by borna_daneshkia on September 13, 2016 - 10:19am
In his article Why Mandatory Voting is a Good Fit, Andrew Coyne insists that mandatory voting is one easy, cost-effective way to improve our democracy. And since not every eligible voter goes to the poll to vote (in the 2015 federal elections the turnout reached 68%), the vote results are not representative of the whole population.
The author then compares mandatory voting with the success of the last national census: with an outstanding 97.8% response rate, Statistic Canada's 2016 census was mandatory, unlike the 2011 one, which got 68% response rate. Then again, he cites Australia as a country that has mandatory voting, and which gets turnouts of roughly 98% at the polls.
Moreover, according to Coyne, young people and aboriginal people, among others, tend to go vote the less as ''voters tend to be older, richer and whiter than non-voters'' so we need them to voice their opinion by voting.
On the other hand, Coyne rejects that mandatory voting puts a toll on our freedom, because voting only consists of putting an X on a paper every four years. He also clarifies that voters can always leave the ballot blank. As for the argument that obligatory voting would force ignorant and apathetic persons to vote and thus spoil the elections' outcome, his response is that democracy is for everyone, and not exclusive to the well-informed and better-educated. To conclude, the author says that although it is not the only reform we need, as this will not cure our democracy, it would create a ''climate where voting is the norm-not just a civic obligation ''.
Now, on an ethical standpoint, the issue of mandatory voting is one that generates conflict between two main values or ethical principles, autonomy and the greater good. First, some may argue that voting should not be considered as a civic duty, but rather a civic right. Also, voting becomes irrelevant if it is done only by means of obligation. And if voting freely in a democratic system is using freedom of speech, we should also be free not to voice our political opinion, since freedom of speech includes freedom not to speak. However, these problems become irrelevant because the voter can still opt for a blank or spoilt ballot. Mandatory voting, on the other hand, would ensure that everybody in our society is concerned about our democracy. As the turnout at the polls would increase, the final votes would be more legitimate and representative of the population.
For all these reasons, I believe mandatory voting would be one effective way to improve upon our democratic system. As we have seen, it does not restrict our freedom, nor it forces us to pick a candidate. It is only a matter of encouraging people to go to the polls and participate in the process.
Reference: COYNE, Andrew. Why mandatory voting is a good fit. Montreal Gazette. September 10, 2016.