Would our Democracy benefit from mandatory voting?

by borna_daneshkia on September 13, 2016 - 10:19am

In his article Why Mandatory Voting is a Good Fit, Andrew Coyne insists that mandatory voting is one easy, cost-effective way to improve our democracy. And since not every eligible voter goes to the poll to vote (in the 2015 federal elections the turnout reached 68%), the vote results are not representative of the whole population.
The author then compares mandatory voting with the success of the last national census: with an outstanding 97.8% response rate, Statistic Canada's 2016 census was mandatory, unlike the 2011 one, which got 68% response rate. Then again, he cites Australia as a country that has mandatory voting, and which gets turnouts of roughly 98% at the polls. 
Moreover, according to Coyne, young people and aboriginal people, among others, tend to go vote the less as ''voters tend to be older, richer and whiter than non-voters'' so we need them to voice their opinion by voting. 
On the other hand, Coyne rejects that mandatory voting puts a toll on our freedom, because voting only consists of putting an X on a paper every four years. He also clarifies that voters can always leave the ballot blank. As for the argument that obligatory voting would force ignorant and apathetic persons to vote and thus spoil the elections' outcome, his response is that democracy is for everyone, and not exclusive to the well-informed and better-educated. To conclude, the author says that although it is not the only reform we need, as this will not cure our democracy, it would create a ''climate where voting is the norm-not just a civic obligation ''.
Now, on an ethical standpoint, the issue of mandatory voting is one that generates conflict between two main values or ethical principles, autonomy and the greater good. First, some may argue that voting should not be considered as a civic duty, but rather a civic right. Also, voting becomes irrelevant if it is done only by means of obligation. And if voting freely in a democratic system is using freedom of speech, we should also be free not to voice our political opinion, since freedom of speech includes freedom not to speak. However, these problems become irrelevant because the voter can still opt for a blank or spoilt ballot. Mandatory voting, on the other hand, would ensure that everybody in our society is concerned about our democracy. As the turnout at the polls would increase, the final votes would be more legitimate and representative of the population.
For all these reasons, I believe mandatory voting would be one effective way to improve upon our democratic system. As we have seen, it does not restrict our freedom, nor it forces us to pick a candidate. It is only a matter of encouraging people to go to the polls and participate in the process. 
Reference: COYNE, Andrew. Why mandatory voting is a good fit. Montreal Gazette. September 10, 2016.


As said in the title, I find this a fascinating topic and I am glad it was brought up on NewsActivist. I believe this plays a lot on what we believe: Autonomy or Efficacity. Democracy isn't as effective if many from the population don't voice their opinions, but I do not think it is necessary to implement a law to oblige citizens to vote. I believe it infringes the right to autonomy and freedom of speech of individuals.

In my opinion, we should look at the root cause of this low rate of votes amongst aboriginals and lower class income families. Why do they feel less concerned than the bourgeoisie when it comes to the leadership of their country? Do they have the resources to vote (this includes education, access to ballots, etc) ?

I believe we should try and answer these questions first and from there find a solution.

Although less of a debate in the news than other subjects, I am glad to see that someone is still talking about the mandatory voting. I have to say I am impressed by your skills to put down in few words the very essence of the subject, and the understanding is really easy. The arguments you bring on each side are very relevant and convincing, and you did a great job at keeping an objective point of view in the post.
However, it seems you have forgotten to talk about the reasons why there are people that freely choose not to vote. The 30%ish of people that do not vote probably have their motive right? Most of them either do not care about politics or do not know who to choose. Yes, mandatory voting may make them vote blank, but I am afraid that people who are forced to vote while they do not want to might just check anyone, which will possibly result in the election of someone who really did not have the majority of the people's support.

I never thought of this subject for my own post and I think that if I had to rewrite one, I would choose your topic. The words chosen in your text are simple and they are used in a way that everything is super clear and easy to understand. The part where you suggest whether mandatory voting is a civil duty or a civil right really took my attention.

For my own perception I would say it is a duty and not only a right. It is true that freedom of speech includes the right of not talking, but I don’t think mandatory voting is in itself an obligation of talking. The option of leaving a vote sheet blank is, in my opinion, the reason why mandatory voting isn’t against the rights of any individuals. I really think it is time for our democracy to evolve and instore mandatory voting.

If mandatory voting would be seen as ethical in a society, what could be the possible consequences for someone that doesn’t respect is duty and doesn’t vote?

I think this is a topic that not too many people discuss. The statistics clearly state a massive difference between mandatory and voluntary voting. In my opinion, the state should not integrate and mandatory voting because there are some people who should never have the power to dictate who's going to run the country. Some people are far too ignorant to vote in the first place, if they are forced to vote, they would likely give too damns about it. Even though the difference between the people voting and not voting is big, at least we know that the right people are voting for the future of the country.