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Voting in National Elections Should be Compulsory Not Optional

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It was in 1928 that universal suffrage had been granted in the United Kingdom. Prior to that time, people fought to have the right to vote so their opinions could be voiced, yet now we have that right, voting does not seem so significant. Before deciding whether voting should be compulsory or optional, understanding what exactly is meant by the term ‘compulsory voting’ is essential. It is also important to educate the general public more about politics so they can make an informed decision if and when they do choose to vote. Finally, there should be a comparison with other countries which currently enforce compulsory voting to better understand how it would work.

The term ‘compulsory voting’ is a misnomer as it is impossible to monitor whether everyone has voted or not, considering it is a secret ballot; it is merely the attendance that is compulsory. Lever (2008) believes that if voting were an obligation, then the right not to vote would be violated. However, as voting is confidential, the right not to vote is still maintained at the polling station (Lacroix, 2007; Engelen, 2009), where people may choose to cast a blank vote, so those who are not in favour of compulsory voting cannot argue that it is a breach of human rights. As Lacroix goes on to explain, compulsory voting does not go against article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, or article 3 in the First Additional Protocol, further emphasising how this cannot be used as an argument by those against compulsory voting. To ensure that basic rights are not violated, ‘a blank option can and should be provided on the ballot...and an additional ‘none of the above’ option should be added’ (Engelen, 2009:219), which would allow the voter’s opinion...

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Engelen, B. (2009), ‘Why liberals can favour compulsory attendance’, Politics, Vol. 29, No. 3, pp 218-22

Faulks, K. (2001), ‘Should voting be compulsory?’, Politics Review, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp 24-25

Heywood, A. (2007), Politics, London: Palgrave MacMillan

IDEA (2002), Voter turnout since 1945: A global report. Available from: http://www.idea.int/publications/vt/upload/VT_screenopt_2002.pdf (Accessed 29 Nov 2009)

IDEA (2009), Compulsory Voting. Available from: http://www.idea.int/vt/compulsory_voting.cfm (Accessed 18 Nov 2009)

Kavanagh, D. (1983), Political Science and Political Behaviour, London: Allen and Unwin

Lacroix, J. (2007), ‘A liberal defence of compulsory voting’, Politics, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp 190-195

Lever, A. (2008), ‘“A liberal defence of compulsory voting”: Some reasons for scepticism’, Politics, Vol. 28, No. 1, pp 61-64
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