In general, voting is a method of expressing a citizen’s will in relation to the governance of the country he lives in. It is natural that in many countries voting is optional, and if you don’t want to give your voice to some definite candidate or you just don’t feel sense in spending time for this civil act, you may stay at home and live in the state chosen by someone else. But in more than 30 countries including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Turkey and others, voting is compulsory (Ornstein 10). Today the United States are also facing the question whether it is reasonable to introduce mandatory voting law.
It goes without saying that there is much oppression to such an innovation for Americans. They express indignation about encroachment on their freedom and do not feel like be obligated to take active part in political life of their country. The opponents of the idea criticize fining the citizens for not voting and see a conflict between such a law and democratic ideals. The matter is, the Americans have got used to the idea that voting is not a civic duty, but a civil right. In other words, when the framers of the state were formulating the law, they provided the citizens with the opportunity to choose the rulers and governors, but in that context it would sound absurd to force people to choose (Weiner 91). Besides, some people even think that such an important question should be decided only by specialists. Therefore, this civic right is compared with other rights and freedoms like marriage, free speech and so on. What is more, sometimes such an obligation comes into conflict with freedom of religion, as some confessions prevent people from voting and from politics at all.
However, the proponents of the idea explain that there can be some exclusions and excuses for non-voting, like being abroad at the moment of voting or being ill. Just the document is needed to prove that you have an excusable reason not to fulfill your civil duty. Besides, those who do not have any political view may “still use a blank or invalid note” (Bristow 15). Those who justify the mandatory voting say that it is the best way to expand the turnout of voters at the polling stations. In this way, the results of voting will reflect the true opinion of the majority, not only of those who are individually interested and motivated in political outcomes. Moreover, if voting is compulsory, the candidates will try to care about broader strata of population instead of small sections and, on the other hand, people themselves will try to learn more about the candidates and the overall political literacy will increase. What is more, “a result of this setup is that it is therefore more difficult for extremist or special interest groups to vote themselves into power” It is supposed that they will feel more responsibility for their own future; and if they want to express their dissatisfaction with the system, they can do it by voting for none of the list or by spoilt voices. In other words, the citizens are required to take more active part in the social processes and common apathy is to be eliminated. Arend Lijphart adds that under compulsory voting law “no large campaign funds are needed to goad votes to the polls, the role of money in politics decreases” (Lijphart 11).
All in all, mandatory voting is a way to decrease political instability and to stimulate general awareness of population.
Lijphart, Arend. “Unequal Participation: Democracy’s Unresolved Dilemma.” The American Political Science Review 91.1 (1997): 8-11.
Bristow, Jennie. “Compulsory voting: turnout is not the problem.” Spiked 16 June 2004: 15-16.
Weiner, Eric. “You Must Vote. It’s the Law.” Slate 29 Oct. 2004: 91-92.
Ornstein, Norman. “Vote – or Else.” The New York Times 10 Aug. 2006: 10.