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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: 9/19/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 11,216 times Debate No: 37925
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This is the Lincoln Douglas debate topic for this month, and I want to see how this case holds up.
Resolved: In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory
Democracy: rule of the majority
Voting: a formal expression of opinion
Ought: used to express obligation
Compulsory: mandatory, enforced
Resolutional Analysis: Seeing as the resolution does not specify a certain country where voting ought to be made compulsory, it is the burden of the affirmative to provide an example from another country where compulsory voting has worked. It is the burden of the negative to provide an example from a country where compulsory voting has not worked.
My value for today"s round will be one of autonomy, which is the right to govern oneself without outside interference. My value criterion will be one of ethical egoism, which is the theory that one should only act in a way that is morally good for him or herself.
Contention One: Democracy in other Countries
Sub-point A: Australia
Australia is one of the 19 countries in the world that legally enforces the vote. For Australian citizens voting is not merely a right, but also a duty. First introduced in Queensland in 1915, extended to the whole country in 1924, compulsory voting is a salient feature of the Australian electoral system. But is it democratic? The main argument in defense of compulsory voting is the importance of raising citizens" participation in elections. Australia"s turn out rate has never fallen below 90% since 1924, in striking comparison with most Western countries that struggle to reach 60%. These are nevertheless, merely quantitative considerations: the fact that more people go to vote is not a better thing for democracy. In fact, it could be argued that compulsory voting is likely to do more damage than good, by reducing the quality of the electoral outcome.
Contention 2: Moral and Technical Flaws
No system is perfect of course, especially when it comes to electoral administration. Opponents of compulsory voting have identified several disadvantages of both a moral and technical nature. Starting with the political bias of such a reform and its anti-liberal nature, they continue with criticism of the technicalities of enforcement and its impact on the quality of the vote. It is true that, like most electoral reforms, the new system creates political advantages for certain political groups. When it was introduced in Belgium, the Catholic Party saw it as a tool to secure votes from its conservative grass roots, in order to defeat the more polarized socialists. Today, in the United Kingdom, as well as in Australia, the system is considered to be largely beneficial for the Labor parties (Mackerras and McAllister, 1999). Other opponents claim that compulsory voting is difficult and expensive to enforce. They draw on the existing state of the art, where half of the states with compulsory voting laws today do not have serious enforcement mechanisms. This happens because the judicial resources are not sufficient to deal with the thousands of cases (e.g. Argentina and elsewhere), or because the costs incurred by the administration for sanctioning non-voters is too high. A law that exists only in name but not in reality discredits the legal system.


Hi LD buddy! (I'm also preparing for a competition soon.)

I will be AFF for Resolved: In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory.

Value: national interest
Criterion: duty

I decline the burden.

First off, I'll refute the opponent's contentions. Then I will present my own arguments.

To the opponent's first contention, "Democracy in other countries", he mentioned "For Australian citizens voting is not merely a right, but also a duty." I agree; voting is a duty. Voting is something that comes out of obligation. Under the social contract, governments protect our rights, and in return, citizens have the obligation to vote. The opponent also mentioned that turnout rates for Australia (not falling beneath 90% since 1924) is simply quantitative, and "the fact that more people go to vote is not a better thing for democracy". However, the opponent does not explain or support this point, and merely goes onto Contention 2. Why is it bad that "more people go to vote"? Doesn't that decrease voter apathy and encourage civic participation?

To the opponent's second contention, "Moral and Technical Flaws", he brings up political bias. He writes " the new system creates political advantages for certain political groups". However, I think it is quite on the contrary. In our democratic system currently, which is not a compulsory voting system, political bias is very strong. Just think about it. Where there is the most representation among people, that's where the political parties go. People go to the nearest voting poll and they are deciding which political party to vote for. They will choose the political party that shares on the same issues these people care about, the political party that they can identify most from. So, these political parties shape their ideas to try to attract the people who show up to polls, leaving the outliers unrepresented. And then it becomes this cycle. If outliers are unrepresented, why should they show up to polls? Onto the other part of the opponent's second contention: he mentions compulsory voting is expensive to enforce. Could I ask the opponent to support his claim by writing up the specific statistic of money that is spent on compulsory voting?

Alright. Now onto my own contentions.

Contention 1: Voter obligation.
As I have mentioned already, under social contract, because governments provide us with security and protection of our rights, we owe duties to the government. One such duty is to vote. And it is important because the leaders we elect are the ones providing the security and protection. So, connecting back to my value, it is under our national interest to have leaders that the entire democracy voted for, instead of having some groups or people underrepresented. In order to achieve that national interest, we need to feel that duty to vote. Under the current system, as I have already talked about in the refutation of my opponent's arguments, some people do not vote because they are being underrepresented. By making voting compulsory, these people would get a say in what government they want. Faced with the entire country instead of just the people who showed up at polls, political groups would shift their views to acknowledge the entire population, making their claims and views in the overall interest of all groups.

Contention 2: Government legitimacy.
If right now, there's a struggle to reach 60% voter turnout in Western countries, what does that say about our government? That means only 60% of people showed up to vote, and out of that 60%, a certain percentage voted for a political group, a certain percentage voted for another political group, and so on. Can our government be legitimate if only such many percentage of people voted for the current government? By switching to a compulsory voting system, we can encourage civic participation while making it so that our government was indeed chosen under the voting circumstances that everyone could vote. (Certain people, such as minorities or people with disabilities, may not be represented as well under the current system.)
Debate Round No. 1


zachdebate727 forfeited this round.


I extend my arguments.
Debate Round No. 2


OK, forgot about this debate and wasn't able to post my argument. My bad. On to my opponent's case to begin.
Now, my opponent brings up the point of it being our duty to vote. Which is entirely true. But what they fail to realize is that, despite the fact that it is our duty, this doesn't mean that we should be forced against our will to go and vote, hence my value of autonomy and my criterion of ethical egoism. If we send all this dead weight to the voting tables, and they could care less who ends up as their leader, we're forcing people with no opinion to choose our next leader, which greatly affects the outcome of the vote, and leaving a political bias, hence my second contention. Therefore both of my opponent's contentions fall.
Now onto my own case.
My opponent attacked my first contention saying that I did not explain how a bigger turnout is worse for democracy, when in fact, I did. My second contention explains how, and it shows a political bias because of this dead weight showing up to the polls, despite the fact they don't care. This political bias is what is bad for democracy. Why do we send people with no opinion to the polls? By doing this, we are creating that political bias.
My opponent attacked my second contention by saying that there is political bias within America itself, despite there being no compulsory voting. They also brought up representation among people, which means political parties will go where the people are. And while that is completely true, compulsory voting will only make this problem worse. The political parties will target those with no opinion, leading the person with no opinion to decide he will vote for that party, only because they reached out to him.
As for evidence, here is a link to the evidence I have:


Hi again.

So my opponent agreed that it is our duty to vote. Liijphart viewed voting as a duty as well. "uniformity in turnout
and the ability to overcome the under-representation of lower socio-economic groups at the polls to be worth the restrictions on freedoms" was his belief. (from THE EFFECT OF COMPULSORY VOTING LAWS ON GOVERNMENT SPENDING , Jakee) So that piece of evidence clashes with " this doesn't mean that we should be forced against our will to go and vote", because in order to overcome this under-representation, the restrictions was worth it.

Then my opponent began to talk about how under compulsory voting, people with no opinion would be forced to vote. However, the opponent is assuming that people would check off a box on the ballot. This is in fact untrue. People, once they receive the ballot, can do whatever on the ballot. No one is allowed to see what you write on the ballot. You could in fact not write anything on the ballot at all. Or you could draw on it. The point is, you're not being forced to pick between one running candidate and the other. If you really have no opinion whatsoever on who leads your country, you don't have to check the box. This also refutes my opponent's first contention where he says " Why do we send people with no opinion to the polls? ".

Then my opponent proceeded to talk about how "The political parties will target those with no opinion". How? The political parties will target the ones who have an opinion, and the political parties will bring up those contemporary issues people are concerned about. If they target the ones who don't care, what are they going to say? Because since those people don't care, they are going to not care anyway! This is in comparison to political parties targeting what lots of people think about say, foreign policy, on healthcare, and hold their standpoints on those various issues. Then people with the same view would vote on that.

Now. to my contentions.
On my first contention, I mentioned voter obligation, and along with that, social contract. My opponent did not refute the social contract theory directly. And as my opponent agreed, the duty to vote compels us to vote.

On my second contention, my opponent said that when voting is compulsory people would care less about who would become their leader. Is this really true though? Who is the "people" in that statement? Is it acknowledging minorities or people with disabilities where voting has finally been made a possibility through it being compulsory? Is the government really legitimate, or only a representation of those who are able to vote?
Debate Round No. 3


zachdebate727 forfeited this round.


I extend my arguments.
Debate Round No. 4


Hello Again. I keep forgetting to check this debate. My bad.
My opponent brings up the point that people don't have to put someone's name on the paper and then turn in the ballot. But my opponent contradicts himself. If compulsory voting is what he is pushing for, but also says that it shouldn't matter what they put on the ballot, then we would be throwing away a very large sum of money, and for what? A ballot with a drawing of Pac-Man on it? Why make them vote if they aren't going to express they're opinion?
My opponent also asks how and why the political parties will target those with no opinion, and the answer is this: free votes. If we mandate voting, political parties will go after these people with no opinion. They get free votes out of it, so why not? If these people with no opinion are forced to vote, we will create this political bias I have shown here.
My opponent brings up the point of who are these "people", and talks about minorities, and people with disabilities. The answer to that question is: these "people" are those with no opinion, as I have stated numerous times.
My opponent did not refute my value, criterion, or RA, therefore my framework is followed.
Vote Con


Hi again!

So my opponent asked the question "Why should votes matter if people draw Pac Man on it?" Well, every single vote matters. Every single vote that has a Pac Man drawn on it or any drawing, for that matter, is a warning to the government that people really are apathetic about voting. And then they can fix the situation from there. The problem is right now there are assumptions. Because we cannot pinpoint the problem directly, or even say for sure that compulsory voting is for sure bad, we are left contemplating possibilities, but not acting. By seeing how many people exactly really do vote versus the ones who just really don't care, we can adjust from there. Also, my opponent still does not refute social contract. And people under that social contract have the duty to care, which my opponent agreed, that yes, we have a duty.

My opponent also mentioned that political parties will target ones with no opinion so that they can get free votes. However, the logic does not flow. Won't you want to target ones that will care the most so, precisely for that reason, they will vote for you? Think about it. Let's say I sell candies. I see that 10 people are interested in Snickers, and 1 doesn't care. Will I sell lollipops (something totally irrelevant from Snickers) or will I sell Snickers? Well, if I want the most of my money (and time) I will want to sell Snickers!

My opponent also mentions that people who are minorities or have disabilities are the ones with no opinion. This is not true. Why should people who are minorities or have disabilities have no opinion? The logic does not flow.

My opponent also did not refute my value or criterion also.

For all the reasons I have presented thus far, vote pro! :D
Debate Round No. 5
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