The Instigator
Con (against)
5 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
16 Points

In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/7/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,252 times Debate No: 38617
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (17)
Votes (4)




Encyclopedia Britannica says that "Whether made compulsory in law or through social pressure, it is doubtful that high voter turnout is a beneficial indication of an electorate"s capability for intelligent social choice." America"s first amendment is for the freedom of speech, which then also gives you the right not to speak. Compulsory voting is taking away this very important right. This is why I stand in firm negation in today"s resolution:
"In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory."

"First I would like to clarify some terms in today's resolution:
Democracy: A government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and is directly by them or by their or elected agents under a free electoral system. ""
Ought: Expressing obligation
Compulsory: Required, or mandatory. Obligatory

"I would now like to turn to my value for today's debate:

Value; Freedom of Speech.

1: The right of people to express their opinions publicly without governmental interference.

My value applies to today"s debate because our first amendment right is the freedom to speak. With the freedom to speak also comes the right not to speak. A democracy is all about freedom. With compulsory voting, the government would be restricting our freedoms, by forcing citizens to take a position.

"My value criterion is: Protecting Rights
Definition of Value Criterion and how it applies to the debate:
By enforcing compulsory voting, you would be violating the freedom of speech, the freedom that all citizens have. Making a law that directly affects our rights would be counter to the tenants of democracy.

Contention I:
Cite 1: Stoilov, Vassia. "No, Compulsory Voting Laws in the United States Would Not Work." Points of View Reference Center. EBSCOHost, n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2013.

Compulsory voting interferes with individual liberty and violates the principle of free elections. Compulsory voting violates the U.S. constitutional "right to refrain from speaking" famously set forth in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, which is widely held to be the classic statement of the belief that the First Amendment encompasses both the right to speak and the right not to speak.
Contention II:
Cite 1: Piero Moraro, PhD Professor of Philosophy in New South Wales, Winter 2012, "Why Compulsory Voting Undermines Democracy," Living Ethics, Issue 88, (accessed 8/15/13)

compulsory voting does not guarantee a better democracy.

Australia is one of the 19 countries in the world that legally enforces the vote. For Australian citizens voting is not merely a right, but also a duty. First introduced in Queensland in 1915, extended to the whole country in 1924, compulsory voting is a salient feature of the Australian electoral system. But is it democratic? The main argument in defense of compulsory voting is the importance of raising citizens" participation in elections. Australia"s turn out rate has never fallen below 90% since 1924, in striking comparison with most Western countries that struggle to reach 60%. These are nevertheless, merely quantitative considerations: the fact that more people go to vote is not a better thing for democracy. In fact, it could be argued that compulsory voting is likely to do more damage than good, by reducing the quality of the electoral outcome. Forcing everyone to vote means that the voice of those with no interest in politics will influence the decision about who rules the country. This generates what author Jason Brennan calls "pollution of the polls" in his book The ethics of voting, and is one of the main causes of the actual crisis of democracy worldwide: incompetent politicians winning elections through media control (the recent case of Italy under Silvio Berlusconi epitomizes this phenomenon). If one is to assume that compulsory voting will create a better democracy, there is no evidence to illustrate that this is true.

Freedom of speech is one of the most important rights that a citizen withholds in a democracy. Compulsory voting stands in violation of this right by making voting a must, rather than a choice. In a democracy no law may be created that violates a citizens inalienable rights. Therefore compulsory voting cannot and should not be used in a democracy.


The order will be AC, NC.


I Value Democracy on strength of link. When referencing democracy, we must not only value those systems that make a nation democratic, but also the ability of those systems to provide for the general welfare, as that is the core goal of just government.

I offer the Criterion of Reducing Polarization. Dr. Philip Keefer and Prof. Stephen Knack note, "Increasing polarization reduces the stability of government decisions, and in particular increases the possibility of future extreme deviations from current government policies."

Contention One: Polarization is a threat to democracy.

Sub-point A: Polarization hinders government"s ability to act.

Keefer and Knack Two observes, "One problem identi@257;ed by researchers is the contribution of polarization to government delay in responding to crisis"two groups must agree to policy change; their preferences over the policy differ. Each group has imperfect knowledge about the cost that the other group bears in the event that a particular policy change is delayed, or about the likelihood that the other group will behave cooperatively. The greater the differences between the two groups"the larger are the gains to stubbornness"polarization impedes the formation of consensus to change policy."

Sub-point B: Extreme Wings threaten the economy, jeopardizing democratic stability.

Keefer and Knack Three states: "economic actors react to this uncertainty by reducing the scope of their activities, arranging their businesses so they are less exposed to risk...polarization slows growth because it makes the policy environment less secure. We test this claim by reexamining the impact of inequality--one type of polarization--on growth. Several recent cross-country empirical studies have found that inequality reduces economic growth"inequality reduces access to credit markets; reduces opportunities to achieve economics of scale; increases redistribution through government budgets; and increases political violence. Each of these reduces growth."

Sub-point C: Factionalism leads to violence. Compulsory voting will fix this.

Jason Marisam of Harvard asserts, "high turnout...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"[citizens] are more likely to resort to protests, violence, and unrest." Prof. Sarah Birch, concludes, "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"as the have-nots increasingly shun electoral means of addressing their concerns, they may resort to more disruptive forms of political action".Increasing the electoral participation rates of deprived and marginalized social groups is a key means of incentivizing political parties to pay attention to their needs, and thereby of heading off destabilizing forms of social unrest."

Contention Two: Compulsory voting will address the problems posed by polarization.

Sub-point A: Compulsory voting will make the campaign process fairer and more inclusive.

The Harvard Law Review writes, "In addition to the direct effect of compulsory voting on turnout, there are also several indirect benefits. First, compulsory voting would reduce the role of money in politics"get-out-the-vote money could be shifted to other forms of campaign spending"With this implicit limit on spending, politicians and parties might focus somewhat less on fundraising and be less beholden to donors"Compulsory voting would bring a new population into play, and would force political actors to make changes in their campaign methods in order to take these new voters into account."

Sub-point B: Compulsory voting boosts turnout.

MP Scott Bennett claims, "Compulsory voting is likely to produce a high turnout of voters, wherever it is used"Australia is one of the most consistently high turnouts anywhere in the world"an average of 94.5 percent"" The Harvard Law Review asserts, "Multivariate statistical analyses have shown that compulsory voting laws raise voter turnout by seven to sixteen percentage points. 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."


I agree with Con's definitions bar one. Ought connotes "desirability" (Encarta.) For example, if I say "you ought not be late," I am saying that it's desirable that you not be late, but that is not an obligation--it's a courtesy.

V: The resolution is about democracy, but Con's value is only a small subset of this idea. The value of Democracy better balances the wide array of rights and concerns within a society. Also, if we pursued Con's value to its logical conclusion, there would be no restrictions on speech. I could shout "fire" in any theatre, crowded or not.

C: Con's criterion has several problems. (1) It's circular logic. Con is protecting the right of freedom of speech by protecting rights. More simply, she's protecting rights by protecting rights. What Con's criterion should be doing is explaining HOW we should protect her value, not just that we SHOULD protect her value. (2) The right to free speech is not an absolute. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that there are valid restrictions on speech. Therefore, the debate should be less about "protecting rights," but more so about "determining legitimate restrictions." This requires a cost-benefit analysis. (3) Rights also entail responsibilities. If I vote, but you don't, and we both get the same rights, you are unfairly free riding on the democratic system. You have a "duty" to respect the system and me and vote.

C1: There is no right not to vote.

Prof. Sarah Birch claims, "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." Additionally, your evidence is a U.S. court case, but this resolution pertains to "democracies" in general, and is not limited to the U.S.

C2: CV is beneficial as my case shows.

Her Aussie example fails too. Prof. Lisa Hill, "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"the vast majority cast"or sincerely attempt to cast"valid votes. Given that compulsory voting can increase turnout"one percentage point of intentionally invalid votes and no discernible increase in donkey votes seems to be a tolerable cost of enfranchising the disadvantaged." Finally, idiots can still vote in a voluntary system.


1. Bennett:
2. Birch: 2009, University of Essex, Full Participation: A Comparative Study of Compulsory Voting, p. 42
3. Harvard: 2007, "The Case for Compulsory Voting in the United States," 121 Harv. L. Rev. 591, p. 592
4. Hill: 2001, University of Adelaide, "Increasing Turnout Using Compulsory Voting," Politics, Vol. 31(1), p. 31
5. Marisam: 2009, Research Fellow-Harvard Law, "Voter Turnout: From Cost to Cooperation," St. Thomas Law Review, Winter, 21 St. Thomas L. Rev. 190, p. 192-3
6. K&K:
Debate Round No. 1


My opponent stated that his value was democracy, which is also my value. My value applies to this debate differently than his does. For a democracy to be legitimate, which will in turn help the people, and the democracy better, we need to have the politically educated, and involved to vote, will pick the best candidate, and the minority will not pollute the polls.
His value criterion is reducing polarization, which with compulsory voting, polarization will only increase. The division of the democracy would be even higher then before.
His contention one is incorrect, polarization doesnt exist in the democracies now.


So, in this round I will address Con's remarks, and then provide feedback to Con as Con requested. I hope my feedback is useful.


V: Con says that we should have only the educated vote. But under the concept of free speech, even foolish people can express themselves. In other words, unless Con is going to physically barricade the polls, administer IQ or knowledge tests to potential voters and so forth, then idiots will always vote. To take those steps necessary to prevent the uneducated from casting a ballot would necessarily require an infringement of free speech rights. Furthermore, the Lisa Hill evidence shows that even under a compulsory voting regime, the impact of "donkey votes," including uneducated, blank, and deliberately faulty ballots, is so small that it does not "pollute the polls." Therefore, Con's concerns are baseless.

C: Con never warrants why compulsory voting will boost polarization, whereas the entirety of my second contention explains the link between CV and eliminating polarization.

C1: Polarization does exist now. A perfect example would be the "defund Obamacare" movement which has brought the government to a standstill.

Extend all my other arguments and my attacks against Con's case. They go untouched by Con; Con has no offense on which to vote Con. This means, in terms of impacts, that CV solves for polarization, which in turn achieves our agreed upon value of democracy. Thanks, and please affirm.


Okay, so here are my thoughts. I think you need more research to bolster you arguments. You have a nice foundation in your NC, but you need to find more warrants to further substantiate your claims. Also, it is useful to have some sources which you don't include in your cases, because these sources might come in handy rebutting your opponent. A good example of this was my use of the Lisa Hill card.

In your rebuttals, you should try and hit every point, and make sure to be especially vigorous in defense of you own case. Your rebuttal did not defend your own case, nor did it address all the points in my case. And, when you make arguments in rebuttal, always be sure to explain why they are true. For example, you said that compulsory voting won't reduce polarization--why is that correct? Warrant your claims.

When attacking a V or C, I always try and do four things:

(1) Delink it--explain why my opponent is not achieving his or her Value or Criterion, and/or explaining why a criterion isn't linking to the value. For example, I explained that your V/C relationship was circular--that if the V and C are the same thing, one cannot augment the other, because they're the same.
(2) Encompass it--explain why my value or criterion includes and goes beyond my opponent's. I did this by saying that "freedom of speech" was subset of my own value, democracy.
(3) Link into it--explain why, even if a judge doesn't buy my value or criterion, how I can still win because I can link into my opponent's V/C framework.
(4) Attack it--explain why the value or criterion is fallacious. I did this with my argument about shouting fire in a theatre and with my last two points in response to your criterion.

DELA--it's worked for me in several debates. Sometimes not all of these techniques work, and sometimes you don't have time to do all four of these thing, but if you can do at least two of them, you should be good. It's a nice formula to help get you started.

Make sure you also impact your arguments; i.e., explain what relevance they have in terms of the V and C. All your contentions and extensions should be connected back to your V/C framework.

Try to make at least one attack against each sub-point, that way I can't extend them. Be comprehensive and thorough. If you have any specific questions, just post a comment or message me. I hope I helped!
Debate Round No. 2
17 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by NorthDebater 4 years ago
@RoyLatham, i am not meaning to be rude, but bsh1 was not in anyway rude, or anything else, please look at comments, before you do so. Thank You.
And bsh1, thank you for feedback, much appreciated.
Posted by bsh1 4 years ago
@RoyLatham - thank you for your clarification. I just want to note, though, that the only reason I included feedback was because Con had asked me to give feedback. It was not meant as condescension, nor did I go about doing it uncivilly. Maybe it would have been more apt in the comments section, but I left the feedback in the speech to keep everything together. However, I will take that under advisement. I also think that LD does require some jargon, but maybe nit as much as I tend to include. Thanks, once again.
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
@bsh1, I think the LD format has a lot of problems, but it doesn't demand use of peculiar jargon. It can be accomplished in plain English. I don't doubt your opponent could follow, but you are not writing for your opponent. You are writing for the DDO reading audience and not a judge well-versed in code-speak. A written debate has an advantage over spoken debate in that you can make a numbered outline so the structure is self evident, so you don't have to speak the points and subpoints. To do well on DDO, I think you should be made aware of these differences.

Your whole feedback section, beginning with "Okay, so here are my thoughts. I think you need more research to bolster you arguments. ..." is condescending. I think you made some good points in your feedback, but criticism of methods and style simply do not belong in the body of the debate. They would be okay in the comments. The reason is that the debate is solely about arguments and not about anything to do with debaters. From the readers viewpoint it is a distraction at best, and at worse an attempt to impeach the quality of your opponent's arguments by implication that the opponent can be dismissed as being a poor debater. You can be rather ruthless in attacking arguments, so long as you keep the distinction between the arguments and debaters.

My argument about academic baloney is true, but I was telling your opponent to step up and play the game, because academic debate is build upon such baloney. Recognize that every dumb idea on the planet has a dozen fully qualified academic studies that can be cited to prove it. The best way to cut through that is to get contradicting data, or studies that rely heavily on data rather than on interpretation or opinion. If the subject doesn't yield to data, then go for a better authority. For the present debate, the original U.S. Constitution didn't even allow people to vote for Senators, certainly the opposite of mandatory voting.
Posted by bsh1 4 years ago
@RoyLatham - my jargon was consistent with the format of Lincoln-Douglas Debate. Con wanted a LD debate, as implied by her offering a value and a criterion, and so that was the format my arguments were presented in. My academics are quite qualified, and nothing they said was too much of a stretch to believe, and I still am left perplex about me being condescending towards Con. Any clarity that you could provide on these queries re: your RFD would be appreciated. Thanks!
Posted by bsh1 4 years ago
@RoyLatham - how did I insult Con?
Posted by funwiththoughts 4 years ago
Your "examples", however, are of duties, not rights. There is no right to pay taxes, rather, there is a duty of the citizen to pay taxes. Same with serving on the jury, etc. That is the difference between a right and a duty.
Posted by bsh1 4 years ago
But a "Right" to do X, does not imply that you have the right not to do X.
Posted by TheInterlang 4 years ago
It's the "Right" to vote, not the "Duty" to vote.
Posted by bsh1 4 years ago
I wish you best of luck on your debating career!
Posted by bsh1 4 years ago
My suggestion would be to use Jstore and to use Google Scholar.

There are also some debate-specific site you can use if you are willing to pay for the subscription. Victory Briefs and Planet Debate are the two that come to mind. They can give you tons of relevant research very quickly.

And, just search for key terms in the resolution, like "compulsory voting." That would pull up a lot to look at. Again, I hope this is all useful.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro spoke in debate debate jargon, which made his arguments unnecessarily difficult to decode. Pro lost conduct by condescension and personal insults. Con, however, gave up and rolled over. Con's polarization argument was clearly wrong. I think Con should have argued that for the state to compel voting, and thereby negate free speech, there had to be some very compelling reason. Restrictions on free speech are justified by serious damage, like the "you can't yell 'Fire!' in a crowded theater." Most democracy work fine without compulsory voting, so there no compelling need that overcomes free speech. Pro used the usual assortment of nutcase academics ready to endorse a requirement to eat string beans or vote or whatever, but that's the way game is played. Con needed counter references and didn't have them.
Vote Placed by Hirakula 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: This was an interesting debate, because I found that Con should not have any trouble in winning, due to the apparent obviousness of her correctness. However, despite that I feel Pro had no chance of winning, I was shocked to see that he nonetheless gave a fantastic, well-organized, and almost-convincing argument. I also feel that Con's arguments were flawed, blunt and poorly conducted in general, in comparison to Pro. However, the fact remains the Pro had a very difficult argument to make, as I think, and still think, that his argument was doomed. He gave a tremendous effort, however, one that was missing from Con, despite her having the advantage of an easier argument. Con's argument, jumbled and messy though they were, were in fact superior to Pro's, if one could find them. Pro's were beautifully executed and elegant, even if fundamentally flawed - the chocolaty coating was almost enough to hide the cardboard center.
Vote Placed by funwiththoughts 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con's final-round argument was just a baseless assertion instead of an actual rebuttal.
Vote Placed by Ian159 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Obvious that Con was slightly off with regards to grammar. Good debate, you two.