Most of the countries follow voting system for electing the representatives but people do not know what actually a voting system is. The voting system is basically electing a representative of one’s choice by casting a vote and giving the authority to the elected person to rule the country.Now, the debating issue is whether citizensshould be required by law to vote or not? Firstly, defining law, it is a set of rules recognized by a country for regulation of actions of its members and violation of the law results in penalties.
Sometimes, the imposition of law is necessary to keep the moral and ethical balance of the society in place but not every time the intervention of the law is encouraged by the people of the country. In the similar way, although, voting by law can help in representing all citizens of the country and citizens will be given equal right and opportunity to vote but voting by law violates freedom of choice that is people get bound to vote irrespective of the fact that they do not want to vote, voting by law does not guarantee effective voting and it is economically a costly measure.
Firstly, the fancy definition of Democratic government refers to “the rule of people over the country by the elected representatives.” Voting is civil right granted to citizens but voting by law shifts civil right to civil duty. Voting by law is not the only source of representing every citizen of the country as Cohen said “Just vote doesn’t express civic virtue; it’s sentimentality.”(1) Some people do not want to vote because of some personal, impersonal, political or representative’s issues.
Either they find it troublesome moving from home to polling station or they get ill on the day of election and are unable to go to the polling stations but the forceful invitation to polling station makes people aggressive and they lose interests in political issues as a revenge for such forceful act. Penalties just because of note voting seem like being penalized for no reasons and it results in making people depress, uncivil and immoral leading to disturbance in the peace, calmness and morality of the society.
According to Smith, “If Ornstein’s goal is to get only three percent of eligible American voters choosing “none of the above,” then he will also have to deal with 37 percent of uninformed, disinterested, and apathetic Americans being forced to cast ballots for candidates about whom they know little.” (5) The basic motive of introducing the voting system is to provide the opportunity of freedom of choice to the citizens but in fact compulsion of voting by law looks like while living in an independent country, people of that country are not free to go for their desired choices.
Secondly, people in favor of voting by law put forth the claim that everyone participates in elections. It is true but the question here arises that whether the participation of all the citizens proved effective? Either people are casting effective votes or invalid votes? Perryman answered to the question as, “The thing is, they’re [voters are] all required to vote, they don’t want to, and their votes will either be a donkey vote…” (2) Also, fear of getting penalized forces people to vote anyone or to use the option of voting none. Thus, increasing participation cannot lead to an effective participation as stated by Linker “Those aren’t people we should want to have a say: Compulsory voting won’t produce smarter policies — or smarter presidents,” (4). Hence, voting system should be effective not compulsory as 100% legitimacy is not sure by compulsory voting but is by effective voting. Increasing the number of voters is not a big achievement and is not so important but taking into account the people’s choice and electing a right person for governess of the country is of great importance. Hence, while using the force of law, one should keep in mind all the related perspectives and should use the right of imposing law effectively.
Thirdly, government needs greater amount of money for implementing voting by law. The government needs to set up huge polling stations, more equipment and greater staff allowing a large number of people to vote. Voting by law requires enlisting of people who do not take part in elections and even more resources are required to punish and recognize people and this is actually wastage of resources on the process that people did not want to occur. Hence, other measures should be taken for increasing turnout rather than using force and law. Voting people can be increased by holding elections for a week or so rather than frustrating the voters under the supervision and force of law.
Increasing time for voting can be helpful so that people feel ease in casting vote in their leisure time rather than adjusting time from their busy schedule and rushing towards polling station and casting votes randomly in order to get free from this act of imprisonment. Electronic devices and online systems can also be used to increase the effective participation and fair counting of votes. Supervision is also required for operating fair and just system so teams are required to carry out the process. Hence, one should be wise enough to allocate time, money and resources in some developing and progressive actions and measures rather than wasting such precious assets in useless processes and activities. Dealing with issues like lack of resources is necessary rather than allocating them in making voting compulsory by law.
Despite the corns of voting by law, there exits some pros of such process too. Voting by law gives everyone equal right and chance to share their opinions about the management, sovereignty and rule of the country. Voting by law reduces free riders who are non-voters and ride freely on the votes of votes without playing any part in maintaining the goodness of the country. It is immoral not to contribute in the progress of the country. As Lijphart puts it, “It must be remembered that nonvoting is a form of free riding – and that free riding of any kind may be rational but is also selfish and immoral. The normative objection to compulsory voting has an immediate intuitive appeal that is not persuasive when considered more carefully.” (3).
Lever further elaborates as “a democratic electoral system is a public good, in that all citizens get to benefit from it, even if they do nothing to contribute to it. Because it is a public good, it is possible to free-ride, or to enjoy the benefits of that good, without contributing oneself.”(4) So, compulsion of voting system makes every citizen a contributor and responsible citizen in the progress and development of the country. This will also be beneficial in the sense that instead of blaming government or any other person, people will be held accountable of choosing the wrong representative on their own. Thus, the trend of blaming others for one’s wrong act will be uprooted and people will be responsible themselves.
Keeping the above argument in account, it can be concluded that compulsory voting through law has positive as well as negative effects. Positive in the sense that voting by law allows every citizen to vote and if in case majority selects “vote for none” option then it is actually an opinion of them that they do not find any representative eligible to run the country and in this way, voting by law becomes a source of voice of every citizen. On the other hand, voting by law cannot be truly defined in terms of voice of everyone because all citizens include mentally retard persons who are eligible to vote but they are unable to express their opinions. Also, people will be penalized for no reasons. For instance, may be a student has a final exam the day after the election day so he may find it a time consuming activity which actually it is and he decides not to go for casting a vote because of crowded roads and polling station and he gets penalized for not voting. In this regard such type of penalty cannot be defined on justified grounds.
Also, if someone meets an accident while on the way to polling station, he will also get penalized for not voting. Thus, one should see both sides of the picture and one should be unbiased in deciding whether citizens should be required to vote by law or not? If yes, then to which extent, law should intervene in voting system and will it increase the country’s progress or not? If compulsion takes place, flexibility should be kept in mind. Also, law should not be involved so much in the citizens’ right that it actually gets involved in the personal lives of the people. So, one should be limited and wise enough to formulate laws and regulations keeping in view the satisfaction of citizens’ desires and boundaries of citizens right.
- Cohen, Rany. “ Must You Vote.” NOVEMBER 3, 2009. Web. 14 February 2017.
2) Harmsen, Nick. “ Why do we have compulsory voting?” 7 June 2016. Web. 14 February 2017.
3) LEVER, ANNABELLE. “Compulsory Voting: A Critical Perspective.” 14 May 2010. Web. 14 February 2017.
4) LEVER, ANNABELLE. “Compulsory Voting: A Critical Perspective.” 14 May 2010. Web. 14 February 2017.
5) SMITH, L., Fred. “A Case Against Mandatory Voting.” July 25, 2011. Web. 14 february 2017