Compulsory voting

I’m an avid participant in our democratic system.  I also feel strongly that those who don’t vote should shut the hell up about how government operates.  Your failure to participate in it negates your privilege to complain about it.

I am constantly disappointed in voter turnout.  Sure, there are plenty of folks I believe should be prohibited from voting.  That would include ill-informed people who do such things as voting along party lines simply because that’s much easier than learning about the individual candidates and issues, then voting conscience instead of partisanship.

Given these two facts, what are my thoughts on compulsory voting?  I think it’s a terrible idea.

Richard makes several important points supporting the premise of forced democracy.  Despite the seeming logic, however, the taste of the phrase rolling from my tongue is cause for nausea.  The draft is marginally tolerable in defense of the country.  To institute such a policy to force citizens to vote is in no way comparable to that premise.

Voters are allowed to abstain from any race.  Not voting in an election is the equivalent of abstaining from all races on the ballot.  He suggests allowing blank ballots to compensate for this right.  Perhaps I missed the point of making people go to the polls.  I agree that getting bodies to voting locations would increase participation; equally, I understand that many would abstain from the race by way of the blank ballot, thereby accomplishing little in the way of forcing their participation.

Democracy is a voluntary system, not a compulsory one.  Attempting to force anyone to vote in any race is indeed a violation of personal freedom despite his claim that “the imposition of voting is very small compared to the social benefits noted…”  You may recognize that as synonymous with “the ends justify the means.”  In the same manner — and significantly more important to the general welfare — let us also implement compulsory charitable donations.  Even better, the government should simply remove said donations from our income much like taxes.  “In the interest of the greater good” moves us significantly toward that place we are desperately trying to avoid at present: a police state.

The idea of paternalistic compulsion and its related concerns is an excellent philosophical debate.  That said, however, I do not believe his rendition of the argument provides sufficient material to rebut.  We certainly do not believe our government to be trustworthy; assuming so to countervail the issue does an injustice to his point.

I cannot negate the pro arguments he makes.  Dramatically increasing voter participation would serve many purposes, not the least of which would be to ensure a more informed electorate and a government truly chosen by the majority of a country’s denizens — not just a majority of voters.  Unequal representation is often a direct result of low voter turnout as he mentions.  There are other positive aspects that he points out as well as some beyond the scope of his post.

None of these things warrant compulsory voting.  Doing a thing because you want to is vastly different from doing a thing because you have to.  In addition, being forced to do a thing is by no means a guarantee that said thing will be done properly or with any serious consideration.  Some forced to the polls may well serve their own interests by random or arbitrary voting.  I would much prefer that not happen as it does not serve the greater good and can work against the people’s interests.

Like Richard, I’d be interested in knowing what you think about the idea.

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