What do you think about mandatory voting?

Randy, thanks for the A2A.

In Australia,

[1] All citizens have to pay tax.

[2] Some citizens were conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War, although historically we hate the idea of conscription.

[3] All citizens have the absolute right to register for voting at age 18, and the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) ALWAYS tries to get young citizens to register and NEVER plays games to disenfranchise humans because of the colour of their skin or their likelihood to vote in one way or another.

[4] All electorates are carefully balanced to avoid gerrymanders. At the national level we have the Senate, which is "the States' house" (to handle the disparity between the number of voters between states) and the House of Representatives which directly represents the people with minimal games.

So, there is no built-in reason why citizens should object to expressing their choice of who should represent them at local, state and federal government level.

[5] At elections, on a SATURDAY all citizens are expected to rock up to the local school (usually) where they get a couple of paper ballots and various how to vote cards - and a sausage in a bun if they want to help the school raise funds for books etc. Jews who do not wish to work on their Sabbath are allowed to vote on another day, as can people who are away from home on the day, using "postal votes".

Then the citizens get their names ticked off on a paper list by one of their neighbours working for the AEC for a small payment. They are given paper ballot papers which the AEC worker scribbles his / her initials on, as a check on ballot box stuffing. Pretty weak, I know...

Then they walk into a cardboard booth and scribble on their paper ballot papers. Most vote correctly. A few do not, or write rude messages on the paper. There is no way anyone can see how someone has voted. Absolutely secret.

So

[1] Voting is a right and a duty, and everyone should exercise the right to ensure that their views are taken into account, however slightly.

[2] Making it voluntary invites the games played by politicians and "electoral colleges".

[3] We use "preferential voting" to pick whom we want / prefer, plus whom we would accept. "None of the above" is available because of the secret ballot and informal voting.

[4] The whole process is made as simple as possible, and in 55 years I have never spent more than about 15 minutes to vote, on a weekend / holiday.

The various Russian trolls pretending to be Americans with bizarre ideas about their constitution to discredit their voting system should be ignored. But I digress...


Original Question: What do you think about mandatory voting?

It's a good idea.

Now before everyone starts yelling "First Amendment" at me, let me explain.

Americans are, frankly, pampered when it comes to civic duty. Seriously, what you have to do, in exchange for citizenship in this great country? You have to:

1. Register for selective service if you are age 18–26 and male.

2. Pay taxes.

3. Show up for jury duty if called-and you can even get out of that sometimes.

4. Help out if there is a freaking national emergency and you have vital skills, which has close to zero chance of ever happening to you, and none if you aren't highly skilled in something.

5. At least try to learn something before age 16 in some form of school or even home school. You don't even have to succeed.

6. Obey the laws.

Anything else? Anything? That's pretty goddamn minimal. Some countries have required military service for all citizens. Some have other requirements.

This is a democracy- a republic if you have to nitpick. It takes a lot to keep a democracy healthy, and we are currently seeing what happens when that minimum standard isn't met. The ASPCA should be considering filing a lawsuit against the people of the United States on the grounds that no pooch should ever be screwed THAT HARD.

People are upset at the thought of people being "forced" to vote for something on a secret ballot? When one of the options is "none of the above" or "write in"? Oh boo hoo. That is such a burden. However will you survive? To have to do all that, every four years? Every two? Maybe even (gasp) once every single year?

What would happen first, is that this would deep-six, once and for all, the massive Republican voter disenfranchisement efforts while simultaneously dealing with the "voter fraud" non-problem they pretend to care about. That is probably going to be the main motivation of answers opposed to this idea.

People worry about people being "forced" to vote on Election Day? If they get a national holiday out of it, I think they can hold back their tears. Huge numbers of apathetic voters, being forced, forced I say, to stand in a line and make a few marks on a piece of paper. We make people do more than that to be allowed to drive a car. I think they can handle doing that much in order to drive their country.

In reality, what we would find is a massive surge in interested voting. There are literally millions of Americans who want to vote and can't. I honestly don't understand how anyone has the gall to consider themselves American if that doesn't bother them.

We also need to get rid of first-past-the-post voting, and break the two-party stranglehold that is poisoning our government. Actually, first we have to break the one party stranglehold that is poisoning our government, so everybody get out and vote if you can this Tuesday!


In general, I'm opposed to mandatory anything. My political outlook is liberal (in the original classical sense), which means that I treasure freedom. I don't like being compelled to do things, and am happy to refrain from compelling others to do things.

One question is: what good is to be realized by forcing people to vote? What benefits are hoped to come from it? Will democracy be improved by including people who are even more apathetic and ignorant than the people who are already voting? You'll get a big boost in turnout, but will you get better election results? And how would you know whether election results are "better"?

Citizen apathy is a huge problem, but I suspect that mandatory voting is a Band-Aid for the symptom of low turnout and does nothing to address the underlying causes, whatever they may be. For whatever reason, many people feel that there's no point in voting. And, who knows, maybe they're right. But the cure for apathy surely lies in the direction of getting people to feel that they have a stake in the outcome, and not in any other way. Doing this would not be easy; it might call for thoroughgoing societal and political change. It might even require revolution. But you would be addressing causes and not just symptoms. In instituting mandatory voting you might feel like you're doing something, but all you've really done is remove more of people's freedom, and it's hard to see how that will get them to value political participation any more.


Super short answer: it could work in the States, but a large proportion of our electorate (~ 40%) doesn't vote and a significant part of that (something around 40% of non-voters) simply feel discouraged about their two and only two options.

For mandatory voting to work in the US, the electorate need more than two options-namely someone to vote for rather than against. It's been reported ad nauseum that many '16 voters voted against the other candidate rather than for the recipient of their vote. (I admit that I'm guilty of this, but decided that the lesser of what I considered was two evils was FAR less evil than, well, what we got and, so, couldn't sit that one out.)

There you have it: mandatory voting requires having more than just two sh**** options that South Park can lampoon every 4 years. If someone can break the two-party system (for example, what FairVote is pushing), then I'm for it.

I'm willing to bet that having multiple options for parties is why mandatory voting works in Australia, but I can't say that for sure having never lived there.


What do you think about mandatory voting?

To have a free society with aspirations of democracy, every voice (of mature & reasonable age) should be heard. That can't happen when people don't make their voice heard.

Worldwide experience demonstrates that people as a rule won't vote unless they think their vote will make a difference.

In some nations/states/provinces obstacles are enacted to disenfranchise particular resident groups, discouraging them from voting, thus denying them a semblance of a democratic voice.

In other circumstances, various groups form "voting blocks" and participate in often violent suppression of like groups.

The most sensible way to overcome all the defects of many political processes encompasses mandatory voting by secret ballot, plus preferably preferential selection.

Morons will argue that mandatory voting is non-democratic, but the reality is, not voting is anti-democracy. To vote for no one**, or someone not on a ballot ticket**, is still a vote and more importantly allows your voice to be affirmed by having it counted (even if such amounts to nothing but a personal protest).

** If electoral laws permit either scenarios, one should ensure they deface the ballot paper in such a way that their choice is not countered. Never, put a blank ballot paper in the box, someone is sure to forge your vote during counting. Also, if you are registered to vote, then ensure you vote, else someone could forge your vote. Here in Oz, registered voters (compulsory if you are over 18yo), attend a voting booth, have their name ticked off the registry and then given their ballot papers. An independent commission administers the whole process through to counting, and can readily pick up attempts to vote more than once.

Voting is a pain, but for me its an hour or less out of my life on a Saturday every three years, for each of the 3x election categories (Fed, state & local). I reckon it is worth it!


If it were combined with transferrable votes like Australia, where you rank candidates by your preference and if your first choice is eliminated it automatically transfers to your next choice, it's a good idea. If it's a "first past the post" vote where the first candidate to a simple majority or other critical amount of support wins-like the United States uses for most elections-then it is a bad idea.

This is caused by the number of possible interactions; transferrable votes have a lot of possible interactions, so denying someone the chance to not vote is not a major loss. It's one possibility out of many.

This situation is reversed for first past the post ballots; there are very few options (often only one or two) which means that the option to not vote is an important one.


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