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Autumn Regular Tournament: In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 9/24/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,273 times Debate No: 80077
Debate Rounds (4)
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This debate can only be accepted by thett3, if you are not thett3 and manage to accept this debate, then you concede the debate entirely. This debate is the second round debate between myself and thett3, in the DDO Autumn Regular Tournament.

The full resolution is:

'In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory for whomever is eligible to vote in that democracy.'


Democracy: 'a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.' (1)

Voting: '[giving] or [registering] a vote.' (2)

Compulsory: 'required by law or a rule; obligatory.' (3)

Debate Structure

R1: Acceptance
R2: Opening arguments
R3: Rebuttals
R4: Final rebuttals and closing remarks


1. No 'kritiks'
2. No trolling
3. No deviating from the aforementioned debate structure


(1) Google: 'Define democracy'
(2) Google: 'Define voting'
(3) Google: 'Define compulsory'


I accept.
Debate Round No. 1



To first know what ought to be the case in a democracy, we must know what is most democratic. It is an implicit assumption that, if one is to ask what a democracy ought to do, the correct answer would be that it ought to do what is most democratic. A good democracy is democratic, a bad democracy is undemocratic - any other properties a democracy may have are irrelevant to whether it is a good democracy, only whether it is democratic pertains to what it ought to be like.

I presume thett3 accepts this observation, but if he disagrees, I would challenge him to provide an alternate criteria for a good democracy.

So, the question of this debate is; would making voting compulsory to all eligible voters be something that is more democratic and better for the general welfare of this country? I will argue that the answer to this question is yes.

Note that whenever I mention 'the people' or 'all the people' within the context of this debate, I extend the caveat that this does not mean those who are ineligible to vote, such as children or the mentally handicapped.

A1 - Voter turnout

The principle of a democratic government is that in which all the people are involved in either governing the country or voting for representatives to govern on their behalf. This is supported by the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines a democracy as:

'Government by the people; esp. a system of government in which all the people of a state or polity (or, esp. formerly, a subset of them meeting particular conditions) are involved in making decisions about its affairs, typically by voting to elect representatives to a parliament or similar assembly' (1)

The emphasis is my own, and highlights the principle that democracy requires that all the people be involved in the governing process, either by voting or by actively developing legislature. In other words, it is more democratic if all the citizens of a country are democratically involved as opposed to only a certain amount of them. Of course this excludes children and the mentally handicapped, since these persons are, by their nature, unable to use sound judgement and hence would be unable to take responsibility for having a role in the governance of their country.

Furthermore, a crucial principle of a legitimate democracy is that it must have a mandate. In other words, the government must be able to justify its authority. Yet if we have only around 50% of citizens actually voting, then it would usually follow that less than half of the population actually expressed their consent to be governed by the victorious political party. Let us say that a country has a 60% voter turnout and the winning party wins by a majority of 70%. This means that only 42% of the people actually voted for this government. But this raises the question of whether a government can legitimately have a mandate to rule if the majority do not explicitly support them. Democracy is defined as rule by the people, but if the majority of the people didn't actually choose to be governed by the goverment that now governs them, then this somewhat contradicts the definition of a democracy. Therefore, a strong mandate is necessary for a strong and valid democracy, and a strong mandate can only be achieved with a high voter turnout.

Now, let us take two possible worlds:

1. Our world, but voting is non-compulsory
2. Our world, but voting is compulsory

Which, then, would be more democratic? As I have elucidated above, the more democratic world is (all else being equal) that which has the most amount of its people involved. So which of the above worlds, 1 or 2, has the most amount of its people democratically involved?

Many countries have systems in which voting is not compulsory, and in these countries the voter turnout is generally low. In the USA, the 2012 presidential election saw only 54.7% voter turnout (2)- meaning that nearly half of the voting age population were not involved in the democratic process. This phenomenon is very common in democratic countries with non-compulsory voting - rarely does it happen that the overwhelming majority of citizens decide to vote; the figure is commonly around 60% (3).

Compare this to countries in which voting is compulsory, the prime example being Australia. Their voter turnout is consistently around 95% (4). In case anyone suspected that this was an anomaly, I only need to present the cases of Argentina and Brazil, which both have voter turnouts of around 80% (5)(6).

The evidence lends strong credence to my hypothesis that making voting compulsory will improve voter turnout. Voter turnout is a valid analogy for political/democratic involvement because voting is the primary (and often only) manner in which the average citizen is able to express their political interest.

Since making voting compulsory increases voter turnout, and a high voter turnout is more democratic than a lower one, then it follows that making voting compulsory is more conducive to a democratic society. In other words, democracies with compulsory voting are more democratic than countries without compulsory voting.

A2 - Accessibility to voting

In systems where voting is not compulsory, the democratic process is skewed to give more political voice to those who are able bodied (7), those who haven't got strict employers and those with more spare time. These people are more likely to vote simply for logistical or convenience reasons, but there is no justification for a democracy to allow its system to be unfairly biased against groups of the population simply because of the state of their employment, where they live or their ability to get out the house.

This problem would be solved by making voting compulsory, because people would have a significant motivation to vote (threat of punishment) regardless of convenience. Employers would also be obligated to make allowances for employees to vote. It is pertinent to mention that those in busy jobs are more likely to be unable to vote, simply due to the strains of living a busy life, whereas those who are unemployed will have plenty of time to vote. But surely it is the former that is contributing more to society by working hard? Therefore it is unjustified for the busy person to be less represented in parliament/congress than the person with lots of free time, since if anything it is a virtue to be busy and hard-working, certainly not something to be punished for.

To summarise, a non-compulsory voting system allows for a biases to arise that arbitrarily discriminate against certain groups of people. Such a system is undemocratic when compared to a system in which these biases do not, or are less likely to, arise. It just so happens that the latter system requires that voting be compulsory.

A3 - Education

Making voting compulsory, as opposed to something that is optional, will most likely prompt more people to educate themselves and become more interested in politics. This is because, in a non-compulsory-voting system, it is very easy to ignore politics. One can easily live their lives paying no attention to politics, and this is made easy due to the fact that politics doesn't, at least explicitly, intrude on one's everyday life. It is very much a scenario of 'out of sight out of mind'.

Yet if voting is compulsory, it is much harder to ignore politics because you are legally obligated to involve yourself. It stands to reason that this will create a demand for poltical education; after all, people are naturally curious and so it is natural that they would seek to learn more about what they could be voting for. Of course, this argument is theoretical, but nevertheless makes a lot of sense.

But why should a democracy require voters to be educated? It all comes back to considerations of a government's mandate. If very few people were politically aware, then the government would have a weak mandate because it cannot be said with much confidence that the voters actually knew what they voted for. In contrast, an educated electorate gives the victorious government a strong mandate, because we can reasonably say that the majority of the voters did know who they were voting for.

As explained earlier, a strong mandate is a requirement for a valid democracy. Hence because compulsory voting will incite the electorate to become more politically educated, and because an educated electorate is crucial for a valid democracy, compulsory voting is conducive to a valid democracy,

A4 - Extremism

Evidence shows that those on the far-left and far-right of the politcal spectrum are more likely to vote than those with more moderate views (8). Regardless of the reasons for this fact, its truth is not conducive to a healthy democracy. This is because it means the composition of government is disproportionately controlled by non-moderates to a greater degree than moderates, despite the majority of people not identifying as non-moderate (9).

The definition of a democracy is that which involves governance or representation of all people equally - if a democracy disproportionately represents non-moderates, a minority, then it cannot be said to be a good or valid democracy (given that a good democracy is loyal to its definition). If voting was compulsory, then moderates would be encouraged to vote - hence uprooting the disproportionate bias towards non-moderates and making the government more democratic.


I have presented four cogent arguments in favour of the resolution. All of them show why a compulsory voting system is more democratic than a non-compulsory voting system, and hence why the former ought to be the case in a democracy. This is because the criterion for the quality of a democracy is the degree to which it is democratic.

(8) figure 4


Thanks, Philo.

In a classic South Park episode the character Stan, uncomfortable with his choices for an upcoming school mascot election, chooses to abstain from voting. After being pressured to vote by his friends, threatened into voting, and ultimately shunned from his community Stan finally returns and registers a vote only to find out that it didn't even matter in an extremely lopsided election. The episode lampoons our cultures view on voting: that despite the stupendous improbability of any individuals vote actually mattering, and even if an individual dislikes or has no opinion on the candidates, it's still viewed by many people as some kind of obligation. However even in their wildest, most cynical dreams the creators of South Park could not have envisioned a world where their "Vote or Die" song would become actual government policy. This is the world Pro wants.

Puff Daddy would probably make an excellent enforcer in the Pro world. Don't have an opinion? Don't like the choices? Have a sincerely held moral objection to voting? Too bad. Vote or die.


What values should we enshrine into law? Pro believes that the only important value is democracy, a manifestly absurd view that would allow 51% to vote to exterminate the other 49%, but it's clear that good governments, including democracies, have higher values--ultimately governance is a balancing act between individual rights and the common good. Pro totally ignores the individual rights part of the governance equation. Obviously compulsory voting violates individual rights, but is it in the interest of the common good to mandate citizens to vote? The answer is clearly no, and whatever minuscule benefits it manages to bring to the table are vastly outweighed by the complete destruction of individual rights brought about by this policy.


Assuming that we want to drive voter turnout as high as possible, democracies should make it easier to vote and institute tax credits for individuals who cast a ballot. This economic incentive would be extremely easy to put into practice and would drive up turnout without any of the ethical implications that stem from compulsory voting.

I. Undemocratic

Pro wants us to value whatever is most democratic. By far the more democratic option is to allow individual societies to determine voting policy themselves rather than making a blanket declaration that they have an obligation to force their citizens to vote. National nuances, opinions, customs, or autonomy be damned--Pro may not know anything about Nauru or Monaco but he still views those nations as his to rule. This is the height of totalitarianism, not democracy. In the United States, the overwhelming majority, 66%-26%, opposes compulsory voting[1]. This statistic is utterly devastating for Pro, who wants the entire debate to come down to whatever is more democratic. I'll get to Pro's specific arguments later, but it's absurd on its face to suggest that it's more democratic to overrule the vast majority of the population on this issue.

Ultimately, the Pro position relies upon a fatal conceit: the idea that from our vantage point in the first world we can legislate for everybody else just as well as we could for our own nations. This kind of thinking is what provided the justification for colonialism and indeed Pro's intellectual framework relying on the assumption that we in the West have the right to dictate policy for the rest of the world is blatantly neocolonialist and must be rejected, to vote Pro is to perpetuate this kind of thinking. This neocolonialism is the antithesis of any kind of lofty democratic ideals and to reject it requires also rejecting the resolution. In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory if that is the policy that is best for their society and we don't get to decide that for them.

II. Freedom of Speech and Expression

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[2] protects an individuals freedom of expression. The right to free speech is declared in the very preamble. Article 19 specifies: "this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." I argue that both the rights of freedom of speech and expression protect an individuals right to refrain from voting. Voting is inherently a speech act, it's a citizen voicing his opinion on who he wishes to hold the position in question--but freedom of speech itself contains the right *not* to speak. The US Supreme Court in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette[3] took the obviously correct position that the freedom of speech protects the right of silence as well, protecting the right of schoolchildren to *not* salute the flag if they chose. The court ruled that forcing everyone to salute the flag created a "Compulsory unification of opinion". Forcing everyone to vote would violate free speech in much the same manner, and, in the US at least, would mean completely undermining court precedent and the rule of law. An individual has the right to refrain from voting as a speech act--perhaps the individual wants to make a statement about how they disapprove of every candidate on the ballot or if they do not support democracy and favor another system of government such as a monarchy or anarcho capitalism.

Refraining to vote is also an act of political expression. Article 19 protects an individuals right to hold an opinion "without interference". Many individuals feel that voting is immoral for various reasons, such as they do not want to perpetuate a system they oppose, and they are allowed to hold and exercise that opinion. Many individuals also believe that by voting for a politician they are implicitly responsible for the actions those officials take. As George Carlin once said[4]: "I believe if you vote, you have no right to complain...If you vote and you elect dishonest, incompetent people into office who screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You caused the problem; you voted them in; you have no right to complain." If an individual disapproves of every candidate for office, or every choice on a referendum ballot, forcing them to vote is forcing them to violate their conscience. Governments have to have a compelling state interest before they can override individual rights and force an individual to violate his sincerely held moral beliefs. Pro's arguments don't come anywhere close to meeting this litmus test as we'll see in the next round.

III. Freedom of Religion

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration gives every individual the right to "to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance." Jehovah's Witnesses, due to religious reasons, are required to maintain political neutrality[5]. Pro would bulldoze over their right to observe their religious teachings. The US has a really great litmus test for what laws violating religious freedom are to be allowed, called the Sherbert Test[6], which requires that if the government is going to violate an individuals sincerely held religious beliefs it must prove that both there is a compelling state interest behind the violation AND that the policy is the *least intrusive* method of achieving this compelling state interest. For example, if the government has a compelling interest in promoting contraception, forcing the Catholic Church to distribute contraceptives after every Mass would not be the *least intrusive* means to achieve this interest. Other democracies have similar policies and I will defend the validity of this test should Pro choose to engage it. If one rereads Pro's arguments with the Sherbert Test in mind it's quite clear that even if there is a compelling state interest in bringing voter turnout as high as possible (there isn't), forcing Jehovah's Witnesses to violate their beliefs is not the least intrusive method of achieving any of these benefits.

IV. Nonvoters are less informed

Those who choose to refrain from voting often make a wise choice. According to Pew[7], 76% of the people who report rarely voting admit that don't feel they don't know enough about the candidates to cast an informed ballot. Pro argues that forcing people to vote will improve education, but there can be no denying that some people are simply too busy or too lazy to properly inform themselves on politics. The counterplan of providing tax credits for voters would be superior to crafting a high turnout, educated electorate because only generally nonvoting people who actually have an income and pay enough attention to politics to learn about the tax credit would be motivated to vote. We can have high voter turnout without forcing the 29% of Americans who cannot even name the Vice President of their country[8] to cast a ballot and expecting the results to be beneficial to the nation as a whole. Maybe in other democracies with a more informed electorate this policy would make sense (although, I would argue, even in those the tax credit system is preferable) but not in the US. Not in a lot of other democracies.

In conclusion, those who refrain from voting are generally less informed than those who choose to vote, compulsory voting grossly violates actual human rights and a tax credit system could achieve similar results without any of these impacts. Don't empower Puff Daddy to force you at gunpoint to vote. Vote Con.


Debate Round No. 2


Thanks, thett3.

South Park

Whilst I do like South Park, I'm afraid its inclusion isn't helpful to the debate. Obviously, having compulsory voting does not entail that the punishment for not voting is to die. 'Vote or die' is therefore a hyperbolic strawman of my case.


Con postulates that individual rights and the common good are both important things to consider within a good democracy, and I agree to an extent. But I maintain that how democratic a democracy is remains an important factor that contributes to whether a democracy is good or bad.

But I argue that compulsory voting is neither a violation of individual rights nor is it detrimental to the common good.


Whilst Con's plan would probably increase the voter turnout, which is a good thing, it would be extremely costly to implement. For the economic incentive to be compelling enough to increase the turnout, the tax credits would have to be in the region of at least $50 (even this value might not incentivize enough people). Considering that there are 218,959,000 eligible voters in the USA (1), and that we would want the voter turnout to increase to around 95%, that would cost the government $10.4 billion just for a single election! With that amount of money, around 5500 primary schools could be built (2) or 13 large teaching hospitals (3). Compulsory voting would cost far less - only requiring the law enforcement necessary to ensure that voting is indeed compulsory.

In other words, Con's counterplan is worse than my plan because it fulfills the same role as my plan (increasing voter turnout) but costs far more. Considering how my plan doesn't involve any ethical problems either (I'll expand on this later), it is clear that Con's counterplan is inferior.


Con writes that, in the USA, the majority opposes compulsory voting and therefore it is supposedly undemocratic to enforce it. But this is incorrect, since it is possible for majority opinion to favour something that is undemocratic - the fact that the majority support or oppose X does not necessarily mean that X is either democratic or undemocratic respectively. For example, in the 18th century, it was probable (I cannot locate the exact statistics) that the majority of people supported denying women the right to vote. However, women's right to vote is democratic in principle, since it conforms to the democratic principle of all citizens being able to vote. The fact that in the 1700s the majority opposed it did not render it undemocratic.
Regardless, Con's statistic only applies to the USA, I could easily respond by highlighting that the majority of Australians support compulsory voting (4). Why, I ask Con, should the statistic from the USA take precedence over the statistic from Australia?

To summarise, just because something isn't supported by the majority, it doesn't mean it is undemocratic. Therefore I can maintain that compulsory voting is more democratic than optional voting despite it not garnering majority support.

Con's second point is just fallacious. He presumes that, because I come from a first world country, I cannot argue in favour of changes in third world countries. Aside from this being a blatant ad hominem fallacy (whether I live in a first world or third world country is irrelevant to my arguments' veracity), it is a strawman argument. Just because I argue that compulsory voting ought to be the case in a democracy, that doesn't entail that I am 'dictating policy' - I am not advocating the forcible adoption of compulsory voting against a country's will, that would be ridiculous.
Furthermore, advocating changes in other countries is often a justified stance. For example, I would advocate for the removal of the one-child policy in China; yet this stance isn't refuted by the accusation that it is 'blatantly neocolonialist' and that 'we don't get to decide for them', the only valid rebuttals would have to pertain to the moral status of the one child policy.

Freedom of speech, religion and expression

Con states multiple concerns:

1. There is a right not to speak
2. People should be able to refrain from voting for moral reasons
3. People should be able to express their disapproval of all candidates
4. Jehovah's Witnesses have a religious obligation to remain politically neutral

However, none of these are problematic. Why? Because one can still spoil their vote even if voting is compulsory. By spoiling one's vote, one has the ability to refrain from giving their opinion, express their moral opposition to voting, express their disapproval of all the candidates or, if one is a Jehovah's Witness, remain politically neutral.

Therefore, none of Con's concerns harm my case for compulsory voting.

On a side note, moral objections do not, by themselves, allow someone to be exempt from compulsory action. For example, someone may have a sincerely-held moral objection to paying tax, but this does not justify their tax evasion. Furthermore, someone may have a sincerely-held moral objection to acting as a juror, but this does not justify them avoiding jury duty. If Con's stance is to be consistent, then he would have to be against any policy that requires people to perform an action, since someone could have a sincerely held moral obligation against that action and, according to Con, such policies would therefore violate their rights. But clearly this logic would entail anarchy.

Political education

The principle of democracy is that every citizen is involved in the election of government, therefore the level of knowledge held by someone should have no affect on whether they should vote or not. Con imagines some arbitrary line between those who should vote and those who shouldn't vote (even if this line isn't enforced). But democracy is where all are involved in the political process, if we have a system where only the intelligent are voting, then this is an aristocracy, not a democracy - yet this debate pertains to democracy.

It is an elitist notion that it is preferable for the less-educated to not voice their political stance, one that flies in the face of the egalitarian nature of democracy. It prompts us to ask: why should the more educated be given more political representation than the less educated?

Anyhow, as I have argued in round 2, compulsory voting will most increase the amount of people who are politically educated - resolving the problem of political apathy and ignorance.


Compulsory voting is preferable to optional voting for the reasons detailed in round 2. Con says that this is undemocratic because the majority oppose it, but as demonstrated by the case of women's suffrage, something can still be democratic even if it isn't supported by the majority. Moreover, Con only gives a US statistic, but this debate isn't just about the US.

Then Con proposes his counterplan, which turns out to be very expensive and has no advantages over compulsory voting.

Next, he claims that compulsory voting would violate human rights, but I pointed out that one can still spoil their vote - avoiding all the problems raised by Con.

Lastly, Con makes the elitist assertion that it is a preferable situation that the less-educated don't vote. But this is contrary to the principles of democracy (which make no mention of education). Secondly, making voting compulsory will actually help remedy the problem of political ignorance/apathy.



Thanks, Philo.

=Pro case=


Pro argues that the only concern that should govern policy is if that policy is "democratic". This is absurd--democracies are governments and as I articulated in my framework, governance is fundamentally a balancing act between individual rights and the common good. Good governments are ones which make acceptable trade offs on this scale. Pro never explains why we should care if a democracy is "good" or not. It's vastly preferable to be ruled by a just king than a tyrannical president. It's vastly preferable to disenfranchise the 51% that would vote to exterminate the 49% even though this would be less democratic. Good governance is more important. The question then becomes if the practical effects of compulsory voting outweigh its violations of individual autonomy and as we will see, the answer is clearly no.

I. Turnout

I do not concede that high voter turnout is inherently good. In Weimar Germany I would've preferred the Jews had higher turnout than members of the Nazi party did, regardless of what the actual opinion of the broader electorate was. We should value good government, not necessarily whatever happens to be the most "democratic" policy. Ironically, Pro argues that democracy means "all" the people are involved in the governing process and then immediately contradicts himself by arguing that certain people are unfit to rule. This is a huge blow for Pro because it destroys his argument about how democracy is a joke is we don't involve everyone. I don't want people who can't name the vice president to decide elections.

Pro argues that if everyone doesn't vote a government doesn't have a mandate. There's no evidence Pro cited of governments under compulsory voting regimes having greater legitimacy than governments who don't force their citizens at gunpoint to endorse the system. Outside of nations with compulsory voting it's incredibly rare for the outright majority of eligible voters to endorse the ruling party but this has no effect on the governments ability to rule. Pros argument here also assumes a two party system--in a multi party system it would be incredibly unlikely for the winning party to gain a majority even with compulsory voting. Are these governments any less legitimate? Pro certainly hasn't proven so.

Considering that he brings it up later Pro clearly puts great stock in his mandate argument but I genuinely don't know how to reply because it's simply not warranted at all. Where are all challenges to sovereignty to these governments without mandates? The strongest language from Pro on this contention is that a plurality rather than a majority "somewhat" contradicts democracy. This timid, unassertive word choice is extremely telling--even Pro himself can't get himself to fully commit to this argument.

Even if you buy that high turnout is good, state coercion is just not the best way to achieve this goal when we have options like tax credits.

II. Accessibility to voting

Absolutely nothing in this contention is unique ad governments can easily pass laws that remove hindrances to voting. Making election days national holidays, extending early voting and same day registration are all discussed and worthy reforms, but compulsory voting is manufacturing a tornado to blow out a match. In fact, I can easily turn this argument: It IS hard to vote sometimes, but nothing in the resolution presumes that issue will be resolved. Pro only gets to assume that he succeeds in adding a legal obligation to vote, not that he makes it easier to vote. He's going to punish all of those hard working or disabled people he lauds.

III. Education

Pro has no evidence linking compulsory voting with a better educated electorate. Pro says that in a free society it's easy to ignore politics but thinks that forcing people to show up once every four years to randomly select candidates would turn us all into political junkies. In the United States, the election is all anybody hears about on the news for about two years before it even happens (this process has already begun). Social media, Internet access, and incessant news coverage make it almost impossible to not learn about politics through sheer osmosis. If people are tuning out, it's for a reason--probably because they realize that their vote doesn't matter in the slightest and have more important things to do in their lives than to listen to corporate shills lie. There's absolutely nothing in our modern world that stymies our natural curiosity, compulsory voting wouldn't make a difference.

IV. Extremism

Pros card on extremism refers specifically to primary elections[1]. Primary elections are the elections where party members select the slate of candidates for the general election--compulsory voting wouldn't solve for this because voting in primaries will *always* be voluntary unless Pro wants to argue that the government should force people to join political parties. The solutions suggested by the article, such as voting by mail and same day voter registration are far superior to Pros plan. I can't emphasize this enough, the article specifically lays the blame for polarization on primary elections so Pro gets no impact here--only solutions that increase *voluntary* turnout (like tax credits) would help here. Moreover, other than the weak democracy argument Pro doesn't explain why having politically motivated people voting more often is a bad thing, nor how having representatives with convictions ("extremists") is a bad thing. The article cites the example of Chris Murphy who won a low turnout primary and quickly became one of the most liberal senators and just assumes this is bad. Why is having one of the most liberal states in the country represented by a liberal a bad thing?

Pro doesn't seem to understand that the moderates that are "unrepresented" voluntarily ceded their right to vote. They aren't underrepresented because they never seeked representation in the first place.

The election of ideologues and extremists is often an act of protest. It's likely that compulsory voting would actually increase the probability of electing ideologues as leagues of potential voters who sit out elections out of disgust would now be forced to make a choice.

=My case=


Pro argues that my plan of tax credits would cost money. Actually it would grow the economy due to the multiplier effect. The multiplier effect is a phenomenon whereby investment in certain sectors yields returns that are higher than the initial investment. So if a multiplier was 1.1, an investment of 1 billion would yield 1.1 billion. A paper for the United States Conference of Mayors[2] explains that the Earned Income Tax Credit for low to moderate income earners, a payment similar to my voting tax credit proposal, has a multiplier somewhere between 1.5 and 2. Pro claims that a tax credit would cost a lot of money. On the contrary, the credit would grow the economy by something between 1.5 and 2 times the money put in. This is a completely independent reason to vote Con. Even if you don't see any ethical or practical issue with compulsory voting, Pro doesn't grow the economy. I do.

I. Undemocratic

Pro cites a poll showing Australians favor mandatory voting. He asks "[Why] should the statistic from the USA take precedence over the statistic from Australia?" It shouldn't! That's exactly the point! Somehow Pro entirely missed the crux of my argument, which is that the resolution should be rejected as it's better to let nations decide their own policies for themselves. This is the democratic position. Australia is not mine to rule, and while I think I could make convincing arguments to them as to why compulsory voting is bad policy, ultimately the decision is up to them. Pro, on the other hand, believes that nations he has never heard of and knows nothing about have a moral imperative to implement this policy even if it would be disastrous for them.

Pro totally missed the point of my neocolonialism argument. The problem with his position is its blanket assumption--the issue is with this concept that nations we couldn't identify on a map are ours to rule. This type of hubris, that we can legislate just as well for anybody as we can for our own nations and that our policies have to work for them is the type of thinking that led to colonialism. Reject colonialism. Reject the resolution. Let nations decide their own policies for themselves.

Despite his emphasis on democratic ideals, this autonomy is by far the more democratic position.

II/III Rights

Pro does not argue that these rights don't exist, he just argues that people can just spoil their ballots. This isn't always true--it's unlikely, for example, that one could spoil their vote in electronic voting machines that wouldn't allow you to select more than one candidate. Moreover, many people wouldn't know how to spoil their votes or would believe it to be illegal ("Is it illegal to spoil your vote?" brings 125,000 hits on Google). To make sure that none of these rights are violated would require a concerted effort by the government to bring to the voters attention their ability to spoil their ballots, which defeats the purpose of forcing them to vote when they could just allow them to abstain instead. Moreover spoiling your ballot is not a true act of political neutrality--spoilt ballots are typically viewed as protest ballots[3]. The only truly neutral act is to not vote.

Pro does not dispute that we should use the Sherbert Test: forcing people to violate their religion and hoping that they'll know to spoil their ballots is not the *least intrusive* means of achieving high turnout. Allowing them to abstain and encouraging voluntary voting through tax credits is.

Pro removes legitimitate means of political expression and forces us all to give consent to the system.

I'll discuss the rest of my case and crystallize the debate in the next round.


Debate Round No. 3


Thanks, thett3


Whether a government is democratic isn't the only criterion for whether it is a good democracy, yet it is a factor, largely because having a democratic system is linked to increased welfare of the populace (1). I agree that the protection of individual rights and the common good are also crucial when considering what ought to be the case in a democracy.

Nevertheless, this concession in no way harms my case. This is because compulsory voting doesn't violate a single individual right and it also maximises the common good due to the apparent trend where democracy is linked to the general welfare of the populace (1) (hence a more democratic system - compulsory voting - would probably increase general welfare).


Con is entirely incorrect here; he claims that I 'immediately contradict [myself] by arguing that certain people are unfit to rule'. I never said anything of the sort.

He also argues that a high voter turnout isn't inherently good. Maybe so, but it is inherently democratic, and therefore it will prima facie accord with the common good. Con does say that it would have been better for the Jews to have voted more than the Nazis, but it is uncontroversial to say this because we have the benefit of hindsight. In the present day, it would be extremely bigoted to say that one group of people is less worthy of political representation in Government.

Democracy should involve everyone. Even if we view someone's views as extremist or stupid, it is still democratic and better for the common good to ensure that everyone is involved. Thus I would still advocate that a high voter turnout is, prima facie, a good thing - one that compulsory voting will actualize.

Con says I don't provide evidence that low-turnout elected governments are less legitimate than high-turnout elected governments. This is wrong, I did provide evidence that in a low-turnout election, it is more likely to turn out that the majority of the population didn't support the victorious government. Conversely, this is less likely to happen if we have a high voter turnout.

To illustrate, we have two elections:

Election 1

- 60% turnout
- Labour party wins by 70% majority

Election 2

- 90% turnout
- Labour party wins by 70% majority

In election 1, only 42% of the population actually supported the Labour party. In election 2, this figure is 63%.

In which election is the Labour party more legitimate? Obviously the latter because in that one, the majority of the population support them.
This proves my point that a higher turnout will increase the chances that the victorious government will be legitimate. Of course, the chances of a government having majority support are much lower in a multi-party system, and yes, because of this there will be a smaller chance that the government in a multi-party system will be as legitimate as the same party in a two-party system. Nevertheless, even in a multi-party system, the increased turnout resulting from compulsory voting will still increase the chances that the winning government will be more legitimate.

Having a legitimate government is both more democratic and better for the common good, since people are more likely to trust in the government and be content with their authority if they are aware that the government's authority is legitimate. For example, in the UK earlier this year, the Conservative party won the General Election with only 36.9% of the vote (2), this caused bitterness and protests, in which a common complaint was that people felt the government was illegitimate (3). In other words, a less legitimate government is more likely to result in unrest, political apathy and anti-government feeling - all symptoms of a less happy society.

Tax credits could work, but they are financially inferior to my plan. I'll expand on this later.


Whilst there are many things that would help solve the problem of inaccessibility to voting, compulsory voting is the solution that would be the most effective. If voting was compulsory, then there would be a legal mandate to help everyone to vote - after all, nobody wants to see a disabled person punished simply because he couldn't get to a polling station by himself. Because nobody wants to see that, this would place a mandate on society to assist anyone who needs it to cast their vote. This is shown in the case of Australia, which has a plethora of help and assistance available for disabled/elderly voters (4).

If voting is optional, then there is an attitude of, 'why should I help this person cast their vote? It's not as if they need to vote'.

National holidays are all very well, but they do cost the economy a fair bit (5) and still wouldn't help those who don't work but still struggle to leave the house. The same applies to early voting and same-day registration; all these help solve the problem, but none moreso than compulsory voting.

Con claims that, if voting is compulsory, it will end up punishing the hard-working and disabled people. This would be the case if my plan wasn't accompanied by policies that would give the disabled assistance in casting their vote, to the extent that nobody should fear being on the wrong side of the law because they were unable to reach a polling station. But I advocate such policies, as does Australia - the poster-child for compulsory voting.

Furthermore, if voting is compulsory then there is a mandate for employers to permit their employees the chance to vote - hence there is no worry of a hard-working person being punished because they were kept at work during election day. If this did happen to be the case, then the punishment would fall on the employer. In contrast, if voting was optional then employers have no obligation to allow their employees time to vote - after all, it's not as if they need to vote if voting is merely optional.


Whilst there is no empirical evidence linking compulsory voting to an increase in political knowledge, the reasoning for such a link remains cogent.

Compare a compulsory voting system and an optional voting system. All else being equal, the former is more likely to prompt people to educate themselves politically. This is because of the fact that one cannot choose to isolate themselves from political involvement if voting is compulsory, whereas someone can choose to isolate themselves if voting is optional. There might not be a large difference, but it is a difference nonetheless. If someone is required to vote, then this will create a demand for education - after all, if people are required to participate in something then they will naturally want to learn about what it is they are required to participate in. To give an example, if people are required to attend a football game every year, then this will increase the level of football-knowledge because the mandatory-participation prompts people to educate themselves.

Con writes that the large amount of election coverage in the media is enough to educate anyone 'through sheer osmosis'. Yet this is passive education, where you inevitably absorb some information just by exposure to it. Compulsory voting would encourage people to take an active approach and seek out political information. The latter is preferable because it avoids many of the media biases that would be exacerbated by passive political education.


Con's rebuttal here exclusively refers to the American system of primary elections, yet this debate doesn't explicitly pertain to the USA. In countries such as the UK and Australia, voting is for members of an unlimited amount of different political parties, unlike the two party system in the US. Hence Con's rebuttal doesn't harm my case here.

Just to clarify, I do not think that extremists voting is a bad thing - of course I don't. I think that disproportionate representation is a bad and undemocratic thing. Because extremists are more likely to vote than moderates, this means that extremists are given representation that their number does not warrant. The moderates may have consented by refraining from voting, but this doesn't resolve the issue. The principles of democracy require equal representation.

Con's counterplan

Tax credits may grow the economy - any government spending does. But the issue is that if government spending is given through tax credits, that spending is being redirected from more worthy projects such as schools or hospitals. Tax credits for voting would needlessly use up money that could be spent on infrastructure and housing. Whilst the counterplan may grow the economy, my plan is superior because it frees up the money so it can be spent on more worthy investments. Therefore, my plan is more economically benefitial.


It may be best to let other countries decide their own policies, but that is irrelevant to this debate. We are supposed to be debating whether it is preferential to have compulsory voting in a democracy, not whether we should force countries to implement it. Con's talk of 'neocolonialism' is therefore a giant strawman.


As part of my plan, I would advocate that all voting mediums allow for ballots to be spoilt. Hence avoiding the accusation of violating the right no to vote. Con writes that people may be dissuaded by fear of spoiling being illlegal, but the only evidence he gives is that '"Is it illegal to spoil your vote?" brings 125,000 hits on Google'. But Google hits are no reflection on whether a query is a common one; for example, a search of 'giant strawberry gorilla hybrid' brings 489,000 hits.

I do accept the Sherbet test, but Con's counterplan is arguably more intrusive than my own. By financially rewarding those who vote, the Government is effectively punishing people for not voting. It's like if people were given tax credits to work on Sundays, this would feel like a punishment to those Christians who believe that we shouldn't violate the Sabbath.




Thanks for the debate Philo and here's to round 2 of the tournament.

Let's go over this round and who won on each major issue. First I'll talk about who has a better plan, and then since Con concedes that it's important to look at both protections of individual rights and the common good when making governing decisions, I'll divide my final analysis of this debate into how CV destroys individual rights and how it's bad for everybody.

=Tax credits vs. CV=

Pro totally failed to understand the multiplier effect--the point is that tax credits grow the economy and therefore the tax base. By rewarding citizens for voting we are not giving up schools and hospitals but rather increasing our ability to afford these things. Pro never disputes that tax credits are good for the economy, so there's really no reason to go with compulsory voting which does not grow the economy and poses serious ethical dilemmas.

Pro concedes that we should use the Sherbert test to determine which policies we allow to violate religious freedom. In the face of my counterplan, this leads to a Con ballot--contra Pro, it's *obviously* less intrusive to reward individuals for doing something rather than forcing the religious to violate their conscience. Rewarding employers who provide contraceptives would obviously be less intrusive than forcing the Catholic Church to provide them for its employees because forgoing a financial incentive is not compulsion like compulsory voting is.

Tax credits also provide the additional advantage of encouraging only those politically educated enough to know about the credit to vote. I do not concede that high turnout is inherently good and Pro never proved that we could expect good outcomes from forcing people who don't even know the name of the vice president to cast a ballot. I would make turnout nearly universal among those who we want voting. Pro calls this argument elitist, but he himself agrees that certain people are unfit to rule so I'm merely extending the logic to another conclusion--politically illiterate people who admit they don't know anything about the candidates shouldn't be allowed to vote, let alone FORCED to.

=Individual rights=

Let's briefly look again at my case. Pro never disputes *anything* that I said regarding the existence of certain rights, choosing only to argue that individuals can just spoil their ballots. This response fails for several reasons:

First, Pro *totally* misses and drops the point that the right to Freedom of Speech and Expression includes the right *not* to speak. Whether he likes it or not, spoiling your vote *is* a speech act as it's commonly viewed as an act of protest. Pro never disputed my argument that spoiled votes are looked on as protest ballots, which makes them speech acts. Pro is violating the right of silence that he never disputed existed.

Secondly, Pro makes no persuasive responses to the fact that many people don't know how to spoil their votes or think it's illegal. To avoid violating these rights would require a bizarre concerted effort by the government to educate and encourage people to spoil their ballots which would totally defeat the purpose of forcing them to vote in the first place. This whole response is nothing but a big implicit concession. If we need everyone to vote, why is Pro encouraging them to spoil their ballots?

Thirdly, with regards to religious freedom Pro conceded that he would like to use the Sherbert Test. Unfortunately for him, that means that he loses the debate because forcing people to vote and violate their religious convictions and hoping that they know how to spoil their ballot and that those spoiled ballots won't be considered an act of political expression is obviously more intrusive than just providing a financial incentive to encourage the state interest of higher turnout. Pro makes the incredibly weak argument that tax credits would actually be more intrusive because people of certain religions can't claim them, but this is absurd on its face unless Pro also contends that it's a violation of religious freedom for the government to pay soldiers because pacifist Quakers can never gain that financial incentive. Religious convictions require sacrifice, and a just government is one that does everything reasonable not to violate these convictions.

Fourthly, this resolution itself violates societal rights. By far the more democratic option is to reject the resolution and allow nations to decide their own policies for themselves. The electorate of the United States, by an overwhelming margin, does not WANT compulsory voting--it takes a lot of mental gymnastics to argue that it's democratic to ram it down their throat. Pro also contends that he knows enough about nations he could not name or point out on a map to dictate what policies they have a moral imperative to establish. This kind of thinking is the stuff of colonialism and nightmares. The Con position is one of humbleness--I think CV is a bad policy and Australia should abolish it in favor of tax credits, but I also recognize their right to rule their own country and that policies which work in my country may not work for everybody else. We need to allow societies to choose the policies that work best for them and reject the kind of neocolonialist mental framework that Pro is perpetuating. To declare that nations we are ignorant about have a moral obligation to establish CV is the height of arrogance.

It's pretty clear that CV violates your rights. It's really as simple as this: If you don't want to vote for any reason, your right not to do so does not exist in the Pro world. Vote or die.

=CV and society=

Is compulsory voting good for society? Pro is hinging his hopes for winning the debate on this side of the governing equation. I argue that CV is very bad for society but unfortunately for Pro, due to my counterplan the question becomes not "Is CV good for society?" but rather "Is CV better for society than tax credits?" There has been precious little analysis from Pro on this question so you should presume a Con ballot as I've been advocating the superiority of my plan this entire debate.

Pro never disputes that lots of people do not have the proper political knowledge to cast an educated ballot. He calls this notion elitist and just leaves it at that. I don't care if it's elitist. The role of the government isn't to pander to everyones feelings, it's to craft policy in accordance with the common good while respecting individual rights as much as feasible. Pro concedes in his fourth round that there is no empirical link to greater political education with CV. Pro makes no argument for why being governed by people who don't know who the vice president is or what the president does would be a good thing, he hinges his entire argument on the idea that people who consciously tune out two years of incessant media coverage to maintain their ignorance would suddenly become political junkies at the drop of a hat because they're forced to vote. Recall from my second round that in the United States OVER THREE QUARTERS of the people who rarely vote admit that they don't know enough about the candidates to make an informed choice. We should respect their decision to spare us all from their governing choices.

Pro argues that with CV the government gets a mandate it doesn't have in a voluntary system. Despite being repeatedly challenged to do so, Pro never produces any evidence that governments who force their citizens at gunpoint to endorse the system are viewed as more legitimate than those who do not. All he argues is that it's more democratic to have everybody express their opinion, but not only is this non responsive to the argument that the people who are unrepresented are unrepresented because they voluntarily ceded their right to vote, a democratic expression of their opinion, and he also does not prove that we should always value democracy over every other value.

He makes a new argument in his 4th round that democracy is correlated with "general welfare" so therefore more votes will lead to even greater welfare! This argument should be rejected for obvious reasons, but namely he does not establish causality. Moreover he didn't cite any evidence of what this "greater welfare" is in round, it isn't my job to argue against whatever his source says. It's incredibly doubtful that forcing people, 76% of whom admit to not knowing much about the candidates, to vote would be increase the common good. Choosing not to vote is a legitimate means of democratic expression and often a responsible choice.

The only other impact Pro has is in his argument regarding extremism, but he never cited throughout the entire debate any evidence that extremism is squashed in nations that have compulsory voting. Pro argues that extremists are "overrepresented" but he never cited to what degree this is--so how do we weigh it? I don't think Pro understood my argument regarding primary elections. The *debate* isn't US specific, but the *evidence* he cited WAS, and the issue the article pointed out referred to an issue in the US electoral system that CV would not solve. My plan of tax credits WOULD solve this because the only way to get people to vote in primary elections is to use means to increase voluntary voting. Pro argues that democracy demands "equal" representation for all. This is dumb. Some people don't want representation. People who want representation and can't take fifteen minutes to vote and get a tax credit do not deserve to be represented.

The resolution is clearly negated. There is little evidence that compulsory voting would be beneficial to society as a whole and absolutely no evidence that it is superior in any way to a system of tax credits. To force citizens to vote violates their human rights and we should allow individual societies to come to decide their policies for themselves. The rest of the world is not ours to rule.

Be humble. Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 4
23 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by thett3 1 year ago
thanks to all voters and to philo
Posted by Philocat 1 year ago
Well done thett3 :)
Posted by Kozu 1 year ago
That was difficult
Posted by whiteflame 1 year ago
RFD in progress. Will be done tomorrow.
Posted by thett3 1 year ago
yay :)
Posted by whiteflame 1 year ago
I'm going to try to get through this, guys, though I haven't started reading it just yet. It's top of my list at the moment.
Posted by bsh1 1 year ago
@Romanii...we've talked about my structure before, bro.
Posted by thett3 1 year ago
lol this is the most boring topic ever
Posted by Philocat 1 year ago
Source #4:
Posted by Romanii 1 year ago
I agree with thett... having such a rigid structure often results in a lot of redundancy and talking past each other, especially in debates like this where there is going to be a lot of overlap between the content of your cases.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Kozu 1 year ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Lol, literally last minute.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 1 year ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Given here: Nice one, guys.