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Voting In National Elections Should Be Compulsory Not Optional

1008 words - 4 pages

It was in 1928 that universal suffrage had been granted in the United Kingdom. Prior to that time, people fought to have the right to vote so their opinions could be voiced, yet now we have that right, voting does not seem so significant. Before deciding whether voting should be compulsory or optional, understanding what exactly is meant by the term ‘compulsory voting’ is essential. It is also important to educate the general public more about politics so they can make an informed decision if and when they do choose to vote. Finally, there should be a comparison with other countries which currently enforce compulsory voting to better understand how it would work.

The term ‘compulsory voting’ is a misnomer as it is impossible to monitor whether everyone has voted or not, considering it is a secret ballot; it is merely the attendance that is compulsory. Lever (2008) believes that if voting were an obligation, then the right not to vote would be violated. However, as voting is confidential, the right not to vote is still maintained at the polling station (Lacroix, 2007; Engelen, 2009), where people may choose to cast a blank vote, so those who are not in favour of compulsory voting cannot argue that it is a breach of human rights. As Lacroix goes on to explain, compulsory voting does not go against article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, or article 3 in the First Additional Protocol, further emphasising how this cannot be used as an argument by those against compulsory voting. To ensure that basic rights are not violated, ‘a blank option can and should be provided on the ballot...and an additional ‘none of the above’ option should be added’ (Engelen, 2009:219), which would allow the voter’s opinion on politics to be made more clear: apathetic voters would choose the blank option, whereas those who are anti-political would choose the ‘none of the above’ option. Perhaps making voting compulsory would encourage apathetic and apolitical people to become more politically active and express their opinions.

There are some people who believe that they are not well-informed so they do not know who to vote for in elections. Others are ‘prepared to express a view without having the slightest knowledge about the subject’ (Kavanagh, 1983:13). However, if voting were made compulsory, political parties would spend less money on ‘getting out the vote’, and spend more time on campaigning their policies (Electoral Reform Society, 2009; IDEA, 2009) and so making the public more aware of what they are trying to achieve and why people should vote for them. As less money is spent on (often negative) campaigning, there would be a decrease in the ‘opportunity for corruption in politics by reducing the need for party fundraising’ (Faulks, 2001:24). The public should be more educated about politics and the policies of the parties they may or may not vote for because ‘the more intense, informed and stable an opinion is, the more likely a...

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