Why Compulsory Voting is Wrong

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theatlanticaparty theatlanticaparty's picture
Why Compulsory Voting is Wrong

 

theatlanticaparty theatlanticaparty's picture

Currently Nova Scotia has a Select Committee on Participation in the Democratic Process looking into declining voter turnout. The hearings finished last night at Province House. No doubt one topic that will be discussed is compulsory voting. Australia uses it and has very high turnouts, so why not try it here?

We often hear that voting is a ‘civic duty’, but it is more accurate to say that voting is a ‘civic right’ and no free and independent people such as Atlantic Canadians should ever allow a government to force them to exercise their rights no matter how wonderful the goal. Put simply, it is no ones business but the individual whether they vote or not.

People should be free not to participate if they believe not voting is important. Jehovah Witnesses, for instance, believe that any form of political involvement is wrong so they typically do not vote. Not voting is also a valid method of dissent against governance and is why totalitarian states that maintain a veneer of democracy are always careful to manufacture near 100% turnouts. Any government that interferes in that freedom is acting the tyrant.

Coercing citizens to vote only masks the real problem. Our declining voter turnout indicates growing dissent with a political system that needs reforms; separation of powers with an independent and effective Legislature, fair elections, direct election of our leaders, recall, Citizen’s Initiative. Introducing compulsory voting will only paper over the defects and delay needed reforms.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

I think a law requiring people to vote is a good idea. I would rather have those people go into a polling booth and deliberately spoil their ballots because they like none of the above than stay at home and let political talking heads pontificate on why the turnout is so low. It would be no worse than telling citizens that they have to file tax returns or register their children when born.

At least with forced voting the scrutineers and Elections Canada people on election night would be assured of some very humorous things written on the ballots.

Le T Le T's picture

quote:


I think a law requiring people to vote is a good idea. I would rather have those people go into a polling booth and deliberately spoil their ballots because they like none of the above than stay at home and let political talking heads pontificate on why the turnout is so low. It would be no worse than telling citizens that they have to file tax returns or register their children when born.

At least with forced voting the scrutineers and Elections Canada people on election night would be assured of some very humorous things written on the ballots.


Kropotkin is turning in his grave! [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

Unfortunately federal ballots all black save for where you put your "x" so no humour for the EC staffers and scrutineers.

genstrike

Wait... Kropotkin coming out in favour of mandatory voting? These historical ironies on babble keep getting better and better. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

But seriously, I don't feel like I should be forced to vote. If I don't want to vote and have no confidence in the electoral system, why should I be forced to participate in it? And what is the difference between spoiling my ballot and not voting, anyways? It's not like I ever hear some talking head on CBC saying "you know, there are a lot of spoiled ballots this election. Maybe if we smashed capitalism and created a workers paradise based on workers councils, these people wouldn't be so pissed off."

Cueball Cueball's picture

Voting is wrong.

Brian White

quote:


Originally posted by kropotkin1951:
[b]I think a law requiring people to vote is a good idea. [/b]

I have met a lot of people over the years with strong political opinions but they never vote! I think it would be good. I think it might shift the center of power to the left a fair bit too. The poorer people do not vote so much because nobody gets in to represent their viewpoint (partly because not enough of them vote!) So, I think, forcing people to vote would (in the long run) actually give them more reason to vote too!
Now, about penaltys and incentives.
How do we get people to vote?
How about little pins and emblems. "I voted for Canada" and so forth?

Adam T

I used to be against compulsory voting but Vaughn Palmer wrote a column on it a while back that was quite convincing, so now I'm not sure.

He made an excellent point that a large part of modern negative campaigning involves depressing turnout of the opponent and compulsory voting eliminates that strategy.

Cueball Cueball's picture
TCD

quote:


Originally posted by Cueball:
[b]Voting is wrong.[/b]

Whereas not voting is ever so effective. Lord knows how politicians tremble when confronted with a pack of non-voters. "My God!" they cry. "Please stop your chanting and placard waving. You'll expose me to the masses. I yield! I yield! I'll withdraw troops from Afghanistan tomorrow! Please have mercy on me."

Cueball Cueball's picture

Yes actually. Its much more effective.

Parkdale High Park

Once again, you are all wrong. I would suspect that 90% or more of the folks on this forum DON'T matter in politics precisely because they always vote, and they always vote for the same party.

Parties target those voters they can win over with the least cost (in terms of lost support from compromise on some issues). Traditional non-voters can do just as well as traditional voters, if not better, in getting their agenda focused on BY NOT VOTING, so long as politicians believe said people might potentially vote in some cases.

Spoiled ballots are no different in this regard from non-voting. Moreover, spoiled ballots lose their meaning WHEN YOU FORCE PEOPLE TO VOTE IN THE FIRST PLACE. Why? Well a spoiled ballot is a powerful message now because they are rare and require effort by the voter. If voting was mandatory it would reflect the message that a lot of the people you are forcing to vote aren't that keen on the candidates - something you would know anyway from their non-voting.

Thirdly I am going to make a pitch for some sort of just society. Democracy gives everybody one vote, but the difficulty of voting (it isn't that hard but it requires some investment of time, at the very least) creates obstacles. Relatively non-discriminatory obstacles to voting are a great thing. Why? People have different utility functions - it makes more sense from a utility-maxiization point of view that those with strong preferences vote more frequently than those who could care less.

Oh and the real argument that will surely convince you all... Mandatory voting in Australia did not make it a more progressive country, actually it may well have had the opposite effect. eg. In the first election since the policy was enacted, the National party swept into power.

David Young

I would be a supporter of manditory voting only if every ballot had a 'NONE OF THE ABOVE' on it!

How would I try to increase voter turnout?

Give everyone who votes a tax credit to be used at Income Tax time to reduce their taxable income!

Agent 204 Agent 204's picture

That's actually a good idea. A similar suggestion was advocated by an acquaintance of mine, who suggested bringing in a guaranteed annual income... provided that you vote. Either would have less effect on people's perception of freedom than actually making voting compulsory.

genstrike

quote:


Originally posted by Agent 204:
[b]That's actually a good idea. A similar suggestion was advocated by an acquaintance of mine, who suggested bringing in a guaranteed annual income... provided that you vote. Either would have less effect on people's perception of freedom than actually making voting compulsory.[/b]

Oh yes, let's not make voting compulsory, but lets punish people who don't vote by denying them access to social programs.

And using a guaranteed annual income as the punishment. So lets punish only poor people.

And what about the people who are turned away, who generally just "happen to be" the most vulnerable in society? Admittedly that is more of a problem in the US, but it is a problem here, especially for students.

Seriously, penalties for not voting are just about as ridiculous as penalties for not voting Conservative. Not voting is a choice and a valid one.

Stockholm

In Australia if you don't vote you get a fine that is equivalent to a parking ticket - but its enough to get 95% turnouts in every election and by all accounts it helps the Labor Party there because the people who vote as a result of it being compulsory tend to be lower income, lower education people who vote Labor. Everytime someone in Australia floats the idea of scrapping compulsory voting - its always some rightwing hack that wants to get rid of it because it will help the right wing win elections.

quote:

And what is the difference between spoiling my ballot and not voting, anyways?

Quite a lot actually. If you spoil your ballot it is a sign of protest and dissent at the whole political system. if you just don't show up - it can easily be interpreted as meaning that you are so content with the status quo that you are indifferent as to who wins.

Mojoroad1

Wholeheartedly agree with you Stockholm, we should have it here.

genstrike

quote:


Originally posted by Stockholm:
[b]Quite a lot actually. If you spoil your ballot it is a sign of protest and dissent at the whole political system. if you just don't show up - it can easily be interpreted as meaning that you are so content with the status quo that you are indifferent as to who wins.[/b]

Maybe, but that sign of protest and dissent never registers, and could be interpreted as someone not knowing how to vote or screwing up somehow. When was the last time you heard talking heads complain about spoiled ballots and come to the conclusion that a lot of people are pissed off at the system?

I strongly believe that we should have the freedom to not participate in the process if we do not believe in it, and that includes not being forced by penalty of fines or denial of social programs to head over to the polling place just to spoil our ballot.

[ 05 November 2008: Message edited by: genstrike ]

Cueball Cueball's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Stockholm:
[b]In Australia if you don't vote you get a fine that is equivalent to a parking ticket - but its enough to get 95% turnouts in every election and by all accounts it helps the Labor Party there because the people who vote as a result of it being compulsory tend to be lower income, lower education people who vote Labor. Everytime someone in Australia floats the idea of scrapping compulsory voting - its always some rightwing hack that wants to get rid of it because it will help the right wing win elections.

Quite a lot actually. If you spoil your ballot it is a sign of protest and dissent at the whole political system. if you just don't show up - it can easily be interpreted as meaning that you are so content with the status quo that you are indifferent as to who wins.[/b]


Fuck that shit. Oh yeah, its also illegal to spoil your ballot in Australia.

If I don't want to get up in the morning to vote your dumb-assed election. That is my right.

What is this, "We"?

robbie_dee

quote:


Originally posted by David Young:
[b]I would be a supporter of manditory voting only if every ballot had a 'NONE OF THE ABOVE' on it![/b]

I think this actually makes some sense. Although what is to be done if 'NONE OF THE ABOVE' wins?

Notably in the U.S., where I am now, voter participation has been on a significant upswing over the past 3 election cycles. We don't have mandatory voting here, its just that people have felt they had something important to vote about.

Cueball Cueball's picture

How about compulsory membership in youth organizations too?

Agent 204 Agent 204's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Cueball:
[b]Fuck that shit. Oh yeah, its also illegal to spoil your ballot in Australia.[/b]

Is that true? With a secret ballot, I don't see how such a law could be enforced.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Who cares if it can be enforced or not? What does that have to do with the principles of human rights?

Agent 204 Agent 204's picture

It means I have to wonder if your information is correct. If there's a secret ballot, there's [i]no way[/i] it could be enforced, so including that in the legislation would be nonsensical.

A citation from the relevant legislation would clarify this. Now [i]if[/i] the law indeed says it's illegal to spoil your ballot, then I'd agree that the law is wrong (as well as stupid and unenforceable) but I'm skeptical as to whether that claim is accurate.

quote:

Originally posted by genstrike:
[b]

Oh yes, let's not make voting compulsory, but lets punish people who don't vote by denying them access to social programs.

And using a guaranteed annual income as the punishment. So lets punish only poor people.

And what about the people who are turned away, who generally just "happen to be" the most vulnerable in society? Admittedly that is more of a problem in the US, but it is a problem here, especially for students.

Seriously, penalties for not voting are just about as ridiculous as penalties for not voting Conservative. Not voting is a choice and a valid one.[/b]


I'd agree that the GAI incentive would probably be too extreme (partly because it seems wrong that a GAI should only apply to citizens) but a tax credit wouldn't be too extreme, I don't think. The analogy between penalties for not voting and penalties for not voting Conservative, though, is a faulty one -- one of these is enforceable, the other is not (thanks again to the secret ballot).

quote:

Originally posted by robbie_dee:
[b]

I think this actually makes some sense. Although what is to be done if 'NONE OF THE ABOVE' wins?[/b]


One proposal (championed by Jello Biafra, among others) is that if 'NONE OF THE ABOVE' wins, there would have to be a byelection, with all new candidates. In practice, though, this is unlikely to arise.

[ 05 November 2008: Message edited by: Agent 204 ]

Cueball Cueball's picture

Well if you were worried about the validity of my information you could just look it up, as opposed to arguing that it is "non-sensical".

Agent 204 Agent 204's picture

When you make an extraordinary claim (in this case, the claim that the Australian legislation includes a clearly nonsensical provision), I think the onus is on you to confirm it, don't you think?

Cueball Cueball's picture

Forget it.

The whole idea that forcing people to vote is some kind of democratic act is non-sensical. Its blatantly fascist.

[ 05 November 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Cueball:
[b]Forget it.

The whole idea that forcing people to vote is some kind of democratic act is non-sensical. Its blatantly fascist.

[ 05 November 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ][/b]


Yes we should just forget when you come on here and make groundless claims to support your arguments. Your debating technique is a wonder to behold I can't understand why people get frustrated and sometimes angry with you. That was sarcastic in case you didn't get it.

[url=http://www.aec.gov.au/about_aec/publications/Strategy_Research_Analysis/... has one of the highest levels of spoiled or informal ballots among established democracies.[/url]

quote:

Australia ‘has one of the highest levels of spoiled or informal ballots among established democracies’. Levels of informal voting at the last two elections are consistent with informality levels in the 1984 and 1987 elections.

martin dufresne

The points made for compulsory voting seem to be:
- It is our duty.
- Abstention makes it look as if (insert whatever)
- It generally helps the left.
I think the point of compulsory voting is to create legitimacy for whomever has or takes power.

Does anyone know if there is a country where elections - or referenda - are invalid under a certain treshold of participation? Something like a quorum where it is acknowledged that the system is a failure if it fails to attract enough YEAs.

Benoit

quote:


Originally posted by theatlanticaparty:
[b]Currently Nova Scotia has a Select Committee on Participation in the Democratic Process looking into declining voter turnout. The hearings finished last night at Province House. No doubt one topic that will be discussed is compulsory voting. Australia uses it and has very high turnouts, so why not try it here?

We often hear that voting is a ‘civic duty’, but it is more accurate to say that voting is a ‘civic right’ and no free and independent people such as Atlantic Canadians should ever allow a government to force them to exercise their rights no matter how wonderful the goal. Put simply, it is no ones business but the individual whether they vote or not.

People should be free not to participate if they believe not voting is important. Jehovah Witnesses, for instance, believe that any form of political involvement is wrong so they typically do not vote. Not voting is also a valid method of dissent against governance and is why totalitarian states that maintain a veneer of democracy are always careful to manufacture near 100% turnouts. Any government that interferes in that freedom is acting the tyrant.

Coercing citizens to vote only masks the real problem. Our declining voter turnout indicates growing dissent with a political system that needs reforms; separation of powers with an independent and effective Legislature, fair elections, direct election of our leaders, recall, Citizen’s Initiative. Introducing compulsory voting will only paper over the defects and delay needed reforms.[/b]


Compulsory voting is fundamentally right. Compulsory voting would be wrong if the concept of natural right would mean something. But no right is natural; all rights are instituted by a collective will. Forcing people to vote is simply forcing people to acknowledge that no institution is without a cost. Jehovah Witnesses have no good reason not to vote: God doesn’t speak to them in a more direct fashion that He is speaking to us. Not voting is not a method of dissent at all unless it is done publicly and done in a political system where not voting is illegal. Not voting is simply passivity and passivity is hardly a method for achieving anything except if one is able persuasively to argue that his action of voting would involve a pollution that should be avoided.

Cueball Cueball's picture

quote:


Originally posted by kropotkin1951:
[b]Yes we should just forget when you come on here and make groundless claims to support your arguments. Your debating technique is a wonder to behold I can't understand why people get frustrated and sometimes angry with you. That was sarcastic in case you didn't get it.[/b]

Damn straight! I was so wrong. It not illegal to vote "informally" in Australia. Its just illegal for me to [b]advocate[/b] for voting informally.

quote:

On election day concern was raised about unauthorisedmaterial being distributed outside a polling place in theBurwood District. [b]Election material was being distributedby a group called 'Vote Informal Today, DemocracyTomorrow'. The material was advocating an informal vote. [/b]Victoria[b] police [/b]were asked to intervene and collected this material from outside the Elgar Park polling place.

[url=http://74.125.95.104/search?q=cache:B9_S1CQ-rSgJ:www.tallyroom.vic.gov.a... Election Commission[/url]

quote:

Albert Langer (also known as Arthur Dent[1]) is an Australian political activist,[b] best known for his 1996 conviction and gaoling on contempt charges after breaching an injunction forbidding his advocacy of marking electoral ballot papers in a way discouraged by the Australian Electoral Commission[/b]. As a result of his imprisonment Amnesty International declared him the first Australian prisoner of conscience for over 20 years.[2]

[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Langer]Albert Langer[/url]

The only groundless claim being forwarded here is the idea that you are an Anarchist.

[ 05 November 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]

Fidel

Our two old line parties in Canada prefer low voter turnouts. We can understand why those two parties would defend the right to voluntarily exclude ones' self from the democratic process.

CMOT Dibbler

Why is voting wrong?

[ 05 November 2008: Message edited by: CMOT Dibbler ]

[ 05 November 2008: Message edited by: CMOT Dibbler ]

Cueball Cueball's picture

In fact, given that advocating for "informal voting" can get you jail time in Australia, I would say that it is morally a duty to advocate for spoiling ones ballot.

Benoit

quote:


Originally posted by Cueball:
[b]

It not illegal to vote "informally" in Australia. [/b]


To me spoiling a ballot and not going to the poll are two very different things. The first should not be made illegal but the second should be illegal.

Cueball Cueball's picture

You are going to have the police ticketing homeless people for not voting, and harrassing hermits in their caves. Are you people for fucking real?

You are all just a bunch of snotty busy-bodies. You should get out of everyones life and keep your lousy elections to yourself.

You are just completely obsessed with the idea that you have the right to determine what is right for eveyone else, and stick you business whereever you like. People have a right to reject the system. People have a right to have a moral conscience and act on it.

If you want people to vote for your godamned NDP halfwit party, [i]convince them to do it[/i]. Don't force the to the altar of your misconception. All you are admitting really is that you are not convincing.

[ 05 November 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]

Fidel

No fear, Canada's two old line parties also defend the right to exclude ones' self from having a physical-geographical address.

Benoit

quote:


Originally posted by Cueball:
[b]You are going to have the police ticketing homeless people for not voting, and harrassing hermits in their caves. Are you people for fucking real?[/b]

Try to discharge your own rage without pretending that you care about homeless people then you will begin to see that voting is the best catharsis.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Try not to be insufferable.

By the way, I have been "homeless". Have you, ever?

[ 05 November 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]

Fidel

If they bothered to know where homeless people live in order to register to vote, they might have to send them GST cheques and income supplements. Bad idea. Our dated electoral system works well enough to keep them away from the polls.

Cueball Cueball's picture

One of "them" is presently living in my back yard, doodly-pops. Get a life.

Benoit

quote:


Originally posted by Cueball:
[b]Try not to be insufferable.

By the way, I have been "homeless". Have you, ever?

[ 05 November 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ][/b]


What really matters is that you maybe always tasteless but you will never be stateless.

[ 05 November 2008: Message edited by: Benoit ]

Benoit

error

[ 05 November 2008: Message edited by: Benoit ]

Cueball Cueball's picture

Nothing more tasteless than "psychologizing", really, my friend. I'll tell you who and what I care about. We can start there.

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by Cueball:
[b]One of "them" is presently living in my back yard, doodly-pops. Get a life.[/b]

That's pretty big of someone who isn't very. Good for you, lad. I'll bet you even pay him the time of day when you can afford it.

Benoit

quote:


Originally posted by Cueball:
[b]my friend[/b]

My friend, John McCain was very afraid of ACORN.

[url=http://www.acorn.org/index.php?id=2755]http://www.acorn.org/index.php?id...

Cueball Cueball's picture

Can you stay on topic. Thanks.

Cueball Cueball's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Fidel:
[b]

That's pretty big of someone who isn't very. Good for you, lad. I'll bet you even pay him the time of day when you can afford it.[/b]


Fuck you.

Actually the guy works for me on and off, and recently his crazy room mate came after him with a butcher knife and he's out of his place. So yeah, I pay him more than what the NDP thinks is a good minimum wage when I can. He asked to stay in my back yard while he is looking for a place.

Speaking of which, aside from "Liberal/Dippers, same old slippers", do you have a couch he could stay on because I am full up? PM me you address and I will send him right over.

[ 05 November 2008: Message edited by: Cueball ]

Benoit

ACORN knows how to transform the homeless in your backyard into a guardian of your property.

Cueball Cueball's picture

You mean like a dog?

Benoit

quote:


Originally posted by Cueball:
[b]You mean like a dog?[/b]

guardian

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