The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

This House would introduce compulsory voting

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/9/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,361 times Debate No: 32283
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (0)
Votes (2)




I will be arguing in favour of introducing compulsory voting, the Opposition will argue against.

The debate will run as follows:
Round One is for acceptance.
Round Two is for definitions and substantive arguments.
Round Three is for rebuttal and substantive arguments.
Round Four is for rebuttal and summing up - no more substantive arguments at this stage.

Sources can be stated if the speaker feels they support the argument but they should not be assumed to be necessary.

I look forward to an interesting, lively, engaging yet respectful debate.


I'll take this.
Debate Round No. 1


I"d like to thank my Opposition for accepting this debate, where I will be arguing in favour of the introduction of compulsory voting. I accept the burden of proof but the Opposition should defend the merits of the present system, as opposed to merely citing the fact that it is the status quo.
In this first speech, I seek to do two things: first I shall define the motion, and how I intend to implement the idea given in the motion, and then I shall put forward my first substantive arguments.

The speaker for the Proposition is a resident of the United Kingdom, where compulsory voting has been suggested as a resolution to the country"s participation crisis. I shall therefore be looking at things from this angle, however this motion should be considered more in principle than in the context of any specific jurisdiction.
By "compulsory voting", this House means that a law would be passed making it a criminal offence not to turn up at a polling station on an election day. Voters would be free to spoil their ballots, or even not to mark them and simply put them straight into the ballot box blank, however they would be obliged to cast a vote. Modelled on the Australian system, this House proposes to introduce a fine equivalent to "25 for those who do not vote and cannot provide a valid reason for this (for example illness or religious prohibition).

The Proposition will now move into their substantive arguments, the first of which is that there is a participation crisis in western democracies which do not have compulsory voting. In the USA, turnout in presidential election has not been above 60% since the 1968 Presidential Election. In the UK, voter turnout has only twice exceeded 75% since Margaret Thatcher"s landslide in 1983 " in 2001 the figure hit a new low of 59%. Young people, in particular, are statistically unlikely to vote. In the 2010 General Election in the UK the majority of people aged between 18 and 24 did not turn out to vote. Participation in such democracies is in crisis and it is necessary to do something to ensure that more people vote. The reason why it is necessary to do this is that the government is supposed to be of the people, and yet a government of the people cannot be truly representative when a large percentage of the population are not turning out to vote. It is also interesting to note that many of those who do not vote later turn out to be those who criticise governments for not adequately representing their views " the now exhausted "politicians are all the same" argument. The Occupy movement is a case in point for this. We in the Proposition believe it is necessary for us to introduce these measures in order to make people speak their opinions within the structured democratic process. If people wish to continue casting a protest vote they will be able to: whether that comes through simply casting a blank ballot, or writing "TROLOLOLOLOL" all over the ballot paper and drawing moustaches on the pictures of the candidates. We do not believe that this will impede free speech: indeed with regards to protest votes it will allow the government to have democratic proof that people are unhappy with the political system and there was not simply a large flu outbreak a few days before the election. This is about ensuring that the democratic process knows what the people would like to tell it. This in turn will give future assemblies more legitimacy, as they will represent a greater majority of the people. Governments in turn will have more legitimacy. In the 2010 General Election in the United Kingdom the Conservative Party gained 36% of the vote, but on a turnout of merely 65%, giving him a real share of the vote of 23% of the total electorate. Despite this David Cameron heads up the ruling coalition in the House of Commons. We here in the Proposition believe this is both unacceptable and undemocratic and we believe that this has caused the UK"s government, and indeed its whole Parliament, to lack legitimacy. Had compulsory voting been introduced, whatever the outcome, the Government would have more legitimacy and a clearer mandate to govern. To summarise this point, we believe that the lack of people voting in elections is making the government less legitimate, and for this reason it has a reduced mandate to perform its function. By addressing this issue and making people more inclined to vote we believe we will produce an assembly better suited to its role and that is ultimately more democratic.

Our second substantive point is that we believe that people have a duty to vote. By living in a given jurisdiction, we believe that one accepts a contract with the government that one is going to play by their rules. If you don"t play by the rules of the law, for example, you accept that the Government had the right to fine you, imprison you, or " in some jurisdictions " kill you. We believe that, in the same way that one has a duty to obey the law; one has a duty to vote in elections. It is part of living in a democracy. Democracies only work when people are willing to stick their heads above the parapet and say how they want the country to be run. There are immeasurable benefits which are gained from living in a democracy: liberty, free speech, freedom of movement and freedom of thought. We, however, believe that it is part of this unwritten social contract that the price for living in a democracy is participation. As we have already mentioned, the Government will only ever be able to act for what the people want when it has been truly chosen by the people. When people don"t vote, democracy breaks down and " if people do not use their right to vote " a small minority could vote in a Government that will take those rights away. For this reason, we believe that it should be compulsory to vote: it is compulsory to obey the law and so we believe it logical that it should be compulsory to have a say in who makes these laws.

To summarise this first speech for the Proposition: democracy isn"t working in many western "democracies". Governments are lacking legitimacy, they are not representative enough to give people what they need and want, and people are not engaging with the social contract they sign up to when they live in a democracy. We believe that the introduction of compulsory voting will resolve these issues.
With that I thank you, urge you to vote Proposition, and hand you to the Opposition to make their case.


Thank you for the argument.

1. The role of government is to protect individual rights. As such, people must be able to choose what and what not to do in their own lives. Forcing citizens to vote is a clear violation of the right to liberty, and must not be allowed to happen.

2. Why don't people vote? Chances are, it is because they are uninformed or apathetic about the election, rather than protesting. But uninformed and apathetic people still vote, and in large numbers. Mandating voting would only increase the power of these people to run the lives of rational citizens who actually care about their lives.

3. My opponent's argument rests on the idea that democracy is the ideal system to live in. But is this assumption correct? Democracy is a system of majority rule, meaning that, in its true form, would result in the minority being consistently oppressed by the ruling majority. This is antithetical to freedom, which is the actual ideal. Sacrificing freedom for the sake of making your country more democratic is the wrong decision.
Debate Round No. 2


Thanks for your rebuttal. I shall address your points one by one before adding my final substantive argument.

In response to the first point: the Opposition has been quick to cite this "right to liberty", and we do accept that people should be allowed to be free. However simply saying "right to liberty" as a response to our argument is unwarranted unless the Opposition actually justify WHY this right exists, and why it transcends what we believe to be a fundamental in society. As we've already mentioned, compulsion to obey the law seems to transcend the "right to liberty", so why can"t compulsion to vote?

I would disagree with my opponent on his second point of rebuttal. People aren't voting, but most people are not apathetic to politics in general, just their democratically elected assemblies. This explains the rise in numbers of people protesting (e.g. the Occupy movement) and also the rise in membership of pressure groups (e.g. the Countryside Alliance in the UK). We believe that mandatory voting, as we've already explained, would increase the accountability and representation of these assemblies and thus give people more incentive to vote for their composition. We'd also like to point out that it is fundamentally undemocratic to label people as "irrational" or "rational", as in the neutral eyes of the political system all voters are equal and saying that some people vote more rationally than others is the first step to taking away people's right to vote.

My opponent's final point of rebuttal reminded me that Winston Churchill once said that "democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried." Can the Opposition suggest a better system? (They have the burden of proof to say that democracy is not the ideal system to live in.) We believe that it is, and we believe that the "tyranny of the majority" is fairer and more democratic than the "tyranny of the minority" delivered by other systems. Indeed, as we said in our first speech, if the majority do not vote it is easier for democracy to deliver the "tyranny of the minority" " so democracy only works when people vote, otherwise you might have a non-democratic system. We believe this justifies sacrificing one small freedom for the sake of one's country.

Our last substantive of this debate is that, in our view, the introduction of this system will allow the parties campaigning for the election to focus more on the actual issues of the campaign, as opposed to having to focus on "getting out the vote". We have seen time and time again that elections can be decided simply by turnout and not necessarily on the true views of the public. Equally, especially towards the end of election campaigns, candidates have to spend more time on actually getting people to the voting booth than convincing them how to cast their votes there. Therefore, if we remove, or at least somewhat dampen, this issue, candidates will have more time to focus on the issues. This will have two key benefits. The electorate will be more conscious of the issues (which would lower the number of what my Opposition would call "irrational" voters) of the campaign and what the candidates actually stand for. This will link into our second key benefit, which is to make voting less tribal and accelerate class dealignment. People will be made (or incentivised) to vote, but when they get there they will be able to make a more balanced decision on who they want to vote for, as more campaign time will have been dedicated to this. We believe this will make people unlikely to vote "irrationally" - although we would like to distance ourselves from these sorts of references for the reasons we mentioned in our rebuttal.

Summarising this speech, we have issued three key areas of rebuttal against our Opposition, which we feel also pose them with some questions which they should answer in order to defend their case. We have also given yet another substantive on the issue of the effect this change will have on campaigning, and we believe the ultimate end point will be a better informed electorate and a more successful democracy.

Over to Opposition for their final substantives.


P1: My opponent believes that limited participation means that the government is not representative of the people. If bad governments do arise from limited participation, then those who did not participate were represented. Their lack of a vote was a vote for apathy, and they got a government that was apathetic about them.

P2: The argument for voting being a duty is the so called "social contract". One question: did you sign it? No, and neither did anybody else, because it doesn't exist. My opponent must prove the legitimacy of the social contract before using it as evidence.

C1: I apologize for not proving the right to liberty. I am including an essay that explains rights (1). As for obeying the law violating this, that is sometimes the case. In such cases, the law is illegitimate. However, if the law is preventing violations of rights, the right to liberty is not harmed, because it does not condone force against another human being.

C2: There are rational and irrational voters. There are some groups of irrational voters that are prevented from voting, and for good reason. One group is prisoners. Since they are in prison, we assume they are irrational, and would vote on irrational principles. I know that I would not like it if my government started being partially run by serial killers.

C3: No, I don't have to prove that democracy is not ideal. The burden of proof is on the one who claims a system is ideal. By default, a system is not ideal. However, the ideal system would be something objective, where the right decision is made as opposed to the most popular. If democracy is the closest we can get, so be it. I would hope that with improvements in technology, there are more possibilities for objective government. Now, how about this quote from my opponent: "'tyranny of the majority" is fairer and more democratic than the "tyranny of the minority'" More democratic? So the argument is that democracy is better because it is more democratic. Circular logic. And tyranny of the minority is better. If I happen to mugged on the street someday, I'd rather it be by one guy than by several. The only reason dictators stay in power is because of cult of personality: They have the support of the majority. Democracy just institutionalizes it.

P1: Candidates will always try to mislead the public. Mandatory voting will increase the lies simply because they will, as my opponent says, not have to focus on getting out the vote anymore.

As a side note to all this, I never actually used the term "irrational voters" in my initial arguments. That was all you. I do like the term though, so thanks.

Debate Round No. 3


Thanks to my opponent for his speech. I shall now issue my rebuttal and then sum up, as no new substantives may be introduced in this round. In my rebuttal I shall issue a point of rebuttal against the point raised by the Opposition.

P1: Not voting may well be a vote for apathy but this in no way guarantees an apathetic government. If a large proportion of the population do not vote it becomes easier for the minority to elect a government which is not apathetic and indeed seeks to enact policies that will take away the rights of certain individuals (such as right-wing parties). If these repressive parties come to power because they were chosen by the people, that's fine - but no government should be in power simply due to electoral boycott.

P2: This statement is all well and true but if we follow through with this principle put forward by the Opposition none of us are bound to obey the law, as we did not choose to be bound by it. An anarchistic society that relies on the principles of "I didn't sign up to it so I'll ignore it" simply cannot work in practice.

C1: My opponent is fundamentally wrong on this issue. Humans sign up to obey certain rules simply because it is necessary for the masses to do so in order for society to run smoothly. Take the issue of which side of the roads you drive on: if I'm on a road where I'm the only car, is it really important which side I drive on? Perhaps not, but it is necessary for everyone to drive on the same side of the road in order for the traffic system to work. My point is that many laws could be seen as "illegitimate" when applied to the individual but they are necessary for society. Compulsory voting follows the same principle.

C2: Prisoners are not prevented from voting in all jurisdictions: the EU forces its member states to allow at least some prisoners to vote. It is within the rights of the prisoners to elect the Serial Killer Party if they so choose because politics is all about voting for your own interests. We do not forbid bankers from voting for parties which seek to please the city, therefore we should not forbid prisoners from voting for a party seeking their release. No voter can be seen as "irrational" as it opens the barriers to interpretation of what it is to be "rational" - and a party could take away the vote from those likely to vote against them. This is why universal suffrage prevails in developed societies.

C3: Firstly, if my Opponent seriously believes that the ideal system is not one governed by the majority, then they are advocating the adoption of a system of government other than democracy. Since compulsory voting implies the vote and, by extension, democracy, this argument is irrelevant to the debate in hand. Secondly, my opponent seems to have contradicted himself with his argument about dictators having a cult of personality. If the dictator genuinely has the support of the majority (something I doubt, but we will run with this) then surely this is a better system than a system where people aren't in agreement with their rulers? Anyway, again, the issue of the merits of democracy is irrelevant as this debate presupposes the existence of a democracy.

P1: This is nothing but cynicism. By saying "candidates always try to mislead the public" he is essentially resorting to the same "politicians are liars" rhetoric which has contributed to this democratic crisis coming about in the first place. Most politicians don't lie, and my Opponent has failed to give any real substance to this claim. Regardless, if my Opponent believes this, then that is an inherent failing of democracy.

And a note on the Opposition's final comment: you did introduce the concept of rationality, but since you seem to have run with it anyway it"s sort of become irrelevant who introduced it because you are still wrong to back the idea of compartmentalising voters as I have already explained.

In summary we believe there are two main points of clash between the Proposition and the Opposition in this debate and we will seek to demonstrate why we emerge victorious from each. The first point of clash is over the issue of whether this proposal violates the "right to liberty" cited by our opponent. We do not believe this violates this "right to liberty" as we do not believe it to be an absolute. We have used the example of compulsion to obey the law to demonstrate that the right to liberty can be overridden for the sake of preserving the greater good and the smooth running of society. Our Opponent has simply cited "right to liberty" and thrown Ayn Rand quotations at us (since when is Ayn Rand a respectable moral authority anyway?) whereas we have actually demonstrated why this is a reasonable denial of liberty. Hence we win this point.

The second point of clash was over whether or not this proposal will make a desirable difference to the way democracy functions. Whilst our opponent was busy making cynical remarks about the suitability of democracy as a system of government (irrelevant to the debate, as we have explained) and talking about how politicians are all apparently liars anyway, we have demonstrated that this proposal will increase the accountability of elected governments, ensure that a small minority cannot elect a government that will be repressive (we believe only a government elected by a landslide proportion of the population will ever have a true mandate) and create a better political system. Opposition crumbles, we win this point.

In summary, Proposition proposes a true solution to our participation crisis which is the first step towards a new, improved, BETTER politics. This isn"t an unreasonable denial of liberty, and we will gain a new perspective on democracy. I urge you to vote Proposition.

I hand back to Opposition to offer rebuttal and sum up the debate; no new substantives are to be introduced at this stage.


P1: It is never fine for repressive parties to come into power. It doesn't matter if they were elected democratically. When I say apathetic government, I mean governments that take away rights. They don't care about the people and their rights.

P2: I never advocated for anarchy. This rebuttal is out of nowhere and irrelevant.

C1: What is society? Why must it be more important than individuals. Society is just a group of individuals, so sacrificing the individual to 'society' is just sacrificing individuals to other individuals. Everybody is repressed, not helped.

C2: And what if the majority don't want universal suffrage? The reason that blacks and women could not vote for a long time was because the majority " white men " was better off without their vote. Prisoners are also not the only group that is prevented from voting in certain parts of the world. Young people and non-citizens come to mind as well.

C3: The merits of democracy are not irrelevant. My opponent's whole argument rests on the idea that compulsory voting is more democratic. Thus, if that reason is illegitimate, it must be used as a point of argument. And the only evidence provided against it was the idea that democracy is better because it is more democratic. A system where people do not agree with oppressive rulers is better, because that is when they rebel, and sometimes even put in something better. If the majority always supported their rulers, America would still be a British colony. France would still be a monarchy. Mubarak and Gaddafi would still be in power.

P1: I don't necessarily mean that politicians lie, but they do focus on non-issues to sway the public. Examples include Barack Obama's birth certificate and Mitt Romney's tax returns. Both were non-issues that swayed public opinion.

My opponent's only argument against compartmentalizing voters was that it was undemocratic. I don't even know how that relates. It isn't an argument, it is using a meaningless word to criticize something.

Rather than rebutting my source, my opponent chose to throw an ad hominem at it. Considering that she figured out objective morality, I would definitely say that Rand is a moral authority. There is no such thing as a reasonable denial of liberty, or any right for that matter. That is why they are rights.
Debate Round No. 4
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2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by DebaterAgent 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: I have to admit this was one of the best debates i've read. I have to give the "more convincing arguments" to Pro. Everything else, I think is a tie.
Vote Placed by Pennington 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I think both made very convincing arguments. I think Pro provided a equal system to the present one and I think Con showed that the present is justified. I think Con had better conduct because Pro used ad hominems instead of attacking Cons points. Con was the only one to use sources. Both had good S/G.