The Instigator
Pro (for)
7 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Expert Tier Tournament: Compulsory Voting

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 7/21/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,110 times Debate No: 59339
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (42)
Votes (1)





This is for Mikal's tier tournament. Thanks to Romanii for the debate!

Full Topic

On balance, in a democracy, compulsory voting is justified.


1. No forfeits
2. Any citations or foot/endnotes must be provided in the text of the debate
3. No new arguments in the final round
4. Maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
5. Violation of any of these rules or of any of the R1 set-up merits a loss


R1: Acceptance
R2: Constructive Cases
R3: Rebuttals
R4: Rebuttals
R5: Rebuttals, Final Focus

Thanks... Romanii for accepting this debate--I hope he enjoys it! :)


I accept this debate!
Should be a good challenge :)
Good luck, bsh!
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks to Romanii for this debate! I will now present my case.


Democracy - "a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free [and fair] electoral system." It may also be some combination of both the former and latter forms.
Compulsory - "required by a law or rule: mandatory"
Vote - "a usually formal expression of opinion or will in response to a proposed decision; esp.: one given as an indication of approval or disapproval of a proposal, motion, or candidate for office"
Justified - "to provide or be a good reason for (something): to prove or show (something) to be just, right, or reasonable"


1. "On balance" implies an analysis of the wieght of the evidence. It is not my job to those that compulsory voting is always beneficial, nor is it my job to show that it would work in every democracy. Merely, it is my job to show that, in general, is is beneficial and justified.

2. It is my job to show that compulsory voting (CV) is "justified." This can be done, as shown with my definition, in several ways, as long as I can show a good reason for having CV. The two main way in which this can be done are to show that CV is just or morally right, or to show that is reasonable given the circumstance.

3. The resolution demands a discussion of what is best in democracies. Therefore, when analyzing CV, we must ascertain whether CV is beneficial within the context of a democracy--does it promote an effective nation-state, does it promote democratic ideals, does it comport with democratic rights, etc.


Contention One: Turnout

Sub-point A: Low turnout is deterimental within a democracy

"The essence of the argument for why high voter turnout matters starts with the premise that democracy depends on some level of self-determination and governmental legitimacy. High turnout is one legitimating factor...even after the state has removed improper or onerous barriers to voting, situational forces remain that depress turnout. These negative forces are particularly acute among socio-economically disadvantaged groups. Consistently lower voter participation among these groups has two effects: their preferences are not fully aggregated in elections and they have less influence after elections, as politicians tend to neglect the interests of non-voters. Higher turnout generally helps counteract these effects." [3] "Low turnout impugns a number of fundamental democratic values such as popular sovereignty, legitimacy, representativeness, political equality, and the minimization of elite power. Majority will is central to democratic rule, therefore lamenters of low turnout often argue that the more completely the preferences of the majority are registered, the more democratic the system will be. When a government's mandate is informed by incomplete information about the wishes of the electorate, the legitimacy of its decisions may be in doubt." [4]

The conclusion we can draw is simple, democratic values such as egalitarianism and justice are circumvented when turnout is low. Moreover, democratic government is more likely to address the concerns of all constituent groups if all groups turn out to vote--thus, it makes government more willing to comprehensively and holistically tackle problems, rather than honing in on the issues on an elite few. Finally, I would reiterate the sentiment so aptly expressed by the American Revolutionaries: "No taxation without representation." If certain groups don't or are unable toget out to vote, how can we say they are represented? How can we be a government of the people?

Sub-point B: CV solves for low turnout

"Academic analysis shows that compulsory voting is likely to produce a high turnout of voters, wherever it is used. There is no doubt that the Australian arrangements produce a high figure, for Australia's is one of the most consistently high turnouts anywhere in the world--an average of 94.5 percent in the 24 elections since 1946. The Netherlands averaged a turnout of 94.7 percent before compulsory voting was abolished in 1971, and a turnout of 81.4 percent in the years since." [5] "One solution to the problem of low voter turnout is to require all eligible voters to vote by law...The effect of compulsory voting laws on voter turnout is substantial. Multivariate statistical analyses have shown that compulsory voting laws can raise voter turnout by seven to sixteen percentage points [or more]. The effects are likely to be even greater in a country such as the United States, which has a much lower baseline of voter turnout than many of the countries that have already adopted compulsory voting." [6]

Sub-point C: CV solves for polarization and lack of representativeness

"It is also possible that increasing turnout will increase the representativeness of the electorate in another way that might help put a dent in one of the major ills of the current political discourse in America: polarization. The electorate and the parties have become more playing more and more to the extremes and crowding out the center. This has a negative impact on political discourse and can serve to diminish participation by those citizens who have less extreme views. Importantly, the citizens who are currently being left out of the mix in terms of political participation tend to be less connected to the two major political parties. Put another way, the citizens who are most engaged in politics and turn out to vote also tend to be the most extremist in terms of political outlook." [7]

Contention Two: Violence

Sub-point A: Stability is necessary for effective governance

I would truly be surprised if Con contested this, but the argument is simple. A state requires relative stability in order to carry out day-to-day functions. Areas ravaged by violence, natural disasters, etc. tend to have fewer amenities and poorer governmental infrastructure. Therefore, stability is beneficial.

Sub-point B: CV reduces violence, solving for a major cause of violence.

"State actors have an interest in high turnout because voting helps sustain a peaceful democratic government. When voting norms atrophy in democratic countries, their citizens may cease to view voting as an expedient form of participation and political expression. With citizens less conscious of voting as a desirable form of participation, they are more likely to resort to protests, violence, and unrest. A society 'in which a large proportion of the population is outside the political arena is potentially more explosive than one in which most citizens are regularly involved in activities which give them some sense of participation in decisions which affect their lives'." [3] "Unless public engagement with the democratic process improves, our leaders may well find themselves elected by precariously small proportions of the eligible population, which will cast doubt on the popular mandate behind their policy initiatives...the have-nots increasingly shun electoral means of addressing their concerns, they may resort to more disruptive forms of political action. Social unrest manifests itself as a quintessentially economic problem, but it is also closely linked to constitutional and political structures, as these structures define the options citizens have at their disposal for voicing dissent...Increasing the electoral participation rates of deprived and marginalised social groups is a key means of incentivising political parties to pay attention to their needs, and thereby of heading off destabilising forms of social unrest." [4]

Contention Three: Citizenship

Democracy is unique in that places the responsibility of governance in the hands of the people, and, to whom much power is given, much is expected. In this case, we, as the holders of authority, have a responsibility to vote and to make conscientious voting choices. Even if you buy none of my other utilitarian arguments, you can look to this one to vote Pro.

"The rights-based defense of mandatory electoral participation starts from the premise that duties and obligations are intimately connected to rights. Voting is a necessary attribute of citizenship; it is a public trust, a moral obligation, a duty of citizenship. Democratic obligations thus follow directly from democratic rights. The obligation to participate in elections can be defended on the grounds of equality inherent in the definition of the democratic choice situation; all members of the community have a duty to contribute to collective decision-making if they are to enjoy its fruits, irrespective of any consequentialist arguments (considered below) as to the impact of such participation. " [4]


1 -
2 -
3 - Jason Marisam, Research Fellow-Harvard Law School, 2009, "Voter Turnout: From Cost to Cooperation," St. Thomas Law Review, Winter, 21 St. Thomas L. Rev. 190, p. 195
4 - Sarah Birch, Reader in Politics-University of Essex, 2009, "The case for compulsory voting," Public Policy Research, March-May, p. 21-2
5 -
6 - Harvard Law Review, 2007, "The Case for Compulsory Voting in the United States," 121 Harv. L. Rev. 591, p. 593-5
7 - Michael Pitts, Professor Indiana University School of Law, 2011, "Opt-Out Voting," Hofstra Law Review, Summer, 39 Hofstra L. Rev. 897, p. 920


Thanks to Bsh1 (Pro) for his opening argument!
I will be utilizing this round to present my case, as well.

I have no objections to any of Pro's definitions or observations.

C1) Right to Inaction

With any human right in a democracy comes the right to abstain from exercising that right. It is simply a matter of common sense that we have no obligation to do something just because someone has allowed us to do it. Having the right to free speech does not mean that we are obligated to speak out and publicly express our opinions whenever the opportunity presents itself. Having the right to own guns does not mean that we are obligated to own guns. In the same way, having the right to represent ourselves in our democratic government via voting does not mean that we are obligated to do so!

The basic role of a government is to protect our individual rights, but to turn "right" into "obligation" goes beyond that, violating our freedom to deprive ourselves of a right if we wish to do so (i.e. violating our right to inaction). Even if Pro were to prove that making voting compulsory is "beneficial", that still wouldn't prove that compulsory voting is "justified", as the resolution states, because it would still be a violation of our right to inaction. The government cannot justifiably force us to exercise a right if we do not wish to.
Thus, compulsory voting is inherently unjustifiable.

C2) "Bad" Voting

Here, I will attempt to show that, if anything, compulsory voting would only hurt a democracy.
To do this we must look at the idea of motivation; If we allow people to vote voluntarily, then they will vote because they *want* to vote and actually care about having their opinions represented in politics; these people are more likely to be politically aware enough to make intelligent voting decisions. By making voting compulsory, however, we force voting upon even those who do not care about politics or the state of the nation; those people are more likely to be politically unaware, unable to make informed voting decisions and easily caving in to the empty political rhetoric of less qualified candidates. In that sense, compulsory voting is actually detrimental to democracy.
It is much more logical to allow voting to be voluntary; the more motivated, more informed votes of the politically aware are bound to be more representative of what is in the best interest of the people.


1. Compulsory voting is inherently unjustifiable, as it violates our right to inaction (i.e. the right to refrain from exercising a right).

2. Compulsory voting would be detrimental to democracy because it would force unmotivated/uninformed individuals to cast votes.

And with that I hand the debate back over to Pro.
Apologies for my brevity this round...

Debate Round No. 2


Thanks to Romanii for the debate! I will now be rebutting Con's case.

CONTENTION ONE: Right to Inaction

Con writes that "with any human right in a democracy comes the right to abstain from exercising that right." This is, essentially, the crux of Con's argument here. That with every right comes a converse right of abstention. It is this notion that I shall be challenging.

Firstly, in practice, certain rights impose obligations on citizens to fulfill. For instance, I have a right to a jury trial. If I were ever arrested and made to stand trial, the court, in furtherance of might right to a jury, can compel people to serve as jurors.

You cannot escape jury duty simply because you want to. In other words, you cannot simply abstain from jury duty. Why is this so? Well, it is a duty of citizenship. The state has a compelling interest in ensuring that due process is upheld in its legal system, and so therefore can force people to do things (like testify or serve on juries) in order to protect that interest. In simpler terms, the right to due process outweighs my right to use my free time as I see fit, and thus I can be coerced to use my free time to serve the ends of due process.

I will argue here that the right to effective, comprehensive, democratic governance outweighs my right to use my free time as I see fit. Consider, choosing to abstain from voting is--for most people--a choice about free time. They just don't want to take the time to vote. If my right to democratic governance outweighs my right to dispense with my free time as I will, and if compulsory voting supports the former right sufficiently, compulsory voting is justified.

The compelling benefit to society that compulsory voting serves is manifold, and includes: promoting democratic legitimacy, reducing violence, and promoting equality. I expound on all of these points in my case. These weighty concerns are sufficient to out balance concerns about free time and abstention, and thus, compulsory voting is justified.

To summarize, “if there is a strong enough collective interest at stake with voting, this should prevent the individual right to vote from becoming an inverse right not to vote. Voting is often viewed as an individual privilege, but it is also true that there are collective benefits from the participation of citizens in elections. Because all Americans benefit from having representative democracy as a form of government, all Americans benefit when others exercise the right to vote. The individual act of voting is essential to the collective's ability to have democratic government, and as such should not be waivable.” [1]

Secondly, "the theory of democracy is based upon the social contract between the government and the people. When a democracy is established, the people cease to be in a state of nature, where they are free to do whatever they choose, and become part of the community, bound by its laws. The people are the government, agreeing to live together and be bound by laws for mutual security. However, the duty of the citizen does not end simply by following the laws of the community; the citizen owes certain duties to the community. The government (community) must govern justly and with the consent of the governed, and, in return, the individual (citizen) must follow the laws of the community." [2]

Whether or not we accept a social contract explanation of government, we can accept that membership in a country entails certain responsibilities, duties that run both directions. Citizens have a duty to the government, and the government has a duty to the people.

“The key idea here is that a democratic electoral system is a public good, in that all citizens get to benefit from it, even if they do nothing to contribute to it. Because it is a public good, it is possible to free-ride, or to enjoy the benefits of that good, without contributing…Non-voters, therefore, can be seen as free-riders, selfishly and immorally exploiting voters. The moral force of this point is two-fold…it reinforces the idea that no morally significant liberties are threatened by compulsory turnout…It is selfish and exploitative to benefit from the efforts of other people without making any effort to contribute. So, far from compulsion being unjustified, or even morally neutral, it seems positively desirable, as a curb on selfish and exploitative behaviour.” [3]

Free riders have shirked their duty to the state, and therefore are unjustifiably reaping the benefits when the government does good things for the people collectively. Thus, voting can be made compulsory to enforce this two-way relationship actually remains two-way, and to ensure that no one is unjustly gaming the system.

Thirdly, Con states: "Even if Pro were to prove that making voting compulsory is 'beneficial,' that still wouldn't prove that compulsory voting is 'justified,' as the resolution states, because it would still be a violation of our right to inaction." Look at my Observation Two from last round, where I point out that I can show that an action is justified in two ways (1) that it is just or morally right, and (2) that it is reasonable or rational. Rights are typically expressed as moral concerns, and therefore if there is a "right" to abstention, I might not be able to show that CV is just or morally right; however, I could still show that CV is reasonable by showing that it is beneficial. So, Con is incorrect when he says that a right to abstention precludes me from affirming the resolution.

Fourthly, as a matter of practical fact, Con's underlying assumption (i.e. that a right to X implies the converse right to not do X) is faulty. “Not all positive rights imply negative rights; we have a right to educate our children, but this does not mean that we have a right not to educate our children. We are required by the state to do many other things as well: to pay taxes, and to serve on juries, and to have our names included on the electoral roll.” [4]


Con's basic premise here is that CV would lead to bad votes (a.k.a. "donkey" votes). His arguments are woefully unsubstantiated, and I will endeavor to show how, empirically, his arguments are false.

Firstly, “empirical evidence casts further doubt on the hypothesis of random distortion: In Australia, donkey votes account for only around 1 per cent of total votes cast. More importantly, this figure is actually lower than in many systems where voting is voluntary. It is also worth noting that…there tend to be about as many deliberately spoiled and blank ballots as there are donkey votes; therefore at least half of random votes are deliberately nullified by their authors. This renders them incapable of distorting outcomes. It might be retorted that this only shows that compelling people to vote is a waste of time because deliberate informality ends up being the functional equivalent of abstention. The obvious response is that this is only true of a very small proportion of typical abstainers; the vast majority cast – or sincerely attempt to cast – valid votes. Given that compulsory voting can increase turnout by as much as 30+ percentage points, one percentage point of intentionally invalid votes and no discernible increase in donkey votes seems to be a tolerable cost of enfranchising the disadvantaged." [5]

Secondly, if the empirics don't convince you, there are theoretical arguments out there that suggest that in places where CV is implemented, parties will go out of there way to educate voters more fully about issues and candidates. “Firstly, if conversion replaces mobilization as the main aim of parties during a campaign, they have an incentive to focus on policy rather than on 'hype,' which should in theory lead to an electorate better-informed about issues and policies. Secondly, if voters know in advance that they will be voting on election day and that they will have to choose from among the options on offer, they have greater reason to pay attention to the campaign than is the case when they can toy with the idea of not voting only to change their minds shortly before the election. The third reason is related to the impact of the universality of electoral campaigns under compulsory voting; if the assumption can be made that everyone will be voting, the election is more likely to become a topic of conversation among friends, relatives and colleagues, which should serve to inform people of relevant issues and the policy positions of parties.” [4]

“Participation breeds participation--people who take part in politics in one way tend to do so in another. Participation in the political process may bring about an interest in participation in other civic engagements, which in turn has a positive impact on the political competence among citizens. Therein, as Lijphart argues, compulsory voting could serve as a tool for civic education and political stimulation. The act of voting may also indirectly affect civic engagement by increasing the level of awareness of and interest in politics. Mandatory voting may spur people to gather information about politics and societal affairs in order to make a reasonable vote choice…compulsory voting should have a mobilizing and educating influence on citizens, also increasing the levels of political engagement more generally.” [6]


1 - Source 6, R2
2 - Carmichael, Christopher W. Law Clerk to US Circuit Judge Bauer, 2002, "Proposals for Reforming the American Electoral System After the 2000 Presidential Election," 23 Hamline J. Pub. L. & Pol'y 255, Spring, 2002, p. 309-10
3 -
4 - Source 4, R2
5 - Hill, Lisa. University of Adelaide, 2001, "Increasing Turnout Using Compulsory Voting," Politics, Vol. 31(1), p. 31
7 - Lundell, Krister. Professor Abo Akademi University, 2012, "Civic Participation and Political Trust: The Impact of Compulsory Voting," Representation, Vol. 48:2, p. 221

Over to Con...


Thanks, Pro.
Rebuttal time!

R1) Turnout

Pro argues that having a large amount of non-voters is detrimental to democracy because it would mean a large portion of the people go unrepresented, which defeats its entire purpose (rule by the people). He goes on to argue that enforcing compulsory voting would increase voter turnout (obviously...). But this argument is very ideological in nature; sure, it is "more democratic" to have more voters, but one thing that democracy guarantees is the protection of rights, and compulsory voting is a clear violation of some people's right to inaction, as explained in my opening argument.

On that note, Pro observes that a lot of the non-voting population consists of socio-economically disadvantaged groups that cannot vote simply because of "situational forces" (i.e. that it's often not a purposeful choice to exercise the right to inaction). And in that case, compulsory voting IS a justifiable method of getting more of them to vote.
However, compulsory voting, by definition, doesn't just apply to those disadvantaged groups; it applies to ALL citizens... and we must note that there are plenty of other non-voters who make a *conscious decision* not to vote for a variety of personal reasons, thus exercising their right to inaction ( For these people, the enforcement of compulsory voting results in a violation of their rights.
What compulsory voting does, then, is that it solves one problem (low turnout from poorer citizens) while creating another (a rights violation for purposeful non-voters). Thus, it is far more beneficial for the government to find other ways to mitigate the "situational forces" preventing socio-economically disadvantaged people from voting.

This contention does not affirm the resolution at all; the rights violations that it would entail make alternative solutions to socio-economic voting barriers preferable to the enforcement of compulsory voting.
Also, I can cross-apply my argument regarding "bad" voting here, to show that a lower turnout could plausibly be *better* for society as a whole, from a strictly practical perspective.

R2) Violence

Pro argues that compulsory voting causes more people to be involved in government, which oftentimes reduces social unrest. I do not deny that having a large portion of the population to be unrepresented is dangerous. However, it is completely illogical to believe that people who choose not to vote would be causing turmoil over a lack of representation...
And if Pro his referring to those "socio-economically disadvantaged groups" here, then this contention falls into the same trap as the last contention; compulsory voting, while it may be one possible method to increase voter turnout among the disadvantaged, is rendered unfavorable relative to alternative methods because of the rights violations it entails.

R3) Citizenship

Pro suggests, here, that being a citizen in a democracy naturally includes having an obligation to vote.
However, the argument fails, as there is no logical connection between the premise and the conclusion. It is true that a democratic government affords each of its citizens political power in the form of voting, but that does not mean that all citizens have an obligation to *use* that power; they should be able to utilize their natural right to inaction to abstain from using their power if they wish to do so.
The power being vested in "the people" does not necessarily mean that each and every person needs to participate in exercising that power. If someone refuses to exercise their power, it is their own loss.


-Compulsory voting may have its benefits when it comes to helping those who are simply unable to vote due to external circumstances, but when it comes to people who purposefully choose not to vote, it is nothing more than a violation of their right to inaction.

-Voting cannot be said to be a democratic obligation because being *allowed* to do X is not a valid logical basis for being *required* to do X. A person who does not wish to exercise the power given to them in a democracy should be free to do so.

Back to you, Pro!

Debate Round No. 3


Thanks, Romanii! I will defend my case.


Pro concedes that CV solves for low turnout and representativeness. Therefore, all I need to do is win that concerns re: turnout outweigh Pro's concerns about rights violations, and I am winning this contention hands-down. We should also observe that Con never disputed that for a democracy to be or appear legitimate, it had to have representative elections. Extend all of these points.

Con critiques my argument for being ideological, yet, I would assert that my train of though in this contention and in others is the exact opposite. It is a pragmatic affirmation of what a government needs to be effective. If a non-authoritarian government is not seen as legitimate, then it is hard for it to enforce those actions it needs to enforce. It is often undermined by those it seeks to govern. Excellent examples of this would include the recent government in Iraq, where Sunnis viewed the government as Shia-biased (unrepresentative) and therefore are engaging in open rebellion against the state. A milder example would be Greece, where the government's tough austerity measures led to myriad protests. The underlying conclusion that can be drawn from this is that if a democratic government is not seen to represent the country and all its people, it is often hard for that very government to function. If a government is not seen as legitimate, its efficacy is undermined; it is pragmatic, therefore, for a government to garner as much legitimacy as it can.

Con then juxtaposes the right to inaction against the need for democratic legitimacy. Remember that, as per my Observation Three, all arguments should be evaluated by how well they link to and achieve democracy. Con agreed to this Observation. Therefore, to determine which of these two things is more impactful in the round, we must ascertain which is more important to "democracy."

Firstly, there are such things as benevolent dictatorships (e.g. Bhutan) where human rights are very well respected, yet there is no such thing as a democracy without elections. Voting is the quintessence of what makes a democracy and democracy, and therefore goes more to the heart of the concept than rights protection. This is not to say that rights are not vital, but merely I am asserting that voting and the legitimacy of the outcome of elections is more intrinsically important to a democracy than perhaps anything else. When weighing the legitimacy of the government against a supposed right to abstain from voting, the former outweighs.

Secondly, it is by no means established that a right to inaction actually exists. If doesn't, this whole dichotomy is moot, and my contention stands.

Thirdly, even if you don't buy my first argument and even if Con establishes a right to inaction, we can still buy this contention. Consider, a government must act pragmatically. Prof. Gary Woller writes: "Appeals to a priori moral principles...often fail to acknowledge that public policies inevitably entail trade-offs among competing values. Thus since policymakers cannot justify inherent value conflicts to the public in any philosophical sense...the policymakers' duty to the public interest requires them to demonstrate that...their policies are somehow to the overall advantage of society." I have already show, re: my priori discussion of pragmatism, how CV, by promoting government legitimacy and representativeness and by reducing polarization, actually is to the overall advantage of society. CV should thus be pursued by governments. Also consider that the rights violations caused by civil strife, conflict, and neglect of disadvantaged groups are more severe than violating peoples' rights to inaction; therefore, we should prioritize preventing the former even at the expense of the latter.

Con summarizes by saying that the CV solves one problem (low turnout) by creating another (violating the right to inaction.) Ultimately, this is incorrect. At most, CV solves one problem without violating rights, simply because that right doesn't exist. At least, CV solves one severe problem by creating a minor one; it's like trading a gushing aorta for a paper cut--it's a trade that is reasonable and justified, if not morally right. Certainly, minimizing ill effect is desirable, both morally and pragmatically.

Con then cross-applies his "bad voting" arguments here. I rebutted these arguments thoroughly at an earlier juncture. As for the idea of alternatives, Con provides none, and it would be unfair for him to do so later as I'd have limited time to respond. But, I would wager that CV is the best alternative, as it can increase turnout anywhere from 7 to 30 points; these substantial increases would be hard to replicate through none obligatory means. And, unless extremely high turnout is attained, legitimacy will always be in jeopardy.


Con writes, "I do not deny that having a large portion of the population to be unrepresented is dangerous." I could not have said it more succinctly myself.

Firstly, Con suggests that it is "illogical to believe that people who choose not to vote would be causing turmoil over a lack of representation." In fact, this is untrue. In many democracies, particularly those that are burgeoning or are located in the emerging world, people do not see voting as an effective means of bringing about change. This can occur for many reasons, including the idea that certain ethnic groups will always get their candidates elected. What people don't realize is that when everyone participates, elections are more representative than if people stay at home. "When voting norms atrophy in democratic countries, their citizens may cease to view voting as an expedient form of participation and political expression. With citizens less conscious of voting as a desirable form of participation, they are more likely to resort to protests, violence, and unrest." [1] CV revivifies those norms, injecting life into previously unused mechanisms of social change by forcing people to use them. Eventually, this reduces voter apathy (esp. as regards the voting system) and restores confidence in the voting booth as a means of expressing oneself. This, in turn, reduces violence.

"The quality of a modern representative democracy, especially among the emerging democracies, depends substantially on the extent of voter participation not only during the elections, but also during the intervening period between one election and another. The act of voting provides all citizens with an opportunity to show an interest--perhaps a direct interest--in the policies and performance of the government and also reveals their expectations for the future. This being so, the declining percentage of voter turnout is indeed a cause for concern." [2]

But, even if you buy none of what I just said, Con does seem to agree that disadvantaged groups might resort to violence. Since Con concedes that violence is a bad thing, I can still garner impacts by reducing the violence caused by these groups. Also, Con drops that CV reduces violence. Extend these three points.

All that I need to do now is weigh preventing violence against the supposed violation of the right to inaction. I don't really think this requires much analysis. Take Iraq for instance, or, let's just use imaginary Country X. Country X has one bloc of people that consistently turn out to vote, while others don't. Those who don't vote, feels as if they're not being heard, and so resort to violence as a means of expressing themselves. People die in the ensuing tumult.

Con cannot tell me that people lives outweigh the right to inaction. A few hours of my time vs. the lives of human beings. I would choose the latter any day, as would any responsible democracy. The right to life has to be paramount, as without it, no other rights have meaning.


Con's only argument here is that there is no obligation to actually use the power citizens have to govern.

Firstly, I already explored this very concept with my earlier arguments about the social contract. This bridges the gap between my premise and my conclusion.

Secondly, we can explore this concept more in depth. Let us take a hypothetical: Suppose that Nation Z is made up of 10 citizens. Each has the option to abstain from voting if they so desire. The election comes around, and each of the 10 citizens fails to vote. The state of nature resumes, as, without an election, no government can be formed to run the nation.

Consider that a government's duty is to prevent anarchy; that is, ostensibly, the justification for its existence. It can therefore compel people to vote in order to ensure it's existence and continuance. So, let's say that Nation Z compelled 1 person to vote; how could this be fair? It imposes an obligation on one person that no one else has. Faced with this dilemma, it compels everyone to vote, thus maintaining fairness, but ensuring it will endure into the future.

This may not be a realistic application of the idea--as democracies always have at least some people vote--but it does provide a theoretical justification for the idea of CV as it relates to the social contract. But, I will next attempt to provide a more convincing justification.

Thirdly, the social contract, notably is a contract, implying that both parties make promises and incur responsibilities. Consider, that a government demands certain things of the people--things without which it could not perform its job. People are required to respect its laws, pay taxes, and so forth. If people did not do such things then a government could not do its job. Voting is one such civic duty that citizens agree to do when entering into a democracy.


1 - Source 3, R2
2 - Murthy, T. S. K., Chief Election Commissioner of India, 2012, "The Relevance of Voting Rights in Modern Democracy," Wake Forest Journal of Law & Policy, 2 Wake Forest J. L. & Pol'y 337, p. 344

Over to Con...


Pass round

(see comments for details)
Debate Round No. 4



Please only judge those arguments that were already presented.
Debate Round No. 5
42 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by 9spaceking 2 years ago
if only romanii got the final rounds...he was *this close* to beating down bsh's arguments...
Posted by ESocialBookworm 2 years ago
@romanii you naughty boy :P
Posted by YYW 2 years ago

Romanii could have easily won this debate. There were loads of holes in Bsh's arguments, that Romanii neglected to meaningfully exploit. That said, there were also loads of holes in Romanii's argument which Bsh actively did exploit. None of PRO's arguments other than his third (argued and sustained over all rounds), that more or less 'voting is both a right and a duty and for democracy to be upheld that duty must not be shirked and in that CV mitigates shirking, it is justified' were sufficiently grounded. Romanii never addressed that point and never meaningfully refuted the notion that not voting is inherently anti-democratic. If we value democracy and CV maximizes election's "democraticness," as Bsh1 basically argued, then because Romanii could not overcome that, Bsh1 wins.
Posted by YYW 2 years ago

PRO opens with the observation that CON "concedes that CV solves for low turnout and representativeness" so all PRO needs to do, therefore, to win is to show that "turnout outweigh Pro's concerns about rights violations, and I am winning this contention hands-down." Except, CON only conceded that CV "may have its benefits when it comes to helping those who are simply unable to vote due to external circumstances, but when it comes to people who purposefully choose not to vote." So, in some but not all cases, CV does things that reduce turnout, but to say that all PRO has to do to win is to show that "turnout outweighs rights" is to assume that there are fewer people who consciously chose to not vote than those who could not vote without CV -and PRO furnishes no evidence for that assumption. Rather than dismissing CON's ironic accusation of PRO's being ideological, he opted instead to argue that his position is not ideological because it is pragmatic and implicitly assumes that "ideologicalness" and "pragmaticness" are mutually exclusive -which is not the case. Nonetheless, PRO's point about legitimacy carries because CON didn't refute it. PRO argues that there is no democracy without elections and compulsory voting maximizes the legitimacy of those elections, though once more fails to meaningfully show how elections without compelled voting are not sufficiently legitimate. PRO's Woller quote doesn't materially advance his case that democracy suffers to the extent that people do not vote, nor does it assuage the concern that compelled voting is itself inherently anti-democratic and anti-egalitarian. The violence point is recovered, but only to the same level of veracity at which it was originally posited, and the citizenship point finishes strong.
Posted by YYW 2 years ago

CON reopens with the notion that PRO's argument "is very ideological in nature" because "it is 'more democratic' to have more voters, but one thing that democracy guarantees is the protection of rights, and compulsory voting is a clear violation of some people's right to inaction, as explained in my opening argument." CON makes no mention of how PRO's argument is "ideological" or even if being "ideological" is a bad thing, he just kind of assumes that "all that is ideological is bad," but if democratic participation is inherently ideologically driven (and it is) then his premise doesn't hold, meaning that his attempting to use the adjective "ideological" to pejoratively describe PRO's argument isn't all that meaningful. PRO didn't mention that, but CON's dismissing PRO as "ideological" when both are talking about "democracy" and both are advocating for fundamentally ideologically driven positions is kind of amusingly ironic. Likewise, CON ignores the "rights" side of PRO's argument other than to erroneously claim that there is no link between premise and conclusion -which was the real thrust, even if PRO only got there in a round-about way. (By the way, there is no case where either side benefits from mentioning socioeconomics in this debate.) CON's subsequent claim that "it is completely illogical to believe that people who choose not to vote would be causing turmoil over a lack of representation" is in want of warrant.
Posted by YYW 2 years ago

PRO predictably argues that even if people have a right to vote, they do not have a right to shirk the duty of it. This was exactly the correct response to CON's first point. But, PRO focuses too much on the principle CON advocated for that "with any human right in a democracy comes the right to abstain from exercising that right." This wasn't the conclusion, it was a premise which supported CON's conclusion that if people have the right to vote then they have the right not to vote -so, even though CON's argument that the individual exercising their right not to vote may come at the expense of their civic duty which is injurious to democracy itself did undermine CON's premise stated above, his time would have been better spent arguing only that even if some rights do not entail duties (like free speech) other rights (like voting) are not only rights, but also duties, and compulsory voting is justified because people do not have a right to shirk duty. PRO also seemed to overstate the harm that any one individual's choice not to vote would have, but that is a lesser issue. PRO's pointing CON to his second observation at the debate's beginning wasn't necessarily bad, but it would have been better to just restate the observation as a warrant to his claim. PRO's rejoinder about donkey votes was just as speculative as CON's initial second contention. Though his second rebuttal about how parties change their campaign strategy was interesting, he was still playing within the scope of CON's undemocratic assumption that lesser educated votes are bad votes. His final indication that "mandatory voting may spur people to gather information about politics and societal affairs in order to make a reasonable vote choice" is optimistic but not substantiated.
Posted by YYW 2 years ago

CON argues that all individuals have the right to abstain from exercising their rights. That phrasing was a bit weird, but introduces the first -and perhaps most salient- point of clash in this debate. Indeed, CON argues that "having the right to represent ourselves in our democratic government via voting does not mean that we are obligated to do so." But, if voting is, as PRO said, both a right and a duty, while individuals may have the right to not exercise a right, they would not necessarily have the right to shirk duty. CON haphazardly implies that compelled voting violates a fundamental right to inaction -though despite my perhaps overly charitable reading, he overstates the impact of his first contention. CON did not show that CV is "inherently" anything, where to be "inherent" is to exist as a permanent or essential attribute of something, especially when taking into account PRO's third contention. Rather, CON showed only that if we have a right to not exercise rights. Furthermore, if he did show that CV was "inherently" unjustifiable, then his second contention would be unnecessary -and yet he has an argument to follow up, which states that CV "would only hurt a democracy." In order to prove this, he needs to supply evidence that in cases where CV has been implemented, the democracy itself has suffered. But instead of doing that, he speculates that "voting upon even those who do not care about politics or the state of the nation." This is problematic both because it contradicts democratic governance in principle (as in a democracy all votes are of equal value, regardless of the naivety or ignorance of any individual voters), and because he does not offer evidence that those who are more likely to vote of their own volition are more informed.
Posted by YYW 2 years ago

Even if high turnout is a necessary indicator of governmental legitimacy in the absence of compulsion, PRO errs in assuming that that evidence implies that compelling votes legitimizes democracies. PRO's claim that "democratic values such as egalitarianism and justice are circumvented when turnout is low" likewise does not follow from the premises he supplied and even if it did, that does not imply that compelling votes under by the force of law would not be equally injurious to egalitarianism and justice, especially if as CON aptly observes, "the government cannot justifiably force us to exercise a right if we do not wish to" because of a fundamental right to inaction. PRO's argument regarding voter polarization (the people who vote now are most likely to hold extreme views, therefore to mitigate that we've got to water the electorate down with people who are presently inactive) only holds if the people whom PRO wishes to compel are, in fact, moderate AND if compelling votes to diminish the proportional representation of some groups is a legitimate end in a democracy. Neither of those were substantiated in the first round. PRO's second argument (violence is reduced by increasing voter turnout, which increases stability by offering an alternative to civic participation) begs the question. Why does voter turnout reduce violence? Because people are not going to be violent. But even still, I'm not convinced because in order for PRO's point about violence to hold, he's got to show that in countries with low voter turnout, violence is a problem AND that violence has been shown to be reduced where 'compelled' vote (not just votes in a general sense) proportionally increase. Once more, PRO is confusing the sufficient and necessary. His third argument (voting is a right as much as it is a civic duty), however, was sufficiently grounded, and probably would have been best to open with.
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
That depends on the judges.
Posted by Romanii 2 years ago
Umm... okay....
tho that's pretty much a concession, at this point...
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by YYW 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Comments.