In other countries, the practice of compulsory voting – a system electors are required to cast their vote on voting day, and face consequences such as fines and community service of they don’t – has been in place for a very long time. Belgium has the oldest existing compulsory voting system which has been in place since 1892 (for men) and 1949 (for women). Australia is another country with compulsory attendance at elections and that has been the case since 1924.
However, in America, the idea was brought up by current president Barack Obama. He said “It would be transformative if everybody voted – that would counteract money more than anything” as a response how to offset the influence of big money in politics.
Of course, not everyone agreed with their president’s train of thought. They believe that mandatory voting is a violation of civil rights as casting a vote is speech – showing support or opposition to a candidate or proposal.
List of Pros of Compulsory Voting
1. It’s a civic duty
Citizens have other comparable duties such as taxation and jury duty. While they are required to vote, they can still exercise their personal opinions – with some allowing voters to cast a blank vote, meaning they can choose not to vote for anyone in the candidate lineup.
2. It reflects the will of the people
With mandatory voting, a more accurate reflection of what the population wants can be achieved. Since people are required to cast a vote, the formation of government will really reflect the will of the people.
In the 2014 US mid-term elections, less than 40% of people cast their vote. As a result, the Republicans won by a large margin – their biggest since 1928. However, when polled, 54% of Americans identified as being Democrats.
3. It eliminates the influence of special interests on policy formation
In compulsory voting, the entire electorate should be considered when creating and managing policies since every voting block has a say in how the government is run. Meaning, the wealthy or special interests cannot sway government officials to create policies that benefit only them.
List of Cons of Compulsory Voting
1. It is an ineffective system
Compulsory voting requires a person to be present at the polls, but it doesn’t mandate them to cast a meaningful ballot. As such, a person can show up and cast a blank ballot, which is the minimum requirement of the law. Others view this as a waste of time because a person hasn’t effectively voted.
2. It doesn’t truly reflect the majority
When voting is made mandatory, some voters just randomly select a candidate. In other words, they make uninformed decisions just because they have been required to vote.
3. It costs a lot to enforce the law regarding compulsory voting
A lot of law enforcement resources is needed to find out those who didn’t cast a vote. Even though fines are the usual punishment for not showing up, resources still need to be allocated in enforcing those fines. Basically, it’s dedicating resources into something that people don’t want to do.