in a democracy voting ought to be compulsory
Debate Rounds (4)
Ought - "used to indicate duty or correctness." (Oxford Dictionaries Online)
Compulsory Voting " A system of elections in which citizens who have the right and means to vote are required by law to vote. Nonvoters in this system face fines.
Democracy " "government by the people; especially": rule of the majority" (Merriam-Webster online)
Equality " "the state of being equal, especially in having the same rights, status,"and opportunities" (MacMillan Dictionary)
My value"will be democracy, defined earlier as a government by the people. This value is appropriate because the resolution is a question of how to uphold democracy. It is important because a democratic government should uphold the principle of the "rule of the majority" as strongly as possible. My"criterion"will be equality. Equality is an important pillar of democracy that compulsory voting strengthens by ensuring that all individuals get a voice in government. Without it, democracy cannot exist because certain groups may face disenfranchisement as a result.
Note: In this system, all ballots will have an option of "none of the above." This option is intended to protect the right not to vote. Checking this option is still meaningful to candidates because it shows that there are a number of votes that are still up for grabs, and if politicians address the needs of the groups who tend to pick this option, they can persuade those individuals to vote for them.
Contention 1: Low Voter Turnout Threatens Democracy
a."Low Turnout Threatens Majority Rule
Low voter turnout is an issue in many democratic countries. Even worse is that with each passing generation, the average turnout is dropping steadily. The United States is a perfect example of this.
Jason"Marisam, Post-Graduate Research Fellow-Harvard Law School, 2009, "Voter Turnout: From Cost to Cooperation," St. Thomas Law Review, Winter, 21 St. Thomas L. Rev. 190, p. 192-3
First, I will present the facts."Voter turnout has fallen significantly during the past several decades."Most"estimates show a decline of ten to fifteen points for turnout in both presidential and non-presidential elections from the 1960s to today."The official numbers from the U.S. Census report turnout at 69.3% in 1964 and at 58.3% in 2004, which was up from the low of 54.2% in 1996. The drop in turnout looks better or worse depending on how one crunches the numbers, but the bottom line is that"turnout in the past several decades has declined in most advanced democracies with the United"States at the"bottom of the pack among this group in terms of overall turnout. Some may be satisfied with the fact that turnout is up so far this decade in comparison to the last decade. However, it is imprudent to depend on once-in-a-lifetime campaigns or political events to mobilize voters. If the goal is sustained, high turnout nationally among all demographic groups should increase.
In a democracy, it is ultimately the will of the people that decide the outcomes of elections and influential policy decisions. If voter turnout is low, then it"s possible that the so-called majority could actually be a minority of the population making decisions for the entire population. This goes against the very definition of democracy as the rule of the people. Compulsory voting fixes this problem by increasing voter turnout. Australia is an example of how compulsory voting has been successful.
Scott Bennett, Parliament of Australia, 2005, Compulsory voting in Australian national elections, Parliamentary Library-Research Brief, October, No. 6, [http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au...], p. 1
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. "The Netherlands averaged a turnout of 94.7 percent before compulsory voting was abolished in 1971, and a turnout of 81.4 percent in the years since. "A similar drop in Australia would amount to about 1.5 million fewer voters in a national election. In the older democracies that have voluntary voting, the turnout has usually been in the order of 70 to 80 percent, though in recent elections such countries have actually experienced a marked decline in turnout."
"Compulsory voting solves this problem by giving individuals an equal say in their government. More people go out to vote, and as a result, the majority actually rules. As a result, the decisions of the democracy become more legitimate because the results are being decided by a majority of the entire population, not just the majority of the portion of the population that decided to vote. The equality in status that compulsory voting provides makes the decisions that people make for the democracy more legitimate, which thus upholds democracy.
b."Low Voter Turnout Creates an Unrepresentative Democracy
Sarah"Birch, Reader in Politics-University of Essex, 2009, "The case for compulsory voting," Public Policy Research, March-May, p. 23
An election can be thought of as a political census in which near universal participation is required to generate political decisions that are an accurate reflection of what the population actually wants."When less than two-thirds of the electorate goes to the polls, the government that results from this election typically has the expressed support of well under a third of those eligible to vote."Democratic legitimacy concerns may not weigh heavily with the ordinary voter, but they certainly do trouble the collective minds of governments, and it is no wonder that falling turnout should have generated hand-wringing among the political elite."Compulsory turnout would ensure that virtually all voices are taken into account, and that the outputs of the electoral process thus have full democratic legitimacy.
Unless a true majority of the population votes, an election is illegitimate because a minority of the population is masquerading itself as a majority. By giving all individuals equal access to ballots, this problem can be corrected because the voices of all individuals would be taken into account. This is the only way to ensure a legitimate democracy; a democracy cannot represent the people unless all voices are accounted for.
Contention 2: The Status Quo Creates an Imbalance of Power Skewed Towards the Wealthy
It has also been shown that there are large gaps in voter turnout between different socioeconomic groups. Studies have shown that wealthier individuals are much more likely to vote than those who are impoverished.
Sarah"Birch, Reader in Politics-University of Essex, 2009, "The case for compulsory voting," Public Policy Research, March-May, p. 22
The gap in turnout between socio-economic groups is"less pronounced, but still"alarmingly large: depending on the measure of socio-economic status employed, it ranges from 13 to 16 per cent between those at the lowest and those at the highest rungs of the ladder"(Keaney and Rogers 2006). These figures suggest that"there is a serious inclusivity problem associated with electoral politics.
As long as the poor don"t vote, politicians will not spend much time addressing their needs because they are unlikely to vote. Instead, they will cater to the needs of the middle class and the wealthy because they will likely make up the majority of the people who vote. As a result, the status quo has a system of elections that is biased towards wealthier individuals. This leads to policies that are skewed towards these groups because the politicians are catering to them so that they can guarantee their vote in the future. If compulsory voting is instilled, this problem will be solved because now, everyone is voting. As a result, politicians will address to the needs of these disenfranchised groups, which leads to equality amongst all groups because policies will be passed which fairly benefit both the wealthy and those in poverty, which benefits democracy by taking into account the voices of all groups of people. Democracy is also enhanced when this happens because a key principle of democracy is that the government serves the people. In this case, compulsory voting serves the people by reducing income inequality. Because the will of the people dictates that the government should do whatever it can to help the people, the will of the people dictates that the government ought to enact compulsory voting.
Contention 3: Compulsory Voting Decreases Political Polarization
Political polarization occurs when political attitudes diverge towards ideological extremes. Compulsory voting can solve this problem.
Eric Liu. "Why Voting Should Be Mandatory." Times."August 21,"2012. http://ideas.time.com...
Second, as William Galston of the Brookings Institution argues,"it would temper the polarization of our politics. In today"s electorate, hardcore partisan believers are over-represented; independents and moderates are under-represented. If the full range of voters actually voted, our political leaders,"who are"exquisitely attuned followers, would go where the votes are: away from the extremes."And"they would become more responsive to the younger, poorer and less educated Americans who don"t currently vote.
Even though the evidence specifically mentions the United States, it is easy to cross-apply this analysis to other democracies. Those that have multiple parties are bound to run into this problem because in the status quo, the first goal of the parties is to get their partisan bases to vote, and whichever base gets more votes wins the election. Moderates are left out in this system. Compulsory voting eliminates this strategy because now, individuals from varied views will be voting. This equality amongst all types of political views will mean that politics will become less polarized. This is because candidates must now focus on those with moderate views that were previously left out of campaign discourse. This improves democracy because the will of all people, not just those with partisan views, is represented. For this reason as well others stated throughout my case, I strongly urge an affirmative ballot in today"s debate.
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