Should compulsory voting be adopted worldwide?

November 6, 2008

( -- Is compulsory voting the most effective way of ensuring a true democracy? A University of Adelaide study will help address this question and could provide a global solution to addressing declining levels of voter turnout around the world.

Associate Professor Lisa Hill from the University's School of History and Politics will use a $61,000 Federal Government grant to demonstrate that Australia has one of the best managed voting regimes in the western world.

The issue has been highlighted this week in the wake of a landslide election victory sweeping US Democratic Senator Barack Obama to power, in which record numbers of US citizens cast their vote.

More than 130 million people exercised their democratic right to elect the next President of the United States. In 2000, just 51% of eligible voters cast their ballot.

"This is bucking the trend in industrialised countries worldwide, where poor voter turnout is becoming a matter of serious concern," Dr Hill says. However, the US spike in turnout is likely to be temporary due to the unusually high prominence of the election.

Although Australia is the only English-speaking country in the world to compel its citizens to vote, a number of other established democracies have shown serious interest in the idea, including Britain.

"One MP in the UK has recently introduced a Private Member's Bill for its adoption and some intensive research is being undertaken there to gauge its suitability for the British context," Dr Hill says.

Likewise, there have been calls for its introduction in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Israel and even Jordan.

Dr Hill will look at whether compulsory voting actually violates liberal-democratic principles - as claimed in some quarters - or offers a remedy to one of the most urgent problems facing industrialised democracies worldwide.

"This project is the first systematic assessment of compulsory voting from a practical, efficient, legal and constitutional viewpoint."

The study will reveal whether compulsory voting regimes are perceived to be more legitimate than voluntary regimes, if Australians report higher levels of trust in government than their overseas counterparts and whether there are equally effective non-mandatory means for improving voter turnout.

"There's an important question around whether compulsory voting affects the behaviour of incumbent governments and reduces the role of money in election campaigns," she says.

Provided by University of Adelaide

Explore further: Should voting be compulsory or should we have a right not to vote?

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5 / 5 (2) Nov 06, 2008
What a stupid idea -- if one doesn't support any of the candidates, one would still have to vote for one of them?
5 / 5 (3) Nov 06, 2008
And what if the results were: "None of the above"?
5 / 5 (2) Nov 06, 2008
And how many people would purposefully vote in a reckless manner just out of spite?
3 / 5 (2) Nov 06, 2008
5 / 5 (2) Nov 06, 2008
FORCE you to vote? Just how is that democratic?
1 / 5 (1) Nov 06, 2008
There is always the informal vote - leave the paper blank, or write informal on it,
or draw a picture of a donkey on the paper, (to make a donkey vote) these are ways to indicate a nothing vote.
2 / 5 (3) Nov 06, 2008
compulsory voting is not compulsory at gunpoint. the idea is to encourage a post-tv technology driven apathetic as well as simply too large to manage group of individuals to care more about voting. its about encouraging citizen participation in government, even at the most simple level : that of voting :

this is a great idea. we do it in america, clinton made it easier for people to vote by allowing them to do so if they have state issued drivers id. and more of this sort of legislative encouragement is a good thing, not a bad one. the powers that be always fight against franchisement, and the people who truly do support democracy, not the cronies like bush who start wars in its name, will support simple steps in this direction. GO DEMOCRACY.
3.3 / 5 (3) Nov 06, 2008
You are only "forced" to vote if you are on the electoral roll. If you dont register then your are not listed to vote.

As for Australians having a "high level of trust" in our government, you have to be kidding. Australians have a health disrespect of authority and it stems from the Eureka Stockade.
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 07, 2008
I actually think the FEWER people who vote the better.

Read Starship Troopers sometime. It seems very counterintuitive, but there's actually a good argument against giving out the franchise willy nilly.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 07, 2008
"Read Starship Troopers sometime..."

Yeah read it, and not just the Wiki synopsis!
and while your at it, also read "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress"
1 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2008
"Read Starship Troopers sometime..."

Yeah read it, and not just the Wiki synopsis!
and while your at it, also read "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress"

An even better book :)
1 / 5 (3) Nov 07, 2008
The American government gives money to candidates, why not pay people to vote?
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 08, 2008
Sure! Compulsory voting is common among all of the free nations of the world....The old Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, and all of the pre-1989 Eastern European nations. But of course, there was always only one candidate to vote for but that made it easy to choose.
1 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2008
On a side note, we have a serious problem with our elections and I'm not talking about voter machines. Campaigns have no responsibility to provide any information on any donor that gives $200 or less. The problem is anyone with $10 million only has to split it up into $200 increments. We've been using the honor system to police.....or actually to not police the process. Additionally, if you buy a few thousand mastercard or visa cash cards, as long as you limit contributions to $200, any world dictator can place his vote with his dollars over the Internet.
not rated yet Nov 09, 2008
Group think is stupid... It only makes the people in the group stupid. If you want to vote and look stupid go for it. You cant make someone join your group but you can say they are your leader and start acting like them. Let us not forget the old addage a person is only stupid if they arnt smart.

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