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Resolved: in a democracy voting ought to be compulsory

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/27/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 12,250 times Debate No: 37070
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (10)
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Please debate this in LD format and only LD format.

i will start with presenting the NEGATIVE case. then YOU can present your case and argue against mine.

"Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner" because I agree with James Bovard I must negate resolution resolved: In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory.
I offer the following definitions from Merriam Webster.
1.Democracy: a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.
2.Voting: usually formal expression of opinion or will in response to a proposed decision
3.Ought: used to expressed obligation
4.Compulsory: mandatory or enforced
My value for today"s debate is that of autonomy defined as self-directing freedom and especially moral independence. Government"s already has enough freedom restrictions by mandating taxes, education, and jury duty. Citizens do not need to have more freedoms taken away from them. It is un-just to tell people they do not have a choice to vote when they might not show an interest in voting. This brings me to my criterion of Aristotle"s theory of freedom. Aristotle claims that voluntary choice in relation to moral responsibility is based on freedom. He points out that we should on give praise to voluntary freedom. He further claims that force or ignorance brings about involuntary action. Essentially saying we cannot educate every citizen about what they are voting for, that"s why we cannot force voting upon every citizen. We must leave it as a choice if a citizen wants to vote or not.

Contention 1: Mandatory voting violates ones autonomy.
Forcing someone to vote on a topic they might not be aware of at all or something they do not want to vote on is un-just because it takes away their freedom. For example, if you are 16 you have the option to drive, that does not mean you HAVE to drive. You might not feel comfortable driving or you might not know how to drive yet. Just like driving, voting is the same way, when you"re 18 you have the choice to vote or not. You might not feel comfortable voting or you might not know anything about what you"re voting for. Also you might not have time to vote. According to the U.S. census most of the time people do not vote is because they are too busy with other things like school, work, or family situations. Then there are people who are handicap and cannot make it to the poll"s to vote. Should they get fined for not being able to walk or get access to the polls? Compulsory voting is not consistent with the freedom associated with democracy.

Contention 2: Reforming the voting system is better than making it compulsory.
Instead of thinking "we have to force everyone to vote for a government to be legitiment" we can look at changing the system to do what is best for everyone in a democracy. Forcing people to vote to get "everyone to vote" might sound like it is the best thing to do but when you force people to vote on something they might not know anything about will actually hurt the democracy. There are other options before forcing people to vote. We can reform the voting system to educate people about voting and show everyone how important their vote really is. The democracy can offer classes, online ballots, go house to house, and give rides to people to vote. Compulsory voting is just not reasonable or realistic.
That will be all : ) <3


I agree with the definitions posited by the Negative, with one slight exception. The Negative defines "ought" as "expressing obligation." I would suggest that "ought" expresses moral desirability, particularly as "ought" implies a value judgment. For example, the statements "you ought not to steal the cookies" and "you ought to go and see your grandmother" are statements that connote what is the most morally desirable course of action. The statement is obligation you to go and see your grandmother, but it is implying that it is the moral thing to do.

I will now present the AC:

FDR once declared, "Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves, and the only way they could do this is by not voting." Because I agree, I affirm the resolution.

I Value Governmental Legitimacy. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes, "legitimacy is negative: it offers an account of when effective authority ceases to be legitimate." Stanford goes on to claim that a government ceases to be legitimate when it no longer respects the rights of its citizenry, specifically those rights enumerated in UDHR. Prefer this debate as the resolution is essentially questioning whether voting needs to be universal for a democratic government to remain legitimate.

I propose the Criterion of Promoting Electoral Equality, as ensuring that no one group dominates at the polls, and thus holds undue sway over the government. For example, if group A votes more than group B, elected officials will favor group A, maybe even to the point of impinging on group B's rights.

My thesis is that compulsory voting is key to promoting electoral equality.

Contention One: Low voter turnout threatens democracy and governmental legitimacy.

"In a modern democracy, it is ultimately the will of the people expressed through periodic elections that decide the fate of the people. In practical terms, modern democracy has come to mean government based on majority rule. The leaders acquire political power and strength because the people's power is vested in them through elections--If voter turnout is very poor and if votes are split by too many candidates contesting a seat, the government ceases to be majority rule. In such situations, it is the minority of voters who run the government. This goes counter to the principle of majority rule, which is an important ingredient of democracy. An effective remedy to meet this deficiency is to find an alternative to the first-past-the-post system." [1] "U.S. elections are not even particularly well-designed polls because they are not based on a representative sample of eligible voters. Rather, they rely on a racially and socioeconomically skewed sample. Because of this, America could actually achieve a more representative government by doing away with the current election system, and instead polling a large, representative sample of eligible voters, despite the fact that such a mechanism for selecting government leaders seems inherently unfair and might violate the Equal Protection Clause. Given how limited the franchise was until the twentieth century, and the low rates of voter turnout in recent decades, it is likely that no U.S. President has ever received a majority of the votes of the American adult population. In the 1984 election, for example, Ronald Reagan won a "landslide" victory, but received the votes of only 32.9% of the potential electorate. The preferences of the other 67.1% of eligible voters were either for a different candidate or simply left unaccounted for...fundamentally, there is a serious tension with the understanding "that within our constitutional tradition, democracy is prized because of the value of collective self-governance," which is as much about procedure as it is about substance. Indeed, the level of voter turnout as a percentage of eligible voters in many recent elections would not even be sufficient to constitute a quorum for some of the most important American political institutions...Partly because of disparities in turnout rates by demographic categories, the center of political gravity has shifted toward the wealthiest white Americans." [2]

Contention Two: Compulsory voting will help alleviate these problems.

Sub-point A: Turnout will likely go up:

"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." [3] "One solution to the problem of low voter turnout is to require all eligible voters to vote by law. Approximately twenty-four nations have some kind of compulsory voting law, representing 17% of the world's democratic nations. The effect of compulsory voting laws on voter turnout is substantial. 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 than many of the countries that have already adopted compulsory voting." [2] Higher vote turn out will combat the problems named in Contention One.

Sub-point B: Reduced Polarization:

"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 polarized - some might say hyper-polarized - by 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." [4]

Sub-point C: More inclusive:

"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." [5

Thus, I stand in firm affirmation of the resolution.

I shall rebut the NC more in-depth in my next speech, but just a few quick notes: C1: Firstly, voting is a civic responsibility; everyone should do it. It is not some onerous imposition upon your freedom, rather, mandatory voting is simply formalizing the responsibility that you should have been meeting before. Additionally, autonomy is too often used as an excuse to ignore that civic duty. Secondly, your actually increase your autonomy by voting. Voting is a check against government becoming too intrusive; voting protects minority rights; and permits you to freely express your choice and your voice in governmental decision-making. C2: Neg gives no evidence regarding how much his reforms will actually boost turnout. Even if we educate people, that doesn't mean that they'll vote more. But education of voters isn't unqiue to the Neg, it's permutation of my advocacy. In the Aff world people can be educated and mandated to vote, ensuring high poll turnout and informed voters. And who says compulsory voting has to be hard; all of my opponent's suggestions could be incorporated into my own case. How about online compulsory voting, or house-to-house aid, or rides to polling places for those in need. My point is that everything Neg has suggested is non-unique; I can do it too. Coupled with complusions on voting, these measures would cause turnout to be even higher and would make voters far more educated. V/C: Autonomy is important, but the impact on society as a whole is also key. Gov. Legit. would maximize both. The criterion is circular logic. Aristotle says we shouldn't be forced to do things. Autonomy is self-direction. Basically, Neg is supporting autonomy with autonomy. Plus, I can link, as voting promotes freedom.


[1] T. S. Krishna Murthy, 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. 347
[2] Harvard Law Review, 2007, "The Case for Compulsory Voting in the United States," 121 Harv. L. Rev. 591, p. 593-5
[3] Scott Bennett, Parliament of Australia, 2005, Compulsory voting in Australian national elections, Parliamentary Library-Research Brief, October, No. 6, [], p. 1
[4] Michael Pitts, Professor Indiana University School of Law, 2011, "Opt-Out Voting," Hofstra Law Review, Summer, 39 Hofstra L. Rev. 897, p. 920
[5] Sarah Birch, Reader in Politics-University of Essex, 2009, "The case for compulsory voting," Public Policy Research, March-May, p. 21-2
[6] Dean Machin, University of Warwick, 2011, "Compulsory Turnout: A Compelling (and Contingent) Case," Politics, Vol. 31 (2), p.1
Debate Round No. 1


sick_flow forfeited this round.


Extend my arguments. Vote Pro!
Debate Round No. 2


sick_flow forfeited this round.


Extend my arguments. Please vote Pro. Thanks!
Debate Round No. 3
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by anonymouse 3 years ago
perhaps you should think about why people arent voting. it's because there arent any good candidates. all the candidates in western capitalist countries have been bought out by corporations and banks and do not represent the people. give people a real choice, and they will show up.
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
@sick_flow by starting with the Neg, you've sort of undone the LD format already. But, LD is so awesome, I don't think I can really turn this challenge down, despite the fact that I'm having the same debate with cubyo. I just graduated after four years of debating, and I feel like I'm in withdrawal.
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
@leojm - this is that national topic; nearly everyone should be debating this.
Posted by leojm 3 years ago
Whoever debates, this will be so helpful. XD
Posted by leojm 3 years ago
OMG, I'm debating this in my LD.
Posted by Cowboy0108 3 years ago
I'm split on the issue. On one hand, if everyone votes, everyone is represented, including the politically impartial group. On the other hand, if everyone votes, the people who vote that wouldn't normally vote are most likely uneducated on political matters and we wouldn't want them to vote.
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
I would debate this with you, but I plan on having this debate with someone else of DDO. LD is my passion! Good luck!

I agree with thett3 that the topic isn't all that good. Though the other topics they were voting on looked promising. The NFL could have some really good topics this season...
Posted by thett3 3 years ago
I dont understand why they chose this to be the LD topic. Aff has a really, really stupid position...
Posted by Oromagi 3 years ago
I see this format in many debate set ups: My opponent must defend the extreme, unpopular position, leaving me free to appeal to the popular extreme as well as the moderate ground. Even in the opening here, sick_flow appeals to both autonomy and the moderate position of incentive and reform. I suppose it is good debate strategy to box up your opponent before arguments begin, but do you ever get an interesting contest this way?
Posted by orangemayhem 3 years ago
I'd take this if you weren't being needlessly picky about format.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by thett3 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit