Only a few governments around the world impose compulsory voting or mandatory voting. These governments want to ensure high turnout of votes, promote voter awareness, and enhance democracy. On the other hand, making voting mandatory and even imposing penalties for not voting may be deemed as contradictory to freedom.
While it is true that in democratic countries, citizens have the right to suffrage, but some people argue that compulsory voting means enforced voting, and therefore voting is no longer a right but a duty.
List of Pros of Compulsory Voting
1. Fosters Enfranchisement
When voting is not mandatory, it often disenfranchises minorities – those people who are impoverished and uneducated. With compulsory voting, voting becomes a civic duty for all citizens, giving everyone a say in how the country or the government is run.
2. Improves Vote Turnout
When there’s low turnout of votes, the will of the majority is not achieved or represented. In some countries where voting is not compulsory, turnout of votes could slip below 50%, as compared with 70% to 90% in countries where there is compulsory voting. Come election time, compulsory voting encourages everyone to exercise their right and be represented.
3. Makes Voting Easy
To encourage participation in the elections, the government makes programs to facilitate voting in different parts of the country, even abroad. For instance in Australia, people who cannot leave work may vote on a Saturday, and in some countries there are postal voting and online voting for those abroad.
4. Reduces Political Polarization
With high turnout of votes and improved voter participation, compulsory voting also reduces political polarization. People and politicians are encouraged to act according to what the majority needs, and not according to the individual interests of their political party. This in turn, promotes political stability.
5. Fosters More Serious Election
When voting is not mandatory, some people take the right to suffrage for granted. But when it is mandatory with fines for non-participation, people begin to take elections more seriously to avoid the consequences. They, however, can cast black vote if they do not want to vote for any candidate.
List of Cons of Compulsory Voting
1. Violates Freedom of Choice
For some people, voting should be a right not a duty. By making voting compulsory, there is a shift from civic right to civic duty, which is deemed a violation of one’s freedom of choice. Some people refuse to vote for a reason – it could be their form of political expression or that they simply do not know whom to vote.
2. Violates Religious Beliefs
Some religious groups discourage or restrict their members from participating in the elections. If voting is made compulsory, people who are bound to their spiritual beliefs are discriminated and violated.
3. Fosters Ignorant Voting
When people are forced to do something or suffer punishment, they tend to do it blindly out of fear. Electorate who are misinformed or uneducated may vote to avoid penalty, but in doing so, they may cast votes out of ignorance.
4. Does Not Guarantee Legitimacy
A 100% turnout of votes does not guarantee 100% legitimacy of the government because there are always donkey votes, random votes and ignorance votes that make the election results more dubious.
5. Increases Costs
Elections need money. When there is compulsory voting, more people are expected to participate and to vote. This means that more election equipment, paraphernalia, and staff are required. The more voters there are, the greater the funds are needed for the elections.