Voting - Compulsory or Optional?

I am interested in finding out some info in regards to how others view what the benefits and pitfalls of compulsory or optional voting may be. And is it right (even legal) to make voting compulsory.

I’ll try to generalize two opposing views:

  1. Voting is something like driving on the right (as in correct) side of the road. If you fail to obide by it, you will be fined.

  2. Voting is a privilege - you may choose to exercise it or not. Forcing someone to it is like forcing them to eat at McDonalds.

I am not suggesting that eating at McDonalds is a privilege, but you get my drift?!

My limmited brain fails to see how voting can be compared to things which ‘may endanger others’. Therefore, for me, compulsory voting seems illegal. But I would like to get some outside help in refining my view. So am I right in viewing voting as ‘not dangerous’? Or am I simplifying things too much? Or have I completely overlooked something?

Maybe optional voting brings about some ‘un-desirable’ effects, if so what would they be? My suspicion is that compulsory voting is a political ‘stunt’.

Well I can give you the example of Brazil where voting is compulsory. There was never a proper justification… but speaking in terms of political science it has to do with legitimacy and avoiding manipulation. The more voters you have the less “corruptible” the whole process becomes in theory…

The only people not obliged to vote are illiterates, 16-17 year olds and older than 65 (optional voting all). Under 16 can't vote naturally. Still 15% of the mandatory voters didnt vote.

The overall feeling we have is that it reduces the individual's vote... the uneducated masses ended up electing populist candidates of all sorts. The middle class loses all electoral "power". On the other side... its hard to argue against the results of elections, with so many voting. It makes everyone pay attention to elections.

Optional voting means that organized groups gain more "weight" during elections. That means the politization of possibly religious groups... unions... etc..  Middle Class usually shows up more and should be well represented.

Voting is compulsory in Australia as well. What happens here is that votes become somekind of commodity (like cash). Parties use this ‘cash’ to buy and sell. In effect, you get what any kind of small economy suffers from - 2 opposing majour players (which hardly differ from each other - they can only tell you why the other is so bad and you’d be crazy for choosing them) - surrounded small ‘players’ treading carefully in the hope they don’t get crushed.
If voting was optional, I feel the majour players would be less sure they will receive a certain percentage of the overall votes, while the small players will be more likely to hold on to their votes since it may be a significant percentage of the overall. It seems like the ‘uneducated masses’ (RM said it - not me) only dialute true public opinion - to the point where it hard to taste.

Honestly, I’d much prefer it if * less* people voted. Too many people, as it is, enter the voting booth with only the vaguest understanding of their candiate’s platform or the issues at hand.

If someone can’t get his/her ass down to the polls to vote on his/her own, I think we’re better off w/o his/her vote. I think a lot of people in the US don’t vote because there’s nothing that really makes a difference to them either way. Fine with me. Makes my vote count more.

What about Ficus?

Thats exactly the way I would like to see it. But due to the masses here, my feeling is that my vote won’t make ANY sort of difference, it just makes someone ‘richer’ - withought necessarily giving them any extra leverage in parliament. There is nothing stopping them from using my vote to get, say, better parking spots, closer to their office.

I have seen reports of cases in other countries where people have been bullied into not voting - scared away by fake threats, not let off work by their boss. One I know of personally. If everyone has to turn up, you can’t get that sort of manipulation.

BTW, your vote is not monitored. You can write “John Hunt is a Coward” or draw a picture of a clown on your ballot if you feel so inclined. It’s turning up that’s required. Once there, of course, most people do vote.

As for the uneducated masses, fergawdssake, it’s a democracy, not an oligarchy. Trust them, or educate them or live with it.

FairDink, I agree there have been some rorts in preference trading. I disagree that it’s due to the “masses” participation.

If they are uneducated, whose fault is it? Teachers? Television? Media owners? Spin Doctors? None of these are controlled by these supposedly unwashed masses, so if you think they need more education, good, but don’t suggest removing the franchise from them and turning it over to the people who miseducated them in the first place.

A question for the compulsory voting countries–what happens when your work is far from your home district where you vote? In Massachusetts we had a law saying that employers HAD to give you two hours on Election Day for travelling and voting, but it was unpaid and many hourly workers just couldn’t afford it (never mind that most employers didn’t know/care about the law to begin with). Do people get paid for the work they miss, and does the gummint give companies funds to do this?

My opinion is that is should be a choice whether you want to vote or not. But if you do not vote I dont think that person should whine and complain.
Only people who voted cant complain about who is in office.

I’m against the idea of being forced to make a false choice between two/three self-serving political parties and thus I’ve never voted (but I turn up and spoil the paper so that I can’t be accused of laziness). I would very much like to see a ‘none-of-the-above’ option which got reported along with the percentages for the real candidates. That way we’d get an accurate reflection on the split between the disillusioned and the couldn’t-be-bothered.

Well, we vote on Saturdays, so most of us are not at work anyway. And you can vote anywhere you like. I was campaigning a couple of hundred kilometers from home last national election - they had forms for my electorate. The larger booths could also cope with with voters from other states. You can also vote prior to the poll if you think it will be inconvenient on the day. So it’s not a problem.

Wow. Election Day used to be a holiday in some places but it’s not anymore–it’s always the second Tuesday in November, and everyone has to vote first thing in the morning on the way to work or crowd in after work, except for the old folks and students.

And you not only have to vote in your own state, but you’re assigned a voting place, usually a school or church basement. We do have absentee voting and all, usually used by students, Yanks overseas, military, and the disabled, but usually you can’t walk into the wrong district and try to vote without having to fill out a whole bunch of forms.

Of course, in the US voting is run by each state, and each devote a varying amount of money, equipment, and training for workers to the effort, something the whole world saw in Florida and is about to get another dose of in California. In Oz does the federal gummint run the whole thing? Isn’t it a mess to try to keep track of every voter in the country? How expensive are those booths and how do they “load” the other candidate’s names in, where’s the space and/or how many paper ballots does each district have to keep in case somebody from another state wanders in?

FWIW, in Massachusetts living in three different cities I did everything from punch holes in a card with a stylus to connecting one end of an arrow to another when I voted; there’s sometimes couple of dozen different methods in one state. In NYC we use hulking grey metal machines over 40 years old that actually work pretty well as long as you follow the instructions (Pull red lever. Vote. Move back red lever. You’d be amazed at how many times I, a pollworker, have seen somebody go in, heard a kachunk-KACHUNK, a pause, then a puzzled head sticking out from the curtain that has to be told buddy, you’ve just voided your own vote.)

IMO, it makes people that actually care about issues swamped out in people who don’t give a shit and wouldn’t vote anyway. However,

Of course, some of us think that choices we’re offered are ridiculous.

Force me to vote and all you’ll get are retarded write-ins. If you want my opinion so bad, ask me, don’t make me pick from people who are telling me what to think.

I believe voting can be though of as an obligation, a duty. You can think of it as the duty to “guide” your country. Contribute to the decision process (if ever so slightly).

Voting is done on Sundays in Brazil and into electronic machines. You type the candidates number and a foto shows up. Then you just confirm. The machine then prints out your vote (so you can check its correct). The printed version is for backup if things go wrong with the machine. We have the results of the election in less than 24 hours.

If you dont vote… your ineligible for government work until you pay some fines. Civil Servants that dont vote also dont get salary until they justify or pay fines. If your travelling its easy to justify absence. You can change your voting “district” when you move… so most people are a short distance away from the “booths”. I walk half a mile only to vote.

Elections here are followed with great care by volunteers from most major parties and the electoral law forbids drinking too during election day.... people trying to get some last minute campaigning or pamplets are liable to arrest too. Its taken quite seriously here... even if the candidates (like it seems in most of the world) arent to be taken seriosly.

I do remember when Election Day was a holiday that bars were closed for pretty much the same reason! And we do have laws prohibiting “electioneering” within 100 feet of the entrance to a voting place.

I don’t know, I can’t imagine that compulsory voting would ever be thought of here. Hell, we can’t get people to comply with the seatbelt laws.

Mehabitel - No Seatbelt here means you get a fine… :slight_smile:

Now there is the key problem “education”. Guess who determines the education budget and distribution ? If you said “politicians” and congress you got it right. Guess who thinks its great to have “stupid” voters ? Yep… same guys. Its hard to get around this tendency.

The governor of Brasilia in fact gave away free land to poor people, all in order to attract more poor migrants. These thinking they will also get a free land lot naturally vote for him. We call this arrangement where you get lots of poor under your control and who always vote for you “voting stables” or “voting corrals”. This governor of ours also goes for the straight talking and close to the people BS talk that endears the simpletons to him. The fact that he hasnt followed thru with the great majority of his promises for 2 terms doesnt seem to change their minds.

So yep I hate the unwashed masses voting....

From Mallard Filmore:

"Once again, I haven’t followed baseball all year. But now, in complete ignorance, I’m getting deeply involved in the playoffs.

But you know what’s even stupider? Some people vote that way."
I’m with the camp that says that if someone can’t be bothered to learn a little about the candidates and issues, get off his or her fat butt, get down to the polling place and vote, we’re better off without them.

I’m in the camp that says we shouldn’t settle for a government that does such a poor job in education that half of its citizens don’t understand that it’s in their own best interest to vote.