eligible voters turning up to vote.
Now, when I say "compulsory voting", what I really mean is "compulsory attendance at a polling location". I only have to turn up and get my name crossed off the electoral roll - completing the ballot form is then optional. In my forty-odd years of voting, I haven't known it to be any different, and so I faithfully turn up for each election and cast a vote. I figure that if I make an effort to turn up, I should exercise my democratic right and vote - no need to waste my vote by drawing a penis on the ballot form.
In the end, it doesn't matter whether a carrot or a stick approach is being used to get you to vote, you need to make sure that when you do, that you "vote early and vote often".