The many voices for mandatory voting

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Voter turnout in the Brexit referendum was 72%, which means that 28% of eligible voters could not be arsed to have their say about the most significant change to British policy this century.

For the UK, 70% is supposed to be impressive. The last time voter turnout for a general election topped 70% was in 1997, when Blair was busy changing politics with New Labour, before committing what many saw as war crimes.

With several million more voters thrown into the mix, politicians may present their policies more clearly to engage with more apathetic constituents

In Australia, where voting is mandatory, over 91% of eligible voters turned out for the federal election this year. Of course, you could argue that if you force people to vote they will just turn up and tick any box they feel like without really understanding the policies of any party. However, if voting is mandated, people may well become more engaged with politics. Moreover, with several million more voters thrown into the mix, politicians may make more of an effort to present their policies in clearer terms, to engage with more apathetic constituents.

Suffragettes Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst
Image: Wikipedia

I don’t think that people should be fined extensively for refusing to vote. The penalty should be inconvenient, not financially ruinous. More importantly, mandatory voting should include the right to spoil your ballot, or at least vote for ‘none of the above’ (although spoilt ballots are much more fun). The idea that a nation should force its citizens to vote for a candidate they do not support is ridiculous, and the idea that a spoilt ballot is a wasted vote equally so.

Therefore, making voting mandatory with an option to say no to every candidate would create a genuine risk that spoilt ballots could outnumber votes for certain parties in some constituencies, which can only increase accountability for politicians.

It wasn’t until 1928 that all Brits over 21 could vote, a right fought hard for by men and women. It would be a shame if 30% of voters continued to shun that right and disengage from democracy.

For Dominic Lee’s piece against mandatory voting, click here: http://www.thecourieronline.co.uk/stick-it-to-the-man-datory-voting/

Last modified: 11th November 2019

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