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Resolved: in a democracy voting ought to be compulsory

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Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 3/24/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 124 times Debate No: 88730
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Franklin D. Roosevelt 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.

Definitions: (All my definitions came from the Webster Dictionary)
Democracy (noun) " This means that people are represented either through elected officials or through direct voting on issues. Democratic governments are committed to human rights and fundamental equality. An absolute democracy is where everyone votes on everything.

Voting (noun) " Voting here is a noun. The act of voting is a thing that should or should not be required. You indicate a formal preference for one option or another regarding a political matter.

Ought to be (verb) " Simply defined, this means that something should be.

Compulsory (adjective) " Compulsory means that there is a negative consequence for not doing something, and that consequence will be enforced by the government.

I Value Governmental Legitimacy. Stanford Encyclopaedism 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 socioeconomic ally 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 representative's 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]

Contention 3:Voluntary voting creates a system of unequal influence that greatly exacerbates class differences and inequality, especially in the United States.

Arend Lijphart, Research Professor of Political Science at University of California, San Diego, AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW, "Unequal Participation: Democracy's Unresolved Dilemma", March 1997, p. asp Before turning to the various institutional methods for raising turnout, including compulsory voting, let me first review the empirical evidence and theoretical arguments concerning the problems of low voter turnout and class bias. There are several serious reasons why democrats should worry about these problems. First of all, as already indicated, low voter turnout means unequal and socioeconomically biased turnout. This pattern is so clear, strong, and well known in the United States that it does not need to be belabored further. Compared with the United States, the class bias in other democracies tends to be weaker-leading some analysts to regard it as an almost unique American phenomenon (Abramson 1995, 918; Piven and Cloward 1988a, 117-9). There is, however, abundant evidence of the same class bias, albeit usually not as strong, in other democracies. In Switzerland, the other major example of a Western democracy with low levels of turnout, the participation gap between the least and most highly educated citizens in the March 1991 referendum was 37 percentage points; Wolf Linder (1994, 95-6) calls this a "typical profile of a popular vote," and concludes that "especially when participation is low, the choir of Swiss direct democracy sings in upper or middle-class tones." In survey data covering referenda between 1981 and 1991, the gap was almost 25 percentage points (Mottier 1993, 134). The class bias in turnout also affects Swiss parliamentary elections (Farago 1996, 11-2; Sidjanski 1983, 107). In countries with higher turnout, as expected, the link between socioeconomic status and turnout tends to be less strong, often not strong enough to be statistically significant and sometimes even negative. However, G. Bingham Powell, Jr. (1986, 27-8) combined data for seven European nations and Canada and found a consistent effect of the level of education on turnout: a difference of 10 percentage points between the lowest and highest of five education levels and a consistent increase of 2 to 3 percentage points at each higher level in the averages of eight nations.

I affirm the resolved and vote for me!


So many think that forcing us to vote might be a good idea. That we could favor punishing people for not voting"which means taking their money by force and imprisoning them if they resist. The essence of government is violence"aggressive, not defensive, force. Government is not usually described in such unrefined terms, but consider its most basic power: taxation. If you can"t refuse the tax collector with impunity, you are a victim of robbery. It doesn"t matter that government claims to render "services" if you don"t want them.

Most of us learn young that violence is wrong except in defense of self or other innocent life. To those who say society without government would be problematic, I reply that most of us also learn that even a good end cannot justify a bad means. Besides, most of the ills that government "protects" us from"such as economic distress and terrorism"result from its own policies.

Aside from the violence inherent in the system, mandatory voting has conceptual problems. Enthusiasts of modern government often say that voting is a right"the most sacred right in some people"s eyes. [More sacred than the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?] It"s also said to be a duty. Can it be both?

Having a right means you may freely decide to take"or not take"an action without forcible interference by anyone else, including people in the government. Your right to the car you bought signifies that you are free to use it peacefully, or not use it at all. It makes no sense to say that your right to your car obligates you to use it or face punishment. Anyone who talks that way simply does not understand what a right is. A right, then, differs from an enforceable duty.

The story is the same with voting. If one has a right to vote, the idea of making the exercise of that right mandatory is absurd. No matter how many good consequences Obama dubiously foresees from compulsory voting, they can"t change the fact that forcing people to exercise a right makes no sense. It"s a sad commentary that he is not ridiculed widely for his suggestion.

If voting is a right, it can"t be a duty, and if it"s a duty, it can"t a right. Perhaps it"s neither.

I"ve assumed people have a right to vote, but let"s not be too hasty. It"s an odd right, indeed, because it entails participation in the process by which government officials are chosen. But as we"ve already established, government"s essence is aggressive violence. Can you have a right to participate in what would be condemned as a criminal operation if it were run "privately"? Can you have a right to help determine who will govern others against their will?

If for the sake of argument we concede the right to participate in the political system, shouldn"t we have to acknowledge the corollary right not to participate? I don"t mean just the right not to vote, but the right to opt out of government altogether"voting, taxation, war, regulation. Yet government does not let us theoretically free people opt out of individual programs (try opting out of the Mideast wars or Social Security), much less across the board.

In other words, no matter how often we"re told that the government exists by the consent of the governed, it really does not. Were you asked to consent? Please don"t say that remaining in the country counts as consent, for that would assume what is here disputed: that before any specific consent, the government has legitimate jurisdiction over the territory known as the United States of America. In fact, consent is merely presumed, and nothing you can do will ever be taken by the government as legitimate withholding of consent. Yet if that is true, then nothing you can do could logically constitute consent either. To repeat: if nonconsent is impossible, so is consent.

Individual freedom in moral communities requires not an impotent "right" to cast one vote among multitudes, but the right to ignore the state and live peacefully. Big government "solutions" for every social problem under the sun are all around us. I have always held the expansion of liberty as the most important goal of public policy, but it cannot be achieved through forceful regulation. The use of force to encourage freedom, I believe, is self-contradictory and practically and morally wrong.

And to knock out two of your points: consensus is not a democratic value nor will compulsory voting "polarize" anything.

One thing that you argue that mandatory voting will bring America to the center and eliminate the "polarizing" effect of partisan politics, especially in primary elections. The theory is that elective voting creates an environment where parties stir up their bases, leading to the election of increasingly more liberal Democrats and increasingly more conservative Republicans. With all of these radicals in office, people argue that valuable Congressional time is spent on frivolous or narrow issues (flag burning, same-sex marriage) that are intended only to spur on the party bases and ideological extremes. Consequently, important, complicated issues (pension and health-care reform) get short shrift.

And lets not forget one more thing, Voters have noble intentions. Yet they have systematically false beliefs about basic economics, political science and foreign policy. When We the People vote, we make bad choices, and we get what we choose.

The median voter is incompetent at politics. The citizens who abstain are, on average, even more incompetent. If we force everyone to vote, the electorate will become even more irrational and misinformed. The result: not only will the worse candidate on the ballot get a better shot at winning, but the candidates who make it on the ballot in the first place will be worse.

Most people believe that more voting causes better government. This is an article of faith, not fact. Social scientists have shown that higher quality government tends to cause higher turnout. But higher turnout does not cause higher quality government.

Short in short, compulsory voting is a impediment on individual rights and does not promote democratic values nor does it serve a higher turnout in overall advantages.

I believe I have shown why it should be left up to the voters to choose to vote or not, but I will leave the voters up to decide who to vote for.
Debate Round No. 1


mawada_sami forfeited this round.


Since my opponent did not offer a argument this round, I have nothing to rebuttal.

Vote con.
Debate Round No. 2


mawada_sami forfeited this round.


TheRobocrat forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
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