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Debate: Compulsory voting

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Is mandatory voting a good idea?

Background and context

Due to low voter turnout in elections, some respectable scholars have called for mandatory voting.

Political education: Does mandatory voting help educate electorate?


  • Mandatory voting has beneficial educational effect on citizens. One of the major arguments for compulsory voting is that, it would have an educational effect upon the citizens.


Compulsory voting may discourage political education of the citizens because people forced to participate may react against the perceived source of oppression.

Democracy: Does mandatory voting enhance democracy?


Participation of all the people in the democracy. It would ensure the basic way of having the people participate in the government works and thus exercise their democratic right.

  • 50% turnout is a shame; mandatory voting necessary. Keith Olbermann. "Make voting mandatory voting necessary." Salon. November 5, 2002: "Thus I offer two modest proposals to get head and hair flying. First: Mandatory voting. You heard me. A democracy where half of the citizens sit back and say, "no, thanks," isn't a democracy at all -- just a really large oligarchy. If we have not already reached it, we are nearing, inevitably, the point at which everyone who votes has a personal stake in the outcome. As the percentage of lever-pullers continues to decline, it's going to eventually be just the candidates' friends, families and people from their secret second lives who even bother to show up. You know -- like park league softball."


Forced participation defies purpose of ‘right’ to vote. It is not democratic to force people to vote. It is a right, which a person can choose to use as per his/her will.

Quality: Does mandatory voting improve the quality of voting?


Mandatory participation increases the quantity of votes. Each and every citizen would have given his first preference and this would help in complete participation of all the citizens in the political affairs of the country.

  • Mandatory voting will ensure voters see value in their vote. Keith Olbermann. "Make voting mandatory voting necessary." Salon. November 5, 2002: "Mandatory voting would require a system of rewards and/or punishments and another bureaucracy. But if adopted, it would instantaneously reconfigure the political landscape. Gone would be the ages-old excuse of the nonvoter: that his ballot matters not. At some fundamental level, his ballot would matter dearly to himself, because failure to cast it would invoke the wrath of the Mandatory Voting Enforcement Division."


Forced active participation can reduce the quality of votes. Allowing or rather forcing ignorant people to vote can hamper the thoughtful votes of citizens who vote for with a reason rather than because of the coercion.

Pro/con sources



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