Voting - Compulsory or Optional?

So now I’m stupid, 2sense?

Did I mention before I used to work for the state of MA and am now a pollworker? :smiley:

Listen. We spent millions of dollars on posters, flyers, banners, subway and bus shelter ads, TV and radio commercials, all urging people to vote. In MA we send out booklets to EVERY HOUSEHOLD IN THE STATE (in three languages) listing every proposition on the ballot, with pro and con arguments written by the leading advocates and vetted by neutral editors, and having two pages of websites, phone numbers, and addresses to find out more from. Civics classes were a mandatory part of social studies when I was a kid although I don’t know about now. Anybody who opens a newspaper or turns on a TV or a radio within months of an election is bombarded by ads from candidates trying to prove why voting for the other guy will end Western civilization; in my neighborhood, people put signs on their lawns and every innocent telephone pole ends up with signs stapled into them. There’s all sorts of books and TV shoes about the female and black heroes who fought so hard for the prize of voting.

What’s not to understand?

…which is not to say that an informed citizen cannot make the choice not to vote. What I meant is that I don’t think you can blame the government for not trying to make people understand it’s important.

I always wonder if politicians were actually interested in increasing the number of voters why they don’t allocate money to a national ‘Vote!’ campaign? Let’s take 20% of the funds allocated to the ‘Say No to Drugs’ campaign and create a program that encourages citizens to vote.

You’ll never see it and you and I know why.

I had an experience some time ago where I had been in another country doing some work for some time. I had been so buisy with this that I rarely spoke to my mum, much less listen to anything a politician had to say. Suddenly, out of nowhere, it was time for me to vote?!?!? I had no idea it was comming, or what the media might have to say about the election - I had bigger priorities (it was still very important for me though). So I thought, I’ll just do a dummy vote so others, who are more aware, can have their say. The trouble I had to go to, just to make a dummy vote was rediculous. If I had followed the politics and wanted to vote for someone (or rather vote against someone - as it is these days) then it would still be alot of trouble, but it may be worth it. But this is where it struck me that I doubt we all think like this.

Heres a thought (just a thought, I have no proof):

Our social structure is one in which we have a group of people which want to make some sort of difference, and there is a group of people who are just happy to follow along - and blame others. (theres probably another group which want nothing more than to harm others, but lets ignore them.) The first group of wise men and women may rarely agree on issues, but they are determined to work it out between themselves. Now the second group, since they have no motivation to closely watch the politics at hand (which really does need close attention to get the full picture), are likely to vote for one of the two big parties - even though they don’t really know why - its the safe option perhaps, but I don’t believe they ‘understand’ their policies.

So, if you have only the first group voting, firstly, its still a democracy, and secondly there is no social ‘barrier’ stopping you from becoming a part of this group, the only pre-requisite would be knowledge. If you were in the second group here, then obviously you are too buisy to concern yourself with these affairs, and therefore you know your vote would not really represent your position, so you leave it up to the experts - and you can blame them if it all falls apart for you.
On the other hand, if both groups vote, then there are so many ‘un-researched’ (rather than un-educated) votes, that is it really a democracy or is it anarchy? Parties know how to ‘hide’ policies and make them difficult to understand. Maybe anarchy is a little harsh but Ballagan (mess) would certainly not be.

I think that most people which give dummy votes would actually fall under the first group of people - they are simply protesting or have given up untill something new will come along. So in effect, you are, at the same time, loosing valuble ‘knowledge’ of the political arena.

For politicians to say:
‘You must vote!’
‘Because we know whats good for you!’
Is absurd. At the end of the day (and sometimes in the beginning of the next day) my ass knows better than they do!!!

Well they could at least make the voting on a sunday or saturday… :slight_smile: Tuesday voting is asking for people not to show up.

Well back on topic… overall what are the pros and cons of Compulsory voting ? Pros and Cons of Optional voting ?

(Overall I think its pretty wierd that a major decision like the election of a president can be disregarded so easily by half the population.)

Absolutely correct! Isn’t Election Day a holiday in most countries? Not only would I make it a holiday (rather than just a weekend), but I’d prohibit most stores from being open that day - just the essentials, like grocery stores and pharmacies. The turnout at the polls would be a lot higher than it is now.

If voting is compulsory, I think you give up one important symptom of the health of your democracy: voter turnout. A candiate who wins a majority of a small turnout has less legitimacy than a candidate who wins on a big turnout. It can be considered a sign of sickness in the polity if not enough voters turn out to endorse any candidate at all; likewise, a sign of health if most do.

However, you can count the number of ballots that are obviously deliberately spoiled (clown drawings, “None of the above”, etc.). Some will be made as statements of disgust, some as statements of apathy; either way, they’re gauges of a system people are dissatisfied with, for one reason or another.

Agreed. But if, for instance, there was a kind of ‘probationary period’ for any newly elected party, then a bad party comming into power will drive the masses to the election booths, only this time, perhaps, a little wiser.
There are 2 ways to learn anything, the first is listning to others, the second is making (or experiencing) the mistakes yourself.
Most voters will never realize how important their vote is untill they suffer from their decission.

I am not disagreeing that people simply not voting is a good thing. My argument is more along the lines of forcing them to do it is not the solution.

Sorry, that should read as follows:
I am not disagreeing that people simply not voting is a BAD thing. My argument is more along the lines of forcing them to do it is not the solution.

I’d be okay with compulsory voting if it also included a ‘none of the above’ option. :slight_smile:

how about:

None of the above because:
a) You were not satisfied with your usual parties policies.
b) You find it hard to decide between such good parties.
c) You find it hard to decide between such poor parties.
d) You don’t like voting.
e) You don’t beleive your vote counts.
f) You are just being difficult.

These could be thought out much better, and they could reveal a great deal about the ‘health’ of your democracy.
Even have the option of All of the above (joke).

The conventional wisdom holds that a low voter turnout is symptomatic of Something Bad, disenchantment, apathy, etc. I think it is at least as likely that it is a sign of voter contentment. If things are going pretty well, and you are reasonably sure that either candidate will serve adequately, then why not sit this one out?

The proof of this is that when you have a real stinker on the ballot, as in the case of the last election where David Duke ran, turnout goes through the roof as people turn out to defeat the turkey.

The American voting system of one state goes 100% to one candidate also makes people feel its not worthwhile voting if they live in a heavily “X” or “Y” voting area. That should be changed to avoid doubts of legitimacy on the total votes received.

Overall I agree with what people say about compulsory vote making people “angry” or irritated… somehow thou voter turnout has to be bigger than 50% like it was in the US for example. In optional voting how can you increase turnout independent of the candidate quality ?

Soon you will have US politicians sucking up to only old ladies and young voters since they are the only ones with time to vote... now a good tendency.

Yeah, well over on this side of the puddle we’ve had that option (informal voting by defacing the ballot paper) at every election for the past 75 years, and rarely have more than 1% of the electorate taken the option.

A “none of the above” option would please me very much, actually. That would get me to the polls.

This is part of what I think is the problem. Just because somebody did not deface the ballot does not necessarily mean that they would have voted (or rather, been any more aware to give a fair vote) if voting was optional. That is, as someone said earlier, most people do vote once they get their asses there. However, in my humble opinion, everyone should already know who they are voting for by the time they get up that morning. I can understand not knowing what you will feel like for breakfast that morning, but to not know who you want to run you country for the next few years is inexcusable (NOTE: knowing you don’t want any of them is quite valid). I know many people who vote once they are there, but have not made up their minds until the pen is in their hands. I don’t beleive that having theire vote makes your democracy any healthier, in fact I would predict the opposite (since they obviously don’t give a f… I mean, their too buisy).