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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?

Pro

  • 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.

Con

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?

Pro

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."


Con

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?

Pro

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."


Con

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.

Examples: Are there examples of succesfull mandatory voting?

Pro

  • Mandatory voting has been succesful in Australia. Australia has had mandatory voting for decades without any problems and without serious protest or complaint. Voter participation has increased remarkably, along with the general awareness of the Australian citizenry. This demonstrates its viability in other countries.


Con

Non-participation: Could this ability still be preserved?

Pro

  • Voters could be given option to vote "none of the above." Keith Olbermann. "Make voting mandatory voting necessary." Salon. November 5, 2002: "The message has to be clear: We're not trying to make you vote for anybody. We just want you to show up. Every ballot, from the presidency to the sewage district supervisor, would have to include a 'none of the above' option. We might tinker with the terminology to make it hipper, and to tap into the incipient anger. 'None of the above' could become 'Screw you, politicians.'"


Con

Punishment: Would a penalty be a good addition?

Pro

  • Punishment for not voting could be modest but symbolic. A fine could be imposed of between $15 and $100. This is tolerable, and if somebody really doesn't want to vote, they could easily absorb such a fee. The point is that it is a recognizable punishment and a modest incentive to participate in an election.


Con

Pro/con sources

Pro

Con


External links

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