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Compulsory voting

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    Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 02:04
A handful of countries force their citizens to vote in elections. I raised a thread on this topic a long time ago, and it received a great deal of interest, though at the time my own opinion on the topic was somewhat ambivalent. But I have decisively made up my mind, compulsory voting is a good thing.

One thing I have realised about the system is that it results in the election of representatives who are necessarily more moderate and well rounded. In a non-compulsory electorate, extremists necessarily have a much greater say in government because their extremism is precisely the characteristic that actually motives them to engage in the physical act of voting (unlike many mainstream people whose views are more moderate and yet they are too laid back to make more of an effort on polling day). As a result, people with extreme or highly partisan views tend to get a higher proportion of candidates which reflect their views than is in line with their actual numbers.

It is this one hypothesis of mine that I think trumps all the arguments against compulsory voting. Thoughts?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dolphin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 02:24
Political Extremist vs. Idiocracy? Good question. I may be back.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Akolouthos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 02:38
Originally posted by Dolphin Dolphin wrote:

Political Extremist vs. Idiocracy? Good question. I may be back.


That's precisely what came to my mind. Which is the lesser of two evils would be hard to determine. I need to think about it as well.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote King John Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 02:42
I think that here in the USA if you made voting compulsory things would be much worse.  People here, in my humble opinion, don't really take the time to get educated on the issues and just believe what they see on tv.

Out of curiosity what countries have compulsory voting?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 02:47
What is the meaning of "political freedoms" if you are forced to vote?
 
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Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

I think that here in the USA if you made voting compulsory things would be much worse.  People here, in my humble opinion, don't really take the time to get educated on the issues and just believe what they see on tv.

Out of curiosity what countries have compulsory voting?

It seems my estimate of a mere handful was quite a way off:

Originally posted by wikpedia wikpedia wrote:


Historical

Every person absenting himself from an election, and shall neglect to give in his or their ballot at such election, shall be subject to a penalty not exceeding five pounds; the mode of recovery and also the appropriation thereof, to be pointed out and directed by act of the legislature: Provided, nevertheless, That a reasonable excuse shall be admitted. [3]
  • Austria (introduced 1929 for presidential elections and 1949 in some states for parliamentary elections, abolished step by step between 1982 and 2004)
  • Netherlands (introduced 1917 along with universal suffrage, abolished 1970)
  • Spain (1907–1923, but not enforced)
  • Venezuela

[edit] Contemporary

There are currently 32 countries with compulsory voting. Of these, 19 enforce it. Of the 30 member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 10 have forms of compulsory voting.[4]

[edit] Enforced

Countries that enforce compulsory voting:

  • Argentina (compulsory for citizens between 18 and 70 years old, non-compulsory for those older than 70. However in primaries, citizens under 70 may refuse to vote, if they formally express their decision to the electoral authorities, at least 48 hours before the election. This is valid only for the subsequent primary, and needs to be repeated every time the voter wishes not to participate.)
  • Australia (compulsory enrolment and voting for state* and national (federal) elections for all adults over 18. In some states local (council) elections are compulsory too.).
  • Brazil[5] (non-compulsory for citizens between 16 and 18 years old and those older than 70)
  • Chile (enrolment voluntary)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Ecuador (compulsory for citizens between 18 and 65 years old; non-compulsory for persons aged 16–18, illiterate people, and those older than 65)
  • Fiji
  • Liechtenstein
  • Nauru
  • Peru (compulsory for citizens between 18 and 70 years old, non-compulsory for those older than 70)
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland (compulsory in the Canton of Schaffhausen only)
  • Turkey
  • Uruguay

*In South Australia it had not been compulsory to enrol for state elections,[6][7][8] but this had been changed by the 2010 election when it had been announced through an advertising campaign that enrolment was compulsory.[citation needed] Nevertheless, as the enrolment form is a combined Federal/State one, with no provision to not enrol for the State,[6] it is in effect compulsory.

[edit] Not enforced

Countries that do not enforce compulsory voting:

The trend seems to be that it is legally enforced in highly developed nations. This makes sense, as ordinary people in nations where education is strongly encouraged are more likely to vote for a sensible candidate if only because they are forced to.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Akolouthos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 03:01
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

The trend seems to be that it is legally enforced in highly developed nations. This makes sense, as ordinary people in nations where education is strongly encouraged are more likely to vote for a sensible candidate if only because they are forced to.


I would say that they would be more likely to vote for candidates who fit the values that have been imbued in them by their system of education, which isn't the same thing at all, at least here in the U.S.

-Akolouthos
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 03:06
Yes. Compulsory voting provides no measure of political apathy and no incentive for parties do anything than be slightly better than the other party(s).
CV prevents new political parties from being successful. The old parties have significant momentum.(counter examples welcomed)
 
I'd support Compulsory Voting with an apathy box. That could encourage parties to capture that vote.
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

What is the meaning of "political freedoms" if you are forced to vote?
What has political freedom got to do with democracy?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 03:13
Originally posted by Akolouthos Akolouthos wrote:

Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

The trend seems to be that it is legally enforced in highly developed nations. This makes sense, as ordinary people in nations where education is strongly encouraged are more likely to vote for a sensible candidate if only because they are forced to.


I would say that they would be more likely to vote for candidates who fit the values that have been imbued in them by their system of education, which isn't the same thing at all, at least here in the U.S.

-Akolouthos


I see where you are coming from. My comment was meant to distinguish the variable availability of education (e.g. full government support for primary and secondary education, with interest free loans to university for good students vs. a country where education stops at the age of 12).

I get the impression from Americans that the education system over there is characterised by a high degree of partisanship in some instances, unlike Australia where pretty much everyone is satisfied with the content of the school curriculum.
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Originally posted by Omar Omar wrote:

I'd support Compulsory Voting with an apathy box. That could encourage parties to capture that vote.


I fully agree with this. This option on the ballot box would enhance the responsiveness of political parties to issues that really concern people.

In this country at least, the past three years have largely been characterised by photo opportunities and stage management by the two major parties. Bob Brown seems to be the only leader able to give a coherent and comprehensive answer to the wide plethora of policy issues that a government leader ought to be able to master.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Akolouthos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 03:18
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

Originally posted by Akolouthos Akolouthos wrote:

Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

The trend seems to be that it is legally enforced in highly developed nations. This makes sense, as ordinary people in nations where education is strongly encouraged are more likely to vote for a sensible candidate if only because they are forced to.


I would say that they would be more likely to vote for candidates who fit the values that have been imbued in them by their system of education, which isn't the same thing at all, at least here in the U.S.

-Akolouthos


I see where you are coming from. My comment was meant to distinguish the variable availability of education (e.g. full government support for primary and secondary education, with interest free loans to university for good students vs. a country where education stops at the age of 12).

I get the impression from Americans that the education system over there is characterised by a high degree of partisanship in some instances, unlike Australia where pretty much everyone is satisfied with the content of the school curriculum.


That's the impression I've gotten as well, from talking to you and others. I don't know that I'd support compulsory voting anyway, for the reason Omar mentioned (apathy being a form of expression). If there were a no-vote box, I might be more inclined... While it might be interesting to examine the situation in light of partisan and nonpartisan educational systems, I think it might be helpful to the direction of the thread to discuss the question you posed in the abstract, which would probably lead to more of a focus on the merits of the theory itself. I'll leave that choice to you; your thread, after all. Wink

-Akolouthos
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ziegenbartami Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 05:38
Originally posted by Akolouthos Akolouthos wrote:

If there were a no-vote box, I might be more inclined...

Or you could turn in a blank ballot Wink
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 07:16
Originally posted by Ziegenbartami Ziegenbartami wrote:

Originally posted by Akolouthos Akolouthos wrote:

If there were a no-vote box, I might be more inclined...

Or you could turn in a blank ballot Wink
Different kettle of fish.
A blank box is a valid option, spoiling your vote is a protest. You have no idea why someone may have spoiled their vote, it could be a protest against the options, or against voting in particular, or it could have been out of ignorance or misunderstanding the way to vote.
People won't deliberately protest unless they have serious reason to. Its the difference between asking someone if they want their kids to go to a better school and that person actually moving their kids.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 09:46
Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

Yes. Compulsory voting provides no measure of political apathy and no incentive for parties do anything than be slightly better than the other party(s).
CV prevents new political parties from being successful. The old parties have significant momentum.(counter examples welcomed)
 
I'd support Compulsory Voting with an apathy box. That could encourage parties to capture that vote.
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

What is the meaning of "political freedoms" if you are forced to vote?
What has political freedom got to do with democracy?
 
I thought that negative freedoms (like the right not to vote) were as much part of "democracy" as the right to vote.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 11:20
Quote I thought that negative freedoms (like the right not to vote) were as much part of "democracy" as the right to vote.
Nope. Well, maybe in France and America. But otherwise democracy is just a continuation of the feudal system where you have to elect your administrator. Its a priviledge granted by the crown that has become a norm.
 
In my territory we were federally administered until 1988. In three referendums that the federal government put forward in favour of self government all three were rejected. Canberra preferred to be adminstered by the Department of Territories. In 1988 the federal government decided to give the territory self government anyway, with compulsory voting of course. It was never a desired freedom, it was a system imposed by the Crown.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 12:21
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

[edit] Contemporary

There are currently 32 countries with compulsory voting. Of these, 19 enforce it. Of the 30 member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 10 have forms of compulsory voting.[4]

[edit] Enforced

Countries that enforce compulsory voting:

  • Argentina (compulsory for citizens between 18 and 70 years old, non-compulsory for those older than 70. However in primaries, citizens under 70 may refuse to vote, if they formally express their decision to the electoral authorities, at least 48 hours before the election. This is valid only for the subsequent primary, and needs to be repeated every time the voter wishes not to participate.)
  • Australia (compulsory enrolment and voting for state* and national (federal) elections for all adults over 18. In some states local (council) elections are compulsory too.).
  • Brazil[5] (non-compulsory for citizens between 16 and 18 years old and those older than 70)
  • Chile (enrolment voluntary)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Ecuador (compulsory for citizens between 18 and 65 years old; non-compulsory for persons aged 16–18, illiterate people, and those older than 65)
  • Fiji
  • Liechtenstein
  • Nauru
  • Peru (compulsory for citizens between 18 and 70 years old, non-compulsory for those older than 70)
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland (compulsory in the Canton of Schaffhausen only)
  • Turkey
  • Uruguay

*In South Australia it had not been compulsory to enrol for state elections,[6][7][8] but this had been changed by the 2010 election when it had been announced through an advertising campaign that enrolment was compulsory.[citation needed] Nevertheless, as the enrolment form is a combined Federal/State one, with no provision to not enrol for the State,[6] it is in effect compulsory.

[edit] Not enforced

Countries that do not enforce compulsory voting:

[/QUOTE]
I'm a bit puzzled by Luxembourg, which is down as having compulsory voting but not enforcing it. My personal situation is that as an EU citizen I have the choice of registering to vote or not. If I register and don't vote, I'm supposed to be fined. So I haven't registered, especially since there doesn't seem to be more than a hairs breadth of difference between the two main parties, the conservatives and the social democrats, who have been governing in coalition all the time I've lived here.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 13:07
Compulsory voting is a minor tyranny we'd be better off without. I think we aren't doing too badly at the moment getting half of the population to vote (For the most part, the X factor constituency and the dole scrounger alcoholic classes don't vote, thank heavens)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote xristar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 15:09
Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

You have no idea why someone may have spoiled their vote, it could be a protest against the options, or against voting in particular, or it could have been out of ignorance or misunderstanding the way to vote.

You've no idea, and you simply don't care. Chosing not to vote means choosing to refrain from your right to formally express your oppinion. By choosing to do so, you make your oppinion irrelevant.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 15:25
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

A handful of countries force their citizens to vote in elections. I raised a thread on this topic a long time ago, and it received a great deal of interest, though at the time my own opinion on the topic was somewhat ambivalent. But I have decisively made up my mind, compulsory voting is a good thing.


Agreed but only providing that there is a "none of the above option" and that undemocratic systems like FPtP are replaced with a fairer PR system in countries such as the UK.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2010 at 17:44
Originally posted by xristar xristar wrote:

Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

You have no idea why someone may have spoiled their vote, it could be a protest against the options, or against voting in particular, or it could have been out of ignorance or misunderstanding the way to vote.

You've no idea, and you simply don't care. Chosing not to vote means choosing to refrain from your right to formally express your oppinion. By choosing to do so, you make your oppinion irrelevant.



I don't agree. I have been tempted to deliberately spoil my vote before in order to express my annoyance with the options presented to me on my ballot paper. I think all ballots should have an 'abstain' option in order for people to demonstrate that they are committed to participating in the democratic process, but also unwilling to vote for 'tweedle A or tweedle B'.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mixcoatl Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Jun 2010 at 13:04
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

It is this one hypothesis of mine that I think trumps all the arguments against compulsory voting. Thoughts?

IMO it's rather the other way around, compulsory voting means protest parties will get more votes, and protest parties tend to be more extremist compared to other parties.

Two systems I'm somewhat familiar with that would support the protest/extremist vote - compulsory voting connection would be Belgium and Ecuador. The strength of the Flemish Interest, one of the biggest (percentage wise) far right parties in Europe, is often ascribed to the fact that voting is compulsory. Their voters have little interest in politics but since they have to vote they support the simplistic blame-foreigners-and-Walloons party. In Ecuador, though under Correa it seems to have ended, they have been kicking out presidents who proved to be incompetent like hell, only to elect a new incompetent president again in the next elections.

Dutch politician Frits Bolkenstein used to say "if the people don't vote it means the country is doing well".

On the other hand though, yesterday's elections here saw a huge win for the Freedom Party and the Christian Democrats, usually considered the most moderate party (something I don't agree with), suffered a historic loss, but nonetheless turnout was lower than 4 years ago (which seems to be caused by Christian Democrats staying home). So this seems to support your argument.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Kruska Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Jun 2010 at 11:30
Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:

 
...... I think all ballots should have an 'abstain' option in order for people to demonstrate that they are committed to participating in the democratic process, but also unwilling to vote for 'tweedle A or tweedle B'.
Hello Parnell,
 
I would say that I fully agree on the above - even though it doesn't alter the dilemma of having no say on a party's program or decision but meerly your democratic right as to agree or dissagree with "their" plans and visions.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Jun 2010 at 12:31
Originally posted by Kruska Kruska wrote:

Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:

 
...... I think all ballots should have an 'abstain' option in order for people to demonstrate that they are committed to participating in the democratic process, but also unwilling to vote for 'tweedle A or tweedle B'.
Hello Parnell,
 
I would say that I fully agree on the above - even though it doesn't alter the dilemma of having no say on a party's program or decision but meerly your democratic right as to agree or dissagree with "their" plans and visions.
 
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Exactly, it should be your privilege to disagree with the options presented before you. That way you're still expressing your wish to engage in the democratic process.
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