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Voting should be compulsory in democratic countriesThis is a very controversial thesis mainly because it asks the question...
some people will say thatvoters are enforced to vote against their own will. Besides Australia, thissystem has been implem...
enforced. But maybe now I have confused you even more, isn’t the compulsory voting going to promotethis right? Actually ma...
contradictory, it will be enhanced. All in all, compulsory voting will make every democratic country evenmore democratical...
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Voting should be compulsory in democratic societies


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Voting should be compulsory in democratic societies

  1. 1. Voting should be compulsory in democratic countriesThis is a very controversial thesis mainly because it asks the question: how democratic one democracywill be with and without compulsory voting. This essay will not only focus on the principle of compulsoryvoting and its technical benefits, but also the way this system is going to be implemented. As defined,compulsory voting is a system in which electors are obliged to vote in elections or attend a polling placeon voting day. If an eligible voter does not attend a polling place, he or she may be subject to punitivemeasures such as fines,community service, or perhaps imprisonment if fines are unpaid or communityservice is not performed. Other sanctions may also be put in practice, for which I will talk about later inthe essay.As it’s defined, a democracy is a ruling system where the people vote in an anonymous election tochoose their president. Also anyone qualified enough can run to be president of the country. Thepresident has his own party, which if elected becomes the government. The government with thepresident during their mandates try to retain their supporters’ votes,try to get the undecided voters tovote for them and try to change the mind of the voters that voted for other parties. They do thisbecause they want to retain the power and influence in the country. Some of the readers will think that“retaining the power and influence in a country”is a bad and manipulative thing, but actually thegovernment does this by accommodating the people needs in general, fulfilling their wants and solvingtheir problems. Also, to fulfill these goals the government targets specific socioeconomic groups thatneed help and improves the countries’ living standards, by investing in education, health care, security,business, economy and other fields that improve living standards in the country.This is all good, but in many democratic societies, their democracy is put into question. This is becauseduring the elections, a relatively small number of people go out to vote, resulting in a government that ischosen on the wish of the majority of 50% of the people in the country, which means that theoretically agovernment can be chosen with support from only 25% of all the people. The other 75% are eitherundecided or against the new government. This was the case with Bill Clinton when he won thepresidential elections with a support of only 25% of all the people. If compulsory voting is introducedand enforced, this kind of voter outcome will be guaranteed to be eliminated, thus making the electionsmore legitimate, making the government more legitimate and increasing the satisfaction of the peoplefrom their government.A very simple proof for the effectiveness of the system is Australia. Australia has this system for over 80years and rarely has a voter turnout below 90%.The system was introduced because Australia, as a verymulti-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society had very little voter turnout, sometimes resultingin repeated elections for more than 4 times, and sometimes not having a government for years. This wasbecause many immigrants that came to Australia had no interests in Australian politics or some of themwere just revolted by the choice they had to make, so they simply didn’t vote. The year that compulsoryvoting was enforced in Australia (1925), a 32 per cent increase of the turnout voter figure was achievedcompared to the previous elections. The system is supported by 70% of Australians, disproving what
  2. 2. some people will say thatvoters are enforced to vote against their own will. Besides Australia, thissystem has been implemented in 23 other countries. In some is enforced, in some is not, but on averagein each country a 7-16%increase in voter turnout has been spotted.A lot of people that are informed about the system of compulsory voting don’t want it to beimplemented because of the rigorous sanctions that follow in some countries if you don’t vote. Forexample in BoliviaCitizens cannot make bank transactions up to three months after polling day if theyfail to provide proof of voting. A monetary fine determined by the National Electoral Court at the time ofeach election may also be applied. Another example is Peru where According to the Peruvian law, thosewho do not vote are restricted from making banking or other public administrative transactions and facea financial penalty. In other countries citizens that fail to vote twice in a row lost their voting right forthe next 10 years. In others isn’t so strict. For example in Australia, and most of the other countries asmall or moderate fine has to be paid for failing to vote on an election day, or not having an eligibleenough excuse for not voting (like sickness or traveling purposes). If the the person fails to pay the fine,he can do community work, or if he doesn’t do that he will be imprisoned for a short time. In thirdcountries, where compulsory voting is implemented, but not enforced citizens do not have to payanything. The system that I will recommend is the same as the one implanted in Australia.Furthermore, the fact that the people are obligated to vote will make them more aware of the politicalsituation in their country, lowering the risk of being manipulated by a hypothetical new formedextremist party. And the key to more prosperous, critical-thinking society is making them moreinterested in politics, especially in the politics that matter to them the most. I’m not saying thatintroducing compulsory voting is a magic wand that will make all the people of the society moreinterested in politics, but I’m saying that there is a chance that a relatively large mass of people will startto follow politics in their community.One can also argue about the financial benefits of the system. It’s a fact that parties will spend less timeand money on propaganda and negative campaigns against each other, but more time and money onactually doing good for the people, promising reforms, changes, benefits in the society and similardeeds. This is because the parties will be sure that there will be enough voters from the voting body tofulfill the minimum requirement in order the elections to be considered as legitimate. Today all of thepolitical parties that I know are doing negative propaganda against their competitors. For me this is awaste of time and money that can be used for productive purposes. Also, today in many countriesmoney is being spent by the government, from the budget of the country to promote voting among thecitizens. With the compulsory voting system, this is going to be permanently eliminated, and will evenpump money in the budget from all the paid sanctions.Another financial benefit is the insurance that theelections are not going to be repeated. With each new election cycle the political parties will have tospend more and more money for promotion of their campaigns, also this means that they will drainmoney from the country’s budget to fund their campaigns.But after all these arguments and proofs, some may ask themselves, why isn’t this system implementedeverywhere? Well, the answer is simple: civil rights. One of the most important civil rights is thefreedom of choice which some say that will be directly taken from the people if compulsory voting is
  3. 3. enforced. But maybe now I have confused you even more, isn’t the compulsory voting going to promotethis right? Actually many people express abstention (not voting on an election day) as the mostinfluential form of voting. According to these people, in the act of abstention you present your revolttowards all the political parties that were on the voting ballot and their politics.No voting can also meanthat the person was undecided, just not into politics or was unsatisfied from the the political benefitseach party offered the voter. However the “no voting is voting” argument can be countered with the“none of the above” choice that each voter can circle on the ballot, or the possibility for every voter tojust send a blank or invalid ballot. This two solutions are present even now in some countries, but arenot very used because voters that will pass invalid votes or circle “none of the above” will just stay homebecause these votes do not influence the outcome of the elections. The difference with the compulsoryvoting system is that these ballots will now be counted in the final outcome of the elections and thenewly chosen government will know how many people are unsatisfied, and will try to improve it’spolitics so it attracts the votes of the undecided voters.However, besides the argument above, still some people will stay behind the fact that voting is a rightand is sacred to every person in a democratic society.I approve of this, but with a small modification. Iwill say that voting is not a civil right, but a civil duty. In order to have better, more prosperous societyand better living community some civil duties have been settled. Some of them are: paying taxes, goingto school, respecting the driving rules and other duties. All in all respecting the civil duties is defined asrespecting the law and order in one country. In other words, or redefined every civil duty is an alreadymade choice for every citizen of the country because it is considered that that choice is for thebetterment of the society as a whole. The civil duties are written in the constitution of the country andadministrated by the government. Furthermore, one can argue that the civil duty of voting is a far lesstime consuming responsibility and not as influential obligation in the daily lives of citizens as comparedto other duties such as going to school, which in some cases takes 12 years to finish, or paying taxes withwhich we are obligated to do our whole lives. In a way, we can say that citizens of one country get theircivil rights as a compensation for their civil duties. Imagine what a mess every democratic society will beif everybody had a choice to pay taxes, everybody had a choice to drive on the left or right side of thestreet or everybody had a choice to rob a bank anytime they wanted. The same principle can be appliedto voting. In order to have better accepted, more authoritarian and more legitimate government,compulsory voting has to be implemented.The voting body is a very live matter. Constantly changing living organism that changes its behaviorcorresponding to the community it is in. The meaning of this is that no matter how long the history ofmaintaining different kind of elections is, new ideas and critics constantly show up with the onlypurpose of promoting the currently existing democratic system. The compulsory voting proposal is avery well agrumented system for the improvement of the current one. The arguments above, that thissystem is already successfully implemented, that it will make the government more legitimate, that willconvince a relatively large mass of people to be more informed about politics are all proofs of thebenefits of the system. Furthermore, there is a proof that this system will be financially beneficial andmost importantly of all that the so called “right of choice” will not be broken with the system, but more
  4. 4. contradictory, it will be enhanced. All in all, compulsory voting will make every democratic country evenmore democratical, with a bunch of side benefits that go hand in hand with the system.Sources: KlimentSerafimov, 19.12.2012, Skopje