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

Resolved: 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: 9/30/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,867 times Debate No: 38322
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (1)




NOTE: Please do not drop arguments. Take this seriously, please. I am doing this to prepare for a debate tournament. This will be done in L-D format, so you need a value and a value criterion.

As Abraham Lincoln remarked: "It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion... that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Since I believe that by neglecting the sovereign duty to vote, the citizens of democracy create a government of and for the people, but not by the people, I affirm what is resolved, that in a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory.

My value premise is that of societal welfare, which is defined as the well being of a society. The affirmative upholds societal welfare because the better a government comprehends the desires, needs, and opinions of the people, the happier that society will be. Finally, societal welfare is the most important goal of any just government, especially a democracy, making this value paramount to all others.

I shall uphold societal welfare with a criterion of popular sovereignty, which is the doctrine that a just government derives its power from the people, and that a government ought to uphold the will of the people. Popular sovereignty is the very foundation of a democracy, since the sovereign of a democracy is its people. The problem, however, is that when people"s voices are not heard, their wills are not expressed, making it hard or even impossible for the government to uphold societal welfare.

In summary, I will uphold the well being of a democratic society by using the democratic processes of popular sovereignty.

This leads us to my first point of contention, that low voter turnout is an international crisis

A democracy needs to hear the voices of its citizens before it can cater to the needs of the people; however, many democracies have such a low voter turnout that only a miniscule fraction of the voices are heard. In order to uphold popular sovereignty, and ultimately societal welfare, the government needs to know the will of the people as a whole. The only way to come even remotely close to this goal is via compulsory voting.

According to Rafael Pintez in Voter Turnout Rates From a Comparative Perspective, several democracies without compulsory voting are facing low voter turnouts. For instance, in the United States, a mere %66 of the eligible population voted. That means that over one-third of American citizens are neglecting their sovereign duty to vote! It"s not just the United States that"s facing this crisis; India has a mere %59 of the population voting, Switzerland a mere %56.5, and Colombia a pathetic %48, which means the majority of Colombians do not vote!

While low voter turnout is an acute issue facing several democracies, Compulsory voting has proven itself to be a valid solution; Australia has %95.5 of its population voting, and Singapore has %94 of the population voting.

Low voter turnout is counterproductive to popular sovereignty, societal welfare, and democracy in general, as I will further illustrate in my next contention. In many instances, a major portion, sometimes the majority, of the eligible voters in a democracy do not vote, which makes it impossible for the government to understand the will of the people. This affirms the resolution because a democracy is morally obliged to understand and cater to the opinions of the majority, and one of the only ways to do this is via compulsory voting.

My second Contention is that voting is a sovereign duty that ought not be neglected.

As Mahatma Gandhi stated: "The true source of right is duty. If we all discharge our duties, rights will not be far to seek. If leaving duties unperformed we run after rights, they will escape us like will-o-the-wisp, the more we pursue them, the farther they will fly."

In any society, the people have duties to uphold order. For instance, we are obliged to show up to jury duty to guarantee that justice is upheld. We also have the obligation to obey laws, drive safely, fill out the census, and get a basic education. If we did not have these obligations, society as we know it could not exist. In this contention, I argue that we also have the obligation to vote, since voting is conducive to societal welfare.

Democracy literally translates into "rule by the people." That being said, we can logically deduce that sovereigns of a democracy are its people. The people of a democracy have a sovereign duty to vote, because voting is essential to upholding societal welfare.

To support my logic, I will use the logic of French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In his book, The Social Contract, Rousseau calls the collective grouping of all citizens the "sovereign," and claims that it should be considered in many ways to be like an individual person. While each individual has a particular will that aims for his own best interest, the sovereign expresses the general will that aims for the common good. In this way, Rousseau argues that it is the sovereign duty of each citizen to express his or her beliefs, so that the sovereign may express its desires for societal welfare.

Put simply, voting is a sovereign duty. By not voting, citizens hurt society as a whole. Every single person in a democracy has a critical role in expressing the general will that aims for the common good, and if citizens do not do this, they hurt not just themselves but everyone in the society.

I will conclude my constructive with what has been proven:
1. That the only way that we can ever uphold societal welfare is by popular sovereignty, which requires that the voices of the people be heard.
2. Low voter turnout is an issue facing several democracies, since political silence is almost never conducive to societal welfare.
3. Voting is not simply a right. By not voting, citizens neglect a sovereign duty, hurting not just themselves, but also society as a whole. This undermines the ultimate purpose of a democracy: to guarantee a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Any just government, especially a democracy, has an absolute moral obligation to solve these crises. Therefore, since compulsory voting would absolve democracies of these burdens, we must accept that the resolution stands. For these reasons and many more I firmly, yet respectfully, urge a vote in affirmation on today"s ballot.


I shall put forward arguments against compulsory, such as the principle itself and the potentially negative results; and also the necessity of a system and whether or not it is the right solution to the problem.

Firstly, the principle is fundamentally flawed. Voluntary participation is the cornerstone of democracy; society is based on the decisions made by free human beings in the context of how they interact with other members of their community and society. Forcing people to take part in democracy is something of a contradiction as a result of this. Similarly, a democratic society cannot and should not force people into trade unions or community organisations, despite the benefits to wider society they bring. A democratic society is about allowing people to be the masters of their own futures, both individually and collectively, and forcing democracy on people is not a way to foster democracy.

The system would most likely have negative results. Think about the people that don't vote. They are either people who are of low intelligence and information, feel that the system is flawed and does not serve them as a voter, or cannot find a candidate that caters to their ideology. Forcing low-information voters to vote would create a whole new market for populist figures to pander to. In the UK, we have Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, who are both far-right demagogues who sell themselves to the stupid, apathetic or credulous for personal gain. We also have George Galloway on the left, who does a similar thing with the South Asian community in his constituency, a demograph with a notably low turnout. Populism is a completely destructive force in politics that invariably results in either the tyranny of the majority; the rise of careerism among politicians; and/or the oversimplification of matters political or economic for the sake of political capital and vested interests. I'm not sure who the US equivalents are to Farage, Johnson and Galloway, but I imagine they exist; probably in the form of Ron Paul and his clique. The people, myself included, that believe voting to be a somewhat futile exercise, would not help if forced to vote. Although I do vote, it is more out of vitriol for the Conservative Party than to gain an advantage for the Green Party. Voting is, in the grand scheme of things, a very diluted form of democratic representation. A union that goes on strike can make far more of a difference than if those members voted. Voting encourages top-down reforms, which are half-baked concessions such as Obamacare, which cost the government more than full socialised healthcare, therefore resulting in a damaged society. Bottom-up reforms are gained through popular struggle and protest, such as socialised healthcare in Europe, workers' rights and social security. These were not won through votes, but through union action, popular demonstrations and movements that forced the elites to grant the reforms. The reforms would never have been passed with votes alone, since pressure comes not from the ballot box, but from the street outside. I also fall under the final category. I support the Green Party, since they are the closest to my views; but my libertarian socialist/anarcho-communist views are not accommodated by any politician in the UK. Any voting that is done would be a compromise rather than an expression, and would not represent my true views. The three main parties in the UK, as well as the two in the US, are neoliberal right-wing parties that have a cartel-like alignment match with each other, which means that essentially, democracy is non-existent in the form of voting. A vote for New Labour is a vote for the Conservatives wearing different coloured ties, as is a vote for the Liberal Democrats, and the Democrats and Republicans. It was voting that caused this mess to happen, where pro-establishment views are peddled b the political class and the media into the minds of the population, whose interests are harmed by them.

Secondly, the system is unnecessary. If a person does not want to vote, the person should not be made to, and making them vote accomplishes nothing. Yes, the turnout in Colombia, Switzerland and the USA is very low, but compulsory voting would only paper over the cracks in the electoral system. The real problem is a lack of interest and connectivity with politics. In France, there is a consistently high turnout because it is genuinely a battle between left-wing and right-wing idologies. The same applies to other European countries such as Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Ireland and Austria, which all have high turnouts and non-compulsory voting. Conversely, countries such as Greece, Ecuador and Paraguay have compulsory voting, yet still have relatively low turnouts.

Making voting compulsory is not the best way to increase democratic and social welfare. The best way to do it would be to make the younger generation interested in politics and to get them to understand how it affects them. This would motivate them to become more politically active both in the voting cubicle and out of it in the wider world.
Debate Round No. 1


I will begin by asking a simple question: what is a government's one and only tool with which it can cater to the will of the people? Its legitimacy. Without a government having power, it can do nothing. Where does a democracy get its power? The people. The people are the source of a democracy's legitimacy. That being said, when the people fail to allow the government to hear their voices, the government can do very little to uphold societal welfare.

My opponent attacked this by saying that we would essentially force politics on people, and that forcing people to vote would likely decrease the quality and purpose of voting. I am here to prove to you that compulsory voting can be done in a way that will minimalize liberty infringement and solve the issues associated with apolitical, apathetic, or low-information voters. Let's take a look at Australia. In Australia, people can either vote for their candidates, vote "none of the above," or even turn in a blank ballot. This still allows people to have their voices heard, but doesn't force the ignorant to vote.

Further, this "none of the above" option further rebuts against my opponent's constructive because it could actually dissolve political extremism. If the majority of people disagree with the ideals of both political parties, then a "none of the above vote" could throw the candidates out and allow for the formation of new political parties that cater to the needs of the people. This can only happen if the voices of ALL the citizens are heard.

Additionally, my opponent claims that voting causes almost no change in the long run. And, to a certain point, I agree. Countries that lack compulsory voting will also lack legitimacy, since they are basing political decisions off of the views of the minority (the 50-60% that vote in voluntary systems), as opposed to the majority (the 95% + that vote in compulsory systems). When the citizens of a democracy vote, we hear the voices of the entire country. When the popular sovereign speaks in a democracy, desirable change is an inevitability. But, once again, this can only be upheld when a democracy has its legitimacy!

To summarize, compulsory voting is justified in principle because it increases the quality of politics, upholds the voice of the popular sovereign, upholds the legitimacy of a democracy, and paves the way to societal welfare.

My opponent also talks about how futile a system of compulsory voting could be. While some countries have somewhat high voter turnouts with voluntary voting (my opponent cites Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Ireland, and Austria), compulsory voting could only increase the percentile. Additionally, I would like to point out that my opponent says "high turnouts" but fails to tell us how high. My opponent also talks about how Greece, Ecuador, and Paraguay have compulsory voting yet maintain low turnouts. Once again, my opponent generalizes, and fails to explain to what extent voter turnout is low. How is compulsory voting enforced in these countries? If compulsory voting is not enforced, then it is not compulsory. Some countries have compulsory voting, but do not enforce it, as could be the case in Greece, Ecuador, and Paraguay. That being said, the system is necessary.

I would additionally like to point out that the debate was in LD format, and my opponent did not have a value or criterion. Therefore, we must accept my value of societal welfare and my criterion of popular sovereignty as the measures by which we shall judge the merit of the resolution.

That being said, my opponents two arguments fall. Now move with me to my own case.

My value was societal welfare, which is the well being of a society. A government needs its legitimacy to uphold societal welfare, and the only way to get its legitimacy is by popular sovereignty. Without an understanding of the needs of the people, a government cannot uphold societal welfare. My value/criterion pairing was not attacked in my opponent's rebuttal.

My first contention was that low voter turnout is a crisis. My opponent attacked the relevancy of voting in general, which I addressed earlier in my rebuttal. Democracy is "rule by the people" and the only way a democracy can rule is if people's voices are heard.

My second contention was that voting is a sovereign duty. This argument was not attacked in my opponent's rebuttal, therefore it stands.

Let me conclude my rebuttal with what has been proven:
1) Once again, that societal welfare is the highest goal that either debater should aim for. The only way to achieve societal welfare is by popular sovereignty, which upholds legitimacy. Therefore, compulsory voting is a logical imperative of any democracy.
2) Low voter turnout is a crisis. It threatens a democracy's legitimacy. Voting may not be powerful now, but in a legitimate democracy where everyone's voices are heard, a government that caters to the needs of the people can be established, and desirable change can be achieved. With low voter turnout, however, we cannot attain either of these goals.
3) Voting is a sovereign duty, and failing to vote damages a democracy.

And it is for these reasons and many more that I firmly, yet respectfully, urge a vote in affirmation on today's ballot.


henryajevans forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


My opponent did not attack my rebuttal speech, therefore, by virtue of silence is compliance, he agrees with it. I will now restate my case and arguments and explain one last time why the affirmative has clearly met the burden of proof.

My opponent claims that compulsory voting makes ignorant and uninformed people vote. He also claims that this is not the best way to foster a democracy. I have presented an argument for a "none of the above" option on the ballot, like Australia has. In Australia, one can even cast a blank ballot. A none of the above choice allows for people to: A) have their voices heard if they favor neither political candidate; B) express their political beliefs in a way that a democracy can interpret (Non-voters may have valid reasons for not voting, but their reasons and beliefs cannot be interpreted by the government, threatening legitimacy), and; C) not be forced to vote for a candidate when they do not have enough information to feel comfortable voting. Giving the option for people to cast a blank ballot minimalizes the liberty violation as well, while still allowing all citizens to fulfill their civic duty.

My opponent also claimed that voting was irrelevant , and that protesting was the only way to achieve change in a democracy. I rebutted against this by stating a legitimate democracy (one where the voices of the majority or heard, as opposed to the few) would be able to better cater to the needs of the people, fulfilling my value of societal welfare.

Finally, my opponent claimed that the system is unnecessary. This is not true; low voter turnout is an international crisis that threatens the popular sovereignty of a government. When citizens fail to vote, they fail to create a government capable of catering to the needs of the people. A government that does not hear the voices of the people cannot uphold societal welfare.

I would like you to move on to my case:

Contention I- Low voter turnout is an international crisis.

Many democracies have pathetically low voter turnout, and compulsory voting has proven itself as a valid option to solve this issue. As stated above, a government can only cater to the needs of the people if it understands them, and popular sovereignty is necessary for the government to understand the needs of the people.

Contention II- Voting is a sovereign duty that ought not be neglected.

Voting is just like jury duty and obeying the law; it is necessary for societal welfare. By not voting, citizens damage the wellbeing of a democracy. I would also like to point out that my opponent never attacked this in his speech, meaning that he agrees with it. Any argument stated against my second contention will be said knowing I have no chance to rebut it. Therefore, the affirmative has clearly won on this point.

My criterion was popular sovereignty, which is the doctrine that a government derives its power from the people and ought to cater to the will of the people. This paves the way for my value of societal welfare, since a government needs to understand the needs of the people to be able to uphold them, and it cannot do this when the popular sovereign remains silent. Thus, when voting, consider these points as the measures by which you judge the merit of the resolution.

I would also like it to be known that this debate was in L-D format, and my opponent never presented a value or criterion, nor did he attack mine. Therefore, we must accept that the affirmative wins because the value premise has been proven.

Allow me to conclude with what has been proven:

1) A none of the above option allows for citizens indifferent to politics to express their wills.
2) That compulsory voting is necessary to eliminate low voter turnout, which results in the silencing of the popular sovereign. This inhibits the government's capacity to uphold societal welfare.
3) That it is a citizen's sovereign duty to vote; to fail to do so undermines the purpose of a democracy: to create a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

We can accept that compulsory voting is indeed a government's moral obligation, since compulsory voting would absolve a democracy's issues associated with low voter turnout. And it is for these reasons and many more that I firmly yet respectfully urge a vote for the affirmative.


henryajevans forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Chrysippus 3 years ago
Double forfeit by Con concedes the debate.

Conduct to Pro, both for the forfeit and for Con's disregard for the LD format. If Con was unclear what the format was, he should have done his research before taking the debate, or have left it for someone who was comfortable with this debate style.

As for the arguments presented, both sides make a fairly good case at the end of R1. Con's arguments appear to be marginally stronger; but his forfeit drops those and concedes Pro's arguments.

Spelling and sources tied.
Posted by 15caj 3 years ago
Yes, but how is the government supposed to interpret people not voting? The popular sovereign needs to be heard. And as for the comment about liberty, voting can be made simple, such as mail-in voting and electronic voting. You aren't forced to choose a candidate; you can turn in a blank ballot if you'd like to, or vote none of the above. A government needs to hear the voices of the people to be able to make a decision conducive to societal welfare.
Posted by Andy99 3 years ago
Not voting is also in a way voting !!!!! If you don't vote, you are actually voting for the person who is leading ! Get it? So not voting means you are ok with the person in lead and indirectly you support him.
Posted by StarTrek 3 years ago
It is up to the people as to whether they want to vote or not. Being in a democracy, you reserve your right to not vote.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Chrysippus 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comment.