Compulsory Voting Essay
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Voter turnout in America is not very high, especially in elections this previous decade. Because of this, alternative perspectives are being examined to see if a change in the voting process needs to occur. There have been calls to switch to a compulsory voting system, but that is the topic of much debate. Usually, the assumption is that a high voter turnout is better for democracy and enhances the views of the people. However, according to an article written by Ben Saunders, this is not always the case.
Ben Saunders believes that the government instituting compulsory voting will not result in a democratic process and country. Saunders believes that democracy only requires an opportunity for everyone to vote, not necessarily everyone voting. Saunders argues that those who do not seek to vote in an election may do so because they are not affected by the outcome. There are people who simply do not care about elections or are ill informed about the candidates and who to vote for. If people who have no stake in the system start voting, this could actually hurt the democratic process, as the outcome will still not be reflective of the people’s desires. Saunders is also opposed to the notion of coercion in the voting systems, as he sees this as inherently undemocratic, even if applied to voting. Not everyone has a stake in every issue, so forcing everyone to vote on these issues would skew the voting results away from the best course of action (Saunders 2010). In the end, Saunders’ argument is that more votes do not equal better representation of the people, which is primarily why he is against the concept of compulsory voting.
The idea that compulsory voting creates a more informed populous is not always the case. In an article written by Shane Singh, which analyzed the effectiveness of compulsory voting systems, the results showed that voter turnout increases do not lead to any less feeling of apathy about the political system. The data supports that forcing people to vote does increase participation, especially when there are severe punishments should someone not vote. However, the idea that this will lead to the people being more informed is not always the case (Singh 2010). Even the article written by Clara Fischer, who strongly disagrees with Saunders about compulsory voting, believes that the enforcement of voting is unlikely to create a more informed populous. According the Fischer, “Claims that mere enforcement of voting cannot fully address the kind of alienation that leads citizens to abstain from voting in the first place (Fischer 40).” While Fischer does not agree that those who do not vote have less stake in the outcomes of election, she still admits that this does not cure the level of informed voting. Compulsory voting just insures all people have a say in the electoral process, which Fischer believes is fundamental to a democracy (Fischer 2011).
If a state like Texas were to institute mandatory voting laws, unlike any other state, it would give the views of Texas a disproportionate amount of influence relative to the other states in elections. Texas voters would be targeted more by political candidates in national elections, and they would likely have more of their views represented in the national interests than any other state. This is because there would be more votes to win, as compulsory voting does increase voter turnout. As Texas is already a large state, they would have even more influence on the national stage. This would be problematic for democracy in America because not all votes would be equal. This is why if compulsory voting were to be done, it should be done at a national level, not an individual state-by-state basis.
Saunders, Ben. "The Democratic Turnout ‘Problem’." Political Studies 60 (2010): 306-20. Print.
Singh, Shane. "How Compelling Is Compulsory Voting?" Political Behavior 33 (2010): 95-111. Print.
Fischer, Clara. "Compulsory Voting and Inclusion: A Response to Saunders." Political Studies Association 31.1 (2011): 37-41. Print.
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