Monday, January 21, 2008

Should we make voting compulsory?

The term 'compulsory voting' is a bit of a misnomer, it really is about compulsory casting of ballots (pedantic I know but important nonetheless). Personally I am quite attracted by the idea, mainly because:

1. It can help improve turnout
2. It leaves parties free to campaign on policies, rather than focusing huge efforts on 'getting out the vote'. It can also reduce the impact of better finance campaigns and reduce the incidents of negative campaigning.
3. It can help create/enhance a sense of community, as everyone is in it together. It is also a means of reducing social exclusion where those that don't vote end up without any policies geared towards them.

I know that there are also many reasons why we shouldn't make voting compulsory but I do think we need to have the debate nationally, indeed can we afford not to?

What do you think?


John Angliss said...

Only worth it if we had an electoral system in which a larger range of parties could get in: say STV or PR. Otherwise you'll see more and more protest votes spoiled.

Lee Griffin said...

Further than that, while compulsory voting is great when people are engaged but need that final incentive to actually take part (what with postal voting and such making it easier), but to use compulsory voting to fix the issue of disengagement of the public is missing the mark.

First a form of proportional representation needs to be accepted as necessity so that swathes of this country aren't put off by the current bias towards one party, and the public need to be engaged better at a local level. Otherwise, as John says, you'll just see protest votes increase and no real change happen.

GW said...

I don't know about compulsary voting, but I am all infavour of compulsary attendance at a polling station and the compulsary return of a Postal Vote envelope.

Actually we don't need PR with all the problems that involves. Have a box on the ballot for "None of the Above", and run offs between the two highest voted candidates, just like the French.

And if "None of the above wins a majority the election is rerun in 4 weeks time with a new set of candidates.

Lee Griffin said...

"none of the above" will never happen because political parties will be slightly aggrieved at having spent a total of over 40 million pounds between them only to get told none of them are worth voting in. Even if this is the public will, the figures means it just won't happen!

PR wouldn't involve problems if local government went back to being local with your MP actually caring about their constituency if they want a seat in parliament, with a FPTP system as we currently run and redressed boundaries, and the ruling party decided by PR. The people get the best person to represent their issues locally, and the best party in terms of national policy.

James Schneider said...

gw, presents the only sensible option if we are going to go down the compulsory route. If that isn't the proposal than I say we leave it be. Why, if people make the choice not to vote because they aren't excited enough by any party/candidate should the parties force them to do it anyway. Smacks of arrogance. If political parties are so worried about turnout they should either look at the route causes and try to excite the electorate or they can shrug and say "that's their choice". If they choose the latter, though, they might be missing out on a lot of votes, so they are incentivised to care. Leave it as it is.