Should Voting Be Mandatory?

Should Voting Be Mandatory?

All told, there are an estimated 744 million people who live in nations with compulsory voting laws in 22 countries like Brazil, Egypt, Greece, Mexico, and Thailand. Most of these nations require citizens to vote starting at age 18, with some allowing for the cessation of compulsory voting at retirement age, around 65. Some countries like Australia fine citizens who do not vote, $20 without a valid and sufficient reason for not voting.

In the US, there is only about 1/3 of the nation who routinely votes in any elections throughout the year, and most stay away from the polls until years like this, where there is a president to be decided. With so much going on in the political arena, and voter fraud, people being denied access to vote, and extremely low voter turn out, should voting be made compulsory?

I think it should. If we can make something like jury duty compulsory and for that you have to essentially give up a days pay or more with little compensation, to ensure that juries remain fair, balanced, and a jury of ones peers, one should also have to do the bare minimum which is stop in for a few minutes and cast a ballot before or after work or school.

We have 100 news channels dedicated to people complaining about the problems in this country. You have a million internet sites including a fair portion of GaG where people rally so hard about this or that problem that must be solved and by which candidate, but let's cut to November, and find out how many of those same people will have actually put foot to ground, and voted. I gather, not that many. How can you complain about something and feel so passionate about something or a cause, and then when you have the chance to do something about it, your choice is to do nothing? That says to me you aren't serious at all and you just like to squawk and make a lot of noise rather than effect any sort of change. I mean, if you aren't going to run yourself, the very least you can do is vote for someone who can. This routine lack of action at the voting booth makes those same people part of the very problems they discuss, not the solution.

A president is not the only thing a person can vote for. One could successfully argue that they have far less of an impact on our lives than we give them credit for. It is our local governments, those politicians that can and do impact our local police, construction, education, laws, etc. that should be more concerning to us, and yet, so many merely roll over and go about their lives come election day and then see fit to complain non-stop when the same pot holes don't get fixed, or a fire department can't get the funding it needs, or the city tries to annex another neighborhood, or raise property taxes. Where were you when you had the chance to elect people in your corner?

Again, if we can mandate jury duty, we should mandate this most powerful civic duty, which is to vote. So many people have lived and died and continue to live and die for the freedoms a lot of us just callously throw away. We want others to be responsible for what is happening to us in our world, and yet, we often times leave those decisions to the wind, or see fit to complain about biases in who votes, yet we don't participate.


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What Guys Said 48

  • I live in Brazil and I wish that voting wasn't mandatory here. I think that only the ones who really understand what they're doing would vote. It's a mess! Many people vote for a party for congress and for the president of an opposite party! How the fuck do they expect the president to run the country voting for oppositors? There are many idiots who vote with no idea about what they're doing when voting is mandatory.

    Of course that there would be idiots voting if it wasn't mandatory, but there would be less. I think that only people who really care about being a citizen, about having the power to decide the future of the nation would vote and it could give us better rulers.

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  • I believe that forcing people to vote is highly undemocratic. Having the freedom to vote also includes the freedom to abstain voting - for whatever reason that may be.
    On a statistical level, I don't think such laws make a significant political difference because the former non-voters would more or less equally distribute themselves along the political spectrum.

    As for jury duty, I completely agree with @Fathoms77. We also used to have mandatory jury duty in Switzerland until it was disestablished a few years ago. Mandatory jury duty for random amateurs is silly and in some cases even dangerous. It's archaic and highly anachronistic. We don't live in the 18th century anymore where you pulled legal judgements out of your butt. Court cases are extremely complicated and intricate these days and there's a good reason criminal lawyers and judges have to go through years of university education. Even for them, some cases can feel overwhelming. To make a little analogy: no sane person would ever come on the idea that amateurs should have a mandatory hospital-day where they perform surgeries. Neither would anyone come on the idea of letting random amateurs teach a class of college students. A few hundred years ago, such things would have been acceptable because the "masters" did not always know more than the amateurs. But those days have long gone and there are countless cases in American legal history where people got wrongly punished for a crime they had not committed (in some case with the death penalty) because amateur jurors believed them to be guilty.

    To return to voting one more time: if you feel frustrated about the lack of political interest in your society, I can totally understand that. However, you can't raise the political interest by making voting mandatory. There is a very different way however: a change of the system.
    As you might know, my country Switzerland is the only country in the world that has direct democracy. I won't go into all the details of the system here but in essence, we get to vote about 4-5 times per year, (3-5 different issues per voting date) about all the important laws we want to set for ourselves. These can be laws the government made (any important law needs the approval of the people) or a new law proposed by any private citizen or group of people. Now, I'm not here to uncritically praise direct democracy. There are also some downsides. But one huge advantage I can easily see compared to

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    • our neighbors in their representative democracies is that Swiss people are not only more interested in politics, they also tend to be much better informed (this feeling of mine was also confirmed by foreign friends). Even young people are quite knowledgable about what's currently going on in politics compared to young people in Germany, France or the US. One important reason for this is because people feel like they're actually a part of the process. In a direct democracy, your voice gets heard - not just when deciding on a person but when deciding on individual, political issues.
      Another advantage of our direct democracy that would be very beneficial for the US in particular is that it tends to bring people closer together and decrease the political polarization. One huge reason why Switzerland didn't turn fascist in WW2 while almost all our neighbors did was that Swiss people didn't experience the political frustration of the Germans. We felt like we can still talk to each other.

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    • Oh no worries, the conversation was a while back. Anyway, yes, I felt like my vote meant absolutely nothing that year when the whole explanation of that system came to light. Yes, they say, its based on your vote and those in the college represent that vote (frankly I'm still confused), but the middle man is not needed.

    • You can be forced to show up at the polling station and receive a bulletin, but you can't be forced to vote. Thus it is not undemocratic.

  • Then you have people writing in names because they hate the people presented or people voting for what ever name they see first because they simply do not care. Further more when it comes to presidential elections a persons vote doesn't count so it would be utterly worthless to waste ones time on it. That's why we have blue states and red states, its not that those states are all one party or the other (the two party system itself is a terrible and corrupt system to begin with which we would be forced to endorse if forced to vote) its because of gerrymandering where the dominant party in that region dictates the division of voting districts and then to ensure they always win that state they divide it up in bizarre ways to ensure they always have the majority of the electoral college (which we have no control over hence the US being a republic not a democracy). So making it mandatory isn't going to solve anything and in fact will just add more problems. If you want more people to vote figure out why they don't whether its inconvience, their apolitical (meaning they are out right apathetic to it and thus will never care) or because their vote doesn't count (its only in swing states that some ones vote actually carries any weight but even then all the other states are red or blue so your still forced to vote for one of two parties simply because they have essentially bought the system out preventing any one else from competeing.) or our governmental system is so corrupt that they feel it won't even matter because who they vote for will either ignore them or be some one they voted for only because they liked the other one even less. Figure out why they don't vote and then solve that problem and people will start voting, force them to do it and they won't take it seriously and it will only cause more problems.

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  • I mean, I get what you're saying, but trust me, there are some people (raises hand: guilty) who you DO NOT want voting because we have absolutely no interest in politics and no idea what we're doing. I say leave the voting to the professionals, to those who actually research candidates and are passionate about politics. Cause if you force us all to vote, let's be honest, a lot of people are just gonna pick a random candidate without putting thought into it.

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  • Freedom is freedom. It means if I choose not to vote, nobody can force me.

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    • .. and yet we "force you" to serve on a jury or at least go to jury duty... why do you do that if freedom is freedom?

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    • Off topic a bit, but...

      ... random fools? Honestly? You, I take it, consider yourself a random fool then incapable of passing judgement based on a set of facts and evidence? I surely do not want some system of a select few, who's criteria would be subject, being the sole deciders of every trial in this country. That street kid on trial might need some "random fool" who's from his neighborhood to understand what he's going through in the same way some corporate exec may need "some random fool" who knows what the business world is all about to help decide their case. Freedom has always had a price, and unless people get out and vote and/or get laws like mandatory jury duty, if you're so inclined, struck down, than the situations we're in will continue.

    • "You, I take it, consider yourself a random fool then incapable of passing judgement based on a set of facts and evidence?"

      Correct. Even if I was, it should be my right to opt out.

      We are no longer a society comprised of people capable of judging others and assigning punishment for crimes. Many jurors today can barely run their own lives. At the very least, there should be an education minimum for those who wish to serve on a jury, or there should simply be elected officials, as there are at every other level and in every other aspect of any governmental proceeding. The masses certainly aren't capable of something this important, that's for damn sure.

  • Nope. And if they made it mandatory I still wouldn't do it. I quit voting several years ago. That's not entirely true though. I go in and vote against all taxes without reading them, then skip everything else. It's been several years since I voted on any political candidate. If there are no tax levies I don't go at all.

    By the way, I started ignoring jury duty also.

    Bottom line is that I gave up on the system. I have zero faith in it. I have zero faith that the problems in this country will be solved, because I see no route for getting there. Not working within the system anyway.

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    • Just curious... do you have warrants out for you for dodging jury duty or have you ever been fined?

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    • That's interesting. Of the times I've gone to federal court, they have acted like those that do not show up are criminals themselves issuing fines and warrants. The lesser courts, I would agree, they are pretty much like meh, whatever. I got out of jury duty a lot because of school, but the minute I left, yeah, it was like every year, I got a summons until they changed the process to basically once you serve or show up for duty, you're on hold for like 2 years before you "have to" come back. They claim the call list comes from DL and voting records. Obviously they assume if you vote, you're civic minded, but DL can be anyone.

    • I've never been called to federal court, and I haven't heard of anyone who has. I'm curious if they enforce it more. All the courts bluster about how it's your civic duty, and the law, and fines, etc. But I've never heard of them actually doing anything about it. I've never gotten so much a followup letter after ignoring the original one.

      In California ( it might have changed) they also let you off the hook for two years, but only if you actually served. Just going in, or even going through the selection process didn't count.

      Lol, if I ever served on a jury I'd probably get arrested myself. I'm not very good at keeping my mouth shut. Once the lawyers started their BS games and doing their best to twist the truth, I'd probably blurt something out. The system is very seriously broken and I'll fight against it.

  • I don't believe it should be mandatory for everyone, but I believe that you should have to earn the right to vote, so you take it more seriously. I keep being reminded of this movie which came out years ago called "Starship Troopers" where you had to actually join the military and serve just to be a citizen and earn the right to vote. I keep thinking more and more as the years go by that something like this should be put into place so individuals don't take their freedoms for granted or the privileges they have.

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    • I remember that movie. Well there are also a lot of countries where for men AND women, military service is mandatory, but it doesn't often have anything to do with voting rights. I just think if we're going to say voting is so important as is jury duty, than let's make it so. Let's say we value it so much, that it is mandatory. Obviously just like jury duty, there should be reasons why some people are allowed off like school, taking care of someone who can't care for themselves, etc., but that still leaves a huge populous that don't have those restrictions.

    • I agree, but I believe it still should be something that we earn and not just are given, because something given has no value, which was also said in the movie I references. Something given isn’t valued, it is taken for granted, and not exercised, but if you have to earn something, then it becomes personally important to you and you’ll exercise that privilege you’ve earned more since you had to work for it. I don’t believe citizenship or the ability to vote should be easy to obtain. I believe it should be something you have to work hard to be able to do; to earn the ‘right’ to have that ability. Like you say, if it is important, then let’s make it really important, and get rid of this mindset that the only reason individuals attend jury duty, is because they were too stupid to not get out of it. And that’s not how it should be. The mindset should be that they feel obligated and privileged to be able to serve or vote.

    • Fair points

  • No. If it was mandatory more people would vote just based on lack of knowledge (it's too many already). Especially in countries that has more than two capable parties it would result only in the biggest ones being voted more because it is in a way a "brand" that they can remember and thus vote.

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    • Exactly my point. Forcing people to vote will make elections just as bad as having them not voting.
      Trust me, on the last elections there were a lot frankly ignorant people voting, and a party who is just against all others, without any specifical idea about anything got 23% of the vote, just 6% less than the winner alliance and 4% less then the second placed alliance of parties.

  • No, absolutely not. If voting is mandatory I'll just vote for both candidates instead of voting for neither, which will achieve the same thing. Candidates will just use this to their advantage. They'll start rewarding people who vote for them. South park did a great episode on this.

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  • For me, it shouldn't. It basically violates everyone's freedom. And I say that because voting is mandatory in Brazil, and that's probably the only reason why I wasted my vote in one of the pieces of garbage that ran for president in 2014, even if I didn't liked both of them.

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    • How does the general population, in your opinion of course, feel about mandatory voting?

    • I feel that they don't like it. There are people that actually skip voting, even if they need to pay a small fee because of it. There are situations that you just don't agree with any politician, I think you should have the right to stay at home instead of blank voting.

  • I disagree with you on this. I'm not sure there's anything to be gained by forcing people who are otherwise too lazy or disinterested to vote. Almost by definition, those people aren't going to care enough to become informed on the issues. If they don't appreciate the value of their right to vote, why force them to value it? I think it's much better for an election to be decided by people who are actually serious enough to care.

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  • Hard call - I don't know if it would enthuse the electorate - On one side you could say the more hardcore get represented in non mandatory election but on the other hand the conviction is somewhat diluted by people voting for the sake of it in mandatory elections - There are so many ifs and buts, if the weather is good, people are less likely to queue to vote in bad weather - There is a lot of interest in this election, it could be a high turnout or even a low turnout because people dislike two main candidates - I am not totally sure but I think I would not be in favour of it

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  • I still have never voted, never seen anyone worth voting for. Dosent really help when all options are either insane or stupid, which certainly can be said for the current election in the states with Trump and Hillary, although I dont quite get that one, like you can still vote for other people right?, why does it have to be Hillary or Trump?, otherwise again. Mandatory voting would be further pointless if you can't even choose who you wanna vote for.

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  • I agree and disagree at the same time. I'm against the fact that people do not use their own right to vote, but at the same time I'm also against the fact that a lot of people do vote and SHOULDN'T have the right to.
    You can be a democrat, a fascist or a communist for what I care, I can disagree with you, but as long as your opinions make some sorta of sense and are accurately analyzed through numbers and facts, then I cannot say "You shouldn't vote."
    But let's face it. Most people who votes do not even know the exact election promises of the parties they are voting for, especially in a non binary system like mine, where you have to choose among 20 parties each time at least, and just hear what other persons say about things.

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  • No I have to disagree on forcing people to vote, voting is a right and it's your right to vote or not vote you may not be making a smart choice by not voting but it's your right to make that free choice and I will not violate that right, voting is a right not a forced obligation.

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  • No. The countries listed as examples of mandatory voting aren't models of good government. It serves no good purpose to force people to vote if they don't think it makes any difference. There will be lots of bad unintended consequences if this ever became law.

    And the whole, "If you don't vote, you can't complain," idea is nonsense. A more apt quote is, "If you vote, you're responsible for bad government."

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  • This phrase "if you don't vote, you can't complain" holds some kind of insane troll logic.

    I mean, imagine if someone would give you 2 piles of shit, one is horse's shit, another one is bull's shit and would force you to eat one out of two.
    When you start complaining you don't want to eat shit to begin with, that person responds "if you don't eat, you can't complain".

    Supporters of this phrase, c'mon, throw some constructive arguments at me, I dare you.

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    • That was perhaps the worst analogy I've ever heard.

      Since we're into giving analogies... lets use one that actually makes sense in reality. If you are a police officer and one candidate is really for helping get more cops on the streets, raising wages, getting better equipment, and the other thinks the system which routinely leaves citizens who call into 9-1-1 waiting for help for longer than usual and cops without new equipment to replace the old and faulty... and that cop decides not to vote for candidate a or b, and b wins... what right has he or she to continue to complain about their situation if candidate b does as they promised, and allocates their funds to something else essentially ignoring the problem. You had a chance to help yourself and fellow cops, but you chose to do nothing and now, you complain. What are you complaining about then and for what reason?

    • What is complaining about a problem you have the ability to actual fix do? Oh my, there's a hole in my fence, the dog might get out, let me just complain about it and complain about it and hope he doesn't run out. No, you get up and fix it because you have the power to do something to prevent the dog from running away, or in the case of an actual vote, to have someone in power on your side advocating for your rights and needs as a citizen.

    • You kinda lost me at the very beginning by saying this is a bad analogy; further reading made me confused, as it doesn't make any sense in context of what I've just criticized.

      You want to eat (to vote), you're given 2 piles of shit (2 candidates), you refuse to eat it (you don't vote); you're forbidden to complain you're hungry and there's no decent food available, asides from shit (decent candidates)?

  • Mandatory voting also implies one thing: every idiot has to vote, and every corrupt politician will promise them money or some kind of benefit in order to get that vote (yes, it becomes as openly filthy as it can get).
    Dont think for a second this will be a good thing. The biggest threat to democracy is stupid and iliterate people in large numbers. And boy, will politicians try to multiply those...

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  • Oh i can complain all the fuck i want. Many other countries are far past the US in terms of voting procedure and policy. It's sad really especially when you have candidates who don't talk policy but rather tear each other down.

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  • More from Guys
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What Girls Said 14

  • I don't believe it should be mandatory. I feel like all citizens *should* vote but no one should be forced to. I can agree though that if someone doesn't vote, they shouldn't complain about the outcome. If I know someone doesn't vote (and I do know some people who never do), I don't take their complaints seriously.

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  • No. At first I was worried that if they can find out if you vote it wouldn't take much to find out who you voted for, leading to potential retribution if the party you voted against gained power.

    But then I realized that I have to sign a list when I get a ballot so compulsory voting wouldn't change much as far as that goes.

    Now my argument against it is the simple fact that if someone can't be bothered to vote of their own volition they probably can't be bothered to research the various candidates and state constitutional amendments appearing on the ballot. We might as well count the ballots then add the results from a random number generator to each candidate/measure before announcing the outcome.

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  • There are benefits and drawbacks of both I suppose.
    Here in Australia it is mandatory, and while the fine is initially only $20, it's still a big deal and the government chases you up about it too.
    I would be very interested to see if anything changes if it was no longer compulsory in Australia to vote.

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  • Here in Australia it's compulsory to. If you don't, expect a maximum fine of $180 (plus court costs). That's if the matter is dealt with by the court, and a criminal conviction may be recorded against your name :( so much for freedom

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  • People who are compelled to vote but don't want to vote often just vote for the first candidate. That's known as the "donkey vote" in Australia, and it biasses the outcome of the poll towards candidates with names like Mr Aardvark or Mrs Abacus. Secondly, not voting does not stop you complaining. If politicians are incompetent or corrupt or anything else you don't like, you have every right to complain to anyone who will listen!

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  • The first piece says it all "If you don't vote you can't complain". As for forcing people to vote thats a little extreme.

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  • Yes you should but you should be able to abstain.

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  • No it shouldn't. I don't want some uneducated idiot to come vote for someone without knowing what or who they're voting for.

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  • First of all, I'm completely against government forcing you to do anything. That isn't freedom.
    Second, mandatory voting is idiotic. A great deal of people do not like politics, or simply don't care, and don't want to get involved. In either case, you are saying that people who probably don't know what they're voting for should vote. That is a terrible idea. It's saying that you should force millions of uninformed people make a meaningful choice.

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  • Why do people want the govt. To have so much power? Jury duty is stupid too. Why choose people randoms to dictate thr future of someones life? It should be a actual job or something.

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  • Do you believe in voter ID laws?

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  • No it shouldn't.

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  • People like me who know a lot about politics should vote for someone who might do the best.
    Many who don't know a hill of beans about politics, should sit home.

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  • Nope shouldn't be, but I agree if you don't vote you cannot complain.

    Also here we get paid for jury duty.

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