Should Voting in State and National Elections be Compulsory?

Elections have, over the years, been a central activity in the calendar of most nations. The actual activity of going to the polling station is seen as part of an individual’s civic right that should be practiced by all eligible voters. While there are liberal politicians who believe that voting in state or national elections should be a personal decision, others firmly believe that elections should be made compulsory. Such extreme views on the subject often stem from the fact that elections are central to the future of any country and should therefore be treated with the seriousness that they deserve. The United State has hit the headlines in the past decade over a perennial plague of apathy amongst the voters and reports of low voter-turnout across the country (Brennan & Hill, 2014, p. 30). Political pundits attribute this to a common perception among eligible voters where they seem to assume that voting during election season is an optional practice giving them an opportunity to skip the whole process. I, on the other hand, opine that voting is not a choice, but rather a duty that needs to be fulfilled by all eligible voters. In this argumentative essay, I will give reasons why voting should be made compulsory together with a rebuttal on why some disagree with this sentiment.

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Firstly, compulsory voting will drastically increase voter turnout in both state and national elections. It is vital for voters to understand the unique opportunity that they have to cast a vote and elect a leader of their own choosing during an election. Such privilege does not exist in all nations. There are countries presently under dictators, such as Sudan’s Omar El-Bashir or North Korea’s Kim Jung-Un where elections are unheard of.  In such countries, the rulers basically treat their jurisdiction as a private fiefdom where they can give decrees or arbitrarily suspend laws as they please. Those under this yoke of oppression admire the opportunities that those in Western countries such as the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Germany enjoy in electing their leaders. A compulsory system of voting will serve as a firm reminder to those enjoy the luxury of electing their own leaders that it is a duty that they need to take seriously (Malkopoulou, 2015). A case in point is that of Australia which instituted its compulsory vote order in 1924. Prior to this decision, only 49% of the eligible voters turned up to vote but the implementation of these new requirements was responsible for the 99% turn out witnessed in years that followed.

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Compulsory voting in state and national elections will also improve the legitimacy of an elected party. There is no doubt that any country that experiences low voter turnout during elections also has a large segment of their population expressing parochial feelings and dissatisfaction. In addition to these sentiments, the dissent expressed is usually placed against the backdrop of persons who deem a regime illegitimate based on the number of people whom turned to vote. Running such a country successfully requires concerted efforts since there are those who already believe that the leadership occupies their respective seats illegally and cannot live up to the promises that they had made. Instituting a mandatory order on elections will help deal with this issue by having a majority of the country’s population participate ensuring that any party or coalition that wins also gains legitimacy in the eyes of its people. The current situation where voting is optional sets a dangerous precedent that they may one day come back to haunt democracy.  Only a minority who are similarly elected by a minority are eventually elected to leadership positions placing the majority at a great disadvantage. They are virtually cut off from matters politics and cannot participate fully, lessening their representation and essentially locking them out of government business.

Making elections compulsory will reduce the amount of money required to run campaigns. Across the world, political parties spend millions of dollars during lengthy electioneering periods. These large sums of cash sometime run in the billions and are a requirement for logistical purposes. Having already established that most eligible voters choose to skip the process, campaign managers often admit to spending heavily during this period to ensure that all potential voters are on board and would make deliberate efforts towards voting. Money, therefore, occupies a central role in political matters and can end up determining the fate of candidates even before beginning the campaign trail (White, Young, & Great Britain, 2017). Candidates with limited financial abilities usually have it rough during these periods due to limited choices when seeking to reach the electorate. On the other hand, politicians backed by billionaires have an easier time since they now have an opportunity to reach a broader demographic. If elected, they are then swayed and controlled by their benefactors into granting concessions and rooting for bills that will place them at an advantage.  Compulsory voting will change this situation where votes will be fully aware of the electoral process, dramatically reducing the amount of money required to run a campaign successfully.

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Even with all the benefits that accrue from compulsory voting, there are those who view it as an affront to their democratic right. Detractors of this paradigm shift criticise it based on the fact that an increased number of voters will also mean an increase in uniformed fellows during the polls. These are persons who are mostly uninformed in matters of national interest but are forced to participate even when it is succinct that they profess political ignorance. Moreover, misleading these uninformed voters becomes an easy task, especially when money is involved. Politicians are also to blame in such a situation since they would avoid this majority and focus their attention on marginal voters. The majority end up with a voice that is dampened which makes it difficult for them to voice concerns about how the country is run. Others even believe that compulsory voting is an ethical challenge since it is an outrage of the individual liberty that those in democratic counties have always enjoyed.

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In conclusion, a case for making elections compulsory point to the benefits that it brings. With it is a high voter turnout, a reduction in the amount of money spent on campaigns and improves the legitimacy of elected officials.  Even though there are those who are against this system, I still believe that it would be the best option for countries that embrace democracy.

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