Introduction to Optional Voting and Compulsory Voting
There have been several discussions about the voting systems in countries worldwide about whether there should be an optional voting system or a compulsory voting system. One of the most popular subjects of those discussions is about whether or not to have an optional voting system. There have been some countries such as Thailand where people are free to choose whether or not to vote but on the other hand in countries like Switzerland and Peru where the people who do not vote in the elections face some sanctions such as being fined with 3 Swiss Francs or 20 Soles respectively. This paper touches upon different views both about mandatory voting and optional voting (IDEA, 2010).
Optional Voting Pros & Cons
Duygu Guvenc from Hurriyet Daily News shares her opinions and some numeric data about the compulsory voting in Turkey and she mentions in the article that “An expert on elections, Korkut added that non-attendance raises questions about the legitimacy of elected parliaments and the governments in power” (Güvenç, 2007). Because of that reason, the writer argues that compulsory voting should be in action but there should not be big amount of fines by giving examples from Turkey where non-voters are fined with 5TL, which corresponds to less than 2 dollars, but the government do not prefer to collect the fines as it would be costlier than the amount of fine. Guvenc argues that even if the fines are symbolic, compulsory voting increases the turnout at elections. Katie Beck from BBC makes a statement which is in line with what Guvenc states about the small amout of fines and Beck argues that “Although small, the A$20 (about $18, £12) fine is enough to drive voters to the polls in substantially greater numbers than countries with voluntary voting” (Beck, 2013). Elliot Frankal from The Guardian shares some data from the past where he states “Both Venezuela and the Netherlands abandoned compulsory voting. The last election in which the Dutch were obliged to vote was in 1967. Turnout in the subsequent national poll decreased by around 20%. Venezuela saw a drop in attendance of 30% once compulsion removed, in effect, in 1993” (Frankal, 2005). The data shared by Frankal increases the legitimacy of Guvenc’s ideas and thus in order to increase the legitimacy of elected parliaments and the governments in power, the countries may be rightful to use an election system where voting is compulsory. In addition to the legitimacy increasing effect of compulsory voting, there is one more advantage of compulsory voting that Rohan Wenn argues by arguing that “If you look at the international experience, in non-compulsory voting systems, the people who don’t vote are the poor and disenfranchised and those are exactly the people we think should be voting” (Beck, 2013). The increasing participation of poor people is a good sign for having a healthier election so compulsory voting may be a good choice for the elections because of this reason as well.
Compulsory Voting Pros & Cons
On the other hand, there are some ideas against compulsory voting as well. One of the most important arguments against compulsory voting is about being contradictory to the democracy. Democracy is a system where everyone is free while making decisions about their actions such as voting. Katie Beck from BBC takes this issue into consideration and makes an analysis over the case of Australia. The starting sentence of Beck’s article is as “The right to vote is a freedom fiercely sought by people all over the world, but Australians do not have a choice” (Beck, 2013). Without making any further statements, this sentence of the article is a sign that compulsory voting is contradictory to the definition of democracy given above. According to the article, one of the main points that the opponents of the compulsory voting system argue about is democracy and the opponent columnist Jason Kent states that “People have been sentenced to jail terms for not voting. It’s disgusting. It’s far from being democratic. We are not a democracy if we can’t vote democratically” (Beck, 2013). There are also arguments which are against compulsory voting system and which say there are other ways apart from punishing people for not voting and people would be more willing to vote without any force above them which tells them to vote. Mr. Kent says that “If voting was democratic, politicians would be beholden to the voters, they couldn’t hold a gun to our heads and force us to vote, they’d have to give us a good reason to vote. They’d have to inspire us” (Beck, 2013). Thus, apart from forcing people with financial sanction, politicians should follow more democratic ways in order to encourage people for voting with their own will. In addition to all these, there is another issue that is against the argument of Rohan Wenn, as given above, which says compulsory voting encourages poor people to vote as they cannot afford to pay the fines charged by the government in case of not participating in the elections. That may be a correct argument but on the other hand it may have some negative effects on the elections such as biases. As the poor citizens of a country are forced by government to vote in election, they may just choose a random party to vote and this issue may lead to biases in the elections and as a result it can decrease the reliability of the elections.
Conclusion to Optional Voting and Compulsory Voting
To conclude, compulsory voting has several pros and cons in terms of having a reliable and democratic election. For the pros of compulsory voting, it increases the participation rate of the citizens in the elections so that a more legitimate voting can be carried out. Besides, it encourages poor people to vote for the elections because of financial burdens. On the other hand, compulsory voting contradicts to the definition of democracy as it forces people to vote and participate. In addition to that, compulsory voting may have some biases as it forces people to vote without any willingness so that people can just choose random parties to vote. Thus, as a result, there is not a concrete conclusion about whether compulsory voting should be carried out or not as it has several pros and cons.
Beck, K. (2013, 08 27). Australia election: Why is voting compulsory? taken from bbc.com: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-23810381
Frankal, E. (2005, 07 04). Compulsory voting around the world. taken from theguardian.com: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2005/jul/04/voterapathy.uk
Güvenç, D. (2007, 7 21). Compulsory voting but no fines. taken from hurriyetdailynews.com: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/compulsory-voting-but-no-fines.aspx?pageID=438&n=compulsory-voting-but-no-fines-2007-07-21
IDEA. (2010). Compulsory Voting. taken from idea.int: http://www.idea.int/vt/compulsory_voting.cfm