But if it won't, here's one possible incentive: Your voting receipt could become a Mega Millions lottery ticket.
One of the major problems contributing to the extraordinary dysfunction of the American political system is the series of voting processes that gives immense influence to the extreme, ideologically driven bases of the two major parties. In today's base-driven elections, party strategists try to maximize the turnout of their own base -- usually by frightening them to death about the consequences if the "enemy" prevails -- while minimizing the turnout of the other side by any means necessary and available.
In my view, the best way to ameliorate this malign dynamic is to find ways to enlarge the electorate in primaries and general elections -- to move our politics to where persuadable voters in the middle have more impact. If I could do one thing to counter our dysfunction, it would be to adopt a version of the Australian system of mandatory attendance at the polls.
Why would increasing turnout make a difference? It is not that high turnout is a surefire indicator of civic health and democratic values -- the former Soviet Union, after all, boasted 98 percent turnouts. The greater impact is on the culture of politicians. Australian politicians of all stripes say that knowing both parties' bases will certainly vote motivates them to focus on those persuadable voters in the middle. They do not emphasize the kinds of wedge issues like guns, gays, or abortion that dominate American discourse. Instead, politicians focus on the bigger questions -- like the economy, jobs, and education -- that drive the voters in the middle, and they avoid the kind of vicious or vitriolic campaign rhetoric that turns off the persuadable voters.
Of course, mandatory voting has no serious chance of being enacted in the United States, where mandates of any sort are (as you might have noticed) unpopular. Americans rebel viscerally against the idea of taking away the freedom not to vote, even if the consequence is simply a modest penalty or the requirement to write an excuse. So I also favor exploring ways to expand the electorate by using incentives instead of disincentives.
My favorite incentive approach is a "Mega Millions lottery," where one's voting receipt is also one's lottery ticket. The lure of a major prize could and would motivate people to vote, the same way the multimillion dollar Mega Millions prize in 2012 motivated many to stand in line for hours for a chance to buy a lottery ticket that gave a one-in-176-million chance to become a multimillionaire. A lottery could increase turnout dramatically and overnight, and is a model that could be employed at all levels (say, a chance to win a car donated by a local dealer for a local election).