Compulsory voting = different election result ?

I’m hoping there’s a factual answer to this, or some studies have been done, but if not, forgive me for posting in GQ.

Is there a difference in the outcome of an election based on whether the voting was compulsory or not ?

I know different countries have completely different governmental systems, but has anybody theorised or done studies that show if there is a difference in the results if the voting was compulsory or not ?

Thanks in advance.

Well, if I recall correctly, in Australia, where voting is compulsory the order of candidates’ names on the ballot paper is randomised beause the view is that there is a signficant “donkey vote” which always goes to the first name on the ballot paper, and if names were not randomised parliament would be full of people called Aardvark, while people called Zebedee would have difficulty being elected.

I don’t know whether randomisation was introduced after some experience of elections in which the donkey vote was shown to be a significant factor affecting the outcome, or whether it was always operated because of a fear that this would happen.

I also don’t know whether the same names appear in a different order on different ballot papers, or whether the names appear in the same (random, non-alphabetical) order on all the ballot papers, in which case the donkey vote would still affect the outcome, but the effect would be unrelated to the alphabetical order of the candidates’ names.

Any Aussies care to comment on this?

There is a popularly held view that compulsory voting tends to favour those parties towards the left of the political spectrum, and voluntary voting gives the advantage to the political right. I’m not defending this view as necessarily accurate, but I’ve heard it several times over the years. I’ll try to find a cite.

I dunno about you, but I’d vote for someone named Zebedee, even if he was on the bottom of the list.


Especially if he had a springy body, a red face, and a curly moustachio.

Talk about bringing back childhood memories I’d repressed GuanoLad.

I wonder if the relatively small population of Australia as compared to its vast size influences our voting patterns.

Even if voting wasn’t compulsory here, I’d almost bet there’d be a high voter turn out at referendums to ensure that NSW and Victoria didn’t dominate the outcome.

This is possibly also true of senate elections; the smaller states (populationwise) have a very vested interest in not allowing NSW and Victoria to set the political agenda.

It’s voting for the house and voting in local government elections which bring out the “I’m only doing this to avoid being fined” attitude in me.

Goo; as a matter of interest would you be in favour of a definite None of the above entry, thus discriminating between people who accidentally spoil their paper, and those do so deliberately? The % should be reported together with those of the candidates, of course.

FWIW, I’d be in favour of compulsory voting just as soon as the above was implemented.

I think we should have compulsory voting here (in UK) - at the last election, the turnout was pathetic… i can’t remember the exact figures, but I remember being surprised how low they were.

People have no right to complain about the government if they don’t vote!

And yes, I’d have a ‘None of the Above’ option… in fact given the usual selection of candidates, I’d be tempted to tick that box myself!

What happens if ‘None of the Above’ wins?

Hey! That was my 50th post! Woo! The excitement…:smiley: :smiley:

In Nevada (we’re one of those big states near the West Coast), we have NOTA on every ballot (I’ve marked it in every presidential election I’ve voted in so far), and it occasionally wins in some local election.

When it does, they hold a new election with new candidates. I’m not sure whether the old officeholders remain in office or if the line of succession takes effect.

How is ticking “none of the above” any different from either not voting at all or voting informal, unless we are going to introduce a rule which says that in order for a valid government to be formed more than a certain % of those eligible to vote must do so?

It’s already possible to win an election here even if the majority of voters didn’t vote for you, and all I see “none of the above” doing is further fragmenting the primary vote without in any way enhancing the quality of the politicians or policies for whom and for which we are voting.

Not voting at all: I don’t care
Vote for none of the above: these guys suck

Obviously, the way it stands now, my no-vote implies that I don’t care, which is false.

Of course, everyone says, “Just write yourself in”. Yeah, ok.

Because it sends a message that people are feeling disenfranchised (rather than, say, just too bloody lazy to vote).

To whom does it send this message?

“There is a popularly held view that compulsory voting tends to favour those parties towards the left of the political spectrum, and voluntary voting gives the advantage to the political right. I’m not defending this view as necessarily accurate, but I’ve heard it several times over the years. I’ll try to find a cite.”

I’ve heard this as well, but an old Poly Sci teacher said there was no evidence for this statement, other than a vague feeling that poor people vote Democrat.

I wonder what the political analysts, pundits and pollsters would call the block of voters that are only voting because they are being FORCED to (the “reluctant majority”?). I also wonder how the candidate’s tacticians would attempt to appeal to that large block, given that they can’t actually out-and-out bribe them, which would probably be cost effective for somebody who didn’t really give a rat’s ass about the election - a small bribe would probably suffice.

How does this play out in countries which have compulsory voting and a media-shaped culture like the US?

Well, in the US those who don’t vote may be a majority or a near-majority, but this would not be true in most democracies. Democracies with voluntary voting mostly expect a turnout in the 60%-85% region in elections, so the non-voters are a sizeable minority, but not a majority. I would guess that most democracies where voting is compulsory would expect a turnout in this range if voting were voluntary, rather than a turnout of US levels.

The theory, I guess, behind compulsory voting is that voters who would otherwise abstain will be forced to engage with the issues in the election, and will actually form and give effect to views on the candidates or their policies. Presumably there is at least a proportion of voters who do this. Others spoil their ballots in protest at having to vote (do Australian elections have a higher proportion of spoiled votes than others?). Still others vote more or less at random (the “donkey vote” for the first candidate on the ballot paper).

How do candidates try to appeal to them? Well, even where voting is voluntary candidates will often try to bribe voters, not individually but collectively by promising to deliver roads, hospitals or other public expenditure to the constituency, so asking the voters to vote for them for material reward rather than because they approve of the candidate’s ideology or policy, or because they trust his integrity and judgment. Is there any evidence that this happens more in elections where voting is compulsory?

A more sophisticated strategy might be to try to identify the kind of voter who wouldn’t vote if not compelled to, and to find out what does interest them, and try to appeal to that. Is the area football-mad? Present yourself as a keen football supporter, and a diehard fan of the local team. Your hope is that the reluctant voter will think “well, I don’t know much about politics, but I have to vote and this guy seems like me, so I’ll vote for him.”

Unfortunately I’m not close enough to Australian politics to know how candidates campaign, and to speculate about how that might be affected by compulsory voting, and I don’t know of any other country where voting is compulsory.

I heard the order of candiates’ names on the ballot paper is now randomised after some clever aspirant changed his name to A. Aardvark (or something equally ridiculous) to attract the donkey vote. Of course, “I heard” is pretty weak, so I’ll set myself to finding a cite. (Assuming this isn’t UL of course.)

Oh, and I would think compulsory voting cements the power of the established parties here in Australia. If voting were voluntary, many voters content with the status quo would stay at home on election day. The more aspirational voters and those dissatisfied with the makeup of government would still vote, leading to a disproportionate say in the composition of Parliament. All, IM-hastily-concocted-O, of course.

Here’s a reference, courtesy of Gary Johns, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 September 1998. Yep, it scotches with the opinion I just voiced.

**Obviously this conflicts with the view reported by TheLoadedDog.

Compulsory voting is in in Oz, that’s true, but is what you mean compulsory turning up at the polling booth and having your name checked off a list?

I turn up every time because I don’t want to wear the fine.
Whether I vote or not is up to me.

In the last election, I asked my 10 year old who she wanted and voted for him. So while I technically voted, I didn’t vote for the one I cared less about.

Before that I put the ballot in the box with no markings (invalid).

Before that I voted for the guy whose name I could pronounce.

Before that I can’t remember.

The point (is there a point here), is that compulsory voting does not mean that you have to vote, it just means that you have to turn up.