Compulsory voting in the UK ? Yes, please.

Posted: May 1st, 2006 | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

The BBC is reporting on the Institute for Public Policy Research’s latest report which suggests that voting be made compulsory in the UK. While some may try to dissmiss such a suggestion on the grounds that it infringes civil liberties, but consider the maths for a minute. With elections once every 5 years, life expectancy of 75 years and a minimum voting age of 18, one can realistically expect to have 11 occassions on which to cast one’s vote in a general election. It is pretty hard to argue that casting 11 votes in a lifetime would result in a measurable impact on person’s civil liberties. Democracy is not something that one can take for granted – those living in the UK are very fortunate in comparison to millions elsewhere in the world living under military rule, dictatorship, and other forms of oppressive government. Democracy as a succcessful form of governance has the idea of accountability as one of its core foundations – if they value democracy, the population has a duty to keep a check on its government; casting one’s vote at time of election is one of the few ways in which change may actually be effected. One vote may not appear to make a difference, but when that’s multiplied by the 40% (or more) of the population who typically fails to vote, it should be clear that really anything is possible. While compulsory voting may not solve voter apathy overnight, it ought to reinforce the message that democracy is something one must work to protect – that it is one’s duty to protect it – both for ourselves & future generations.

WikiPedia has a page on the subject of compulsory voting considering the pros & cons, and listing the places with compulsory voting today. There is an interesting fact at the end – the Massachussetts constitution of 1918 has an article giving the general court the power to enforce compulsory voting during elections, although its never chosen to exercise it yet.

BTW, for those who’ve asked – while I’d like to allow comments to be posted without needing a account, every time I’ve enabled anonymous posting in the past the spam-bots have gone wild :-( So they’ll have to remain registered users only I’m afraid. If you don’t want to register you can always email me, or reply via your own blog on Fedora Planet.

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