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

Voting should be compulsory

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/30/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 630 times Debate No: 95779
Debate Rounds (5)
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The topic of the debate is that "voting should be compulsory." I am taking the "against" side. There is no BoP on either side.

Round 1 - Acceptance.
Round 2 - Debaters state their case.
Round 3 - Debaters rebut one another's cases made in Round 2.
Round 4 - Debaters defend their cases against rebuttals made in Round 3.
Round 5 - Debaters make closing statements, argue as to why voters should select them.


I accept, and as such will be arguing the affirmative.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks for accepting and I look forward to this debate!

My two main arguments against compulsory voting are as follows:

-Voting is a right, not a duty

In nearly every Western liberal democracy, freedoms of speech and political opinions are protected by supreme laws. Since you're an American and I'm a Canadian, I'll cite as examples both the First Amendment of the US Constitution (1) and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (2). The US Constitution reads that "Congress shall make no law [...] abridging the freedom of speech." The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees "freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression."

Freedom of speech also involves the freedom to refrain from expressing an opinion on a given subject, because having no opinion is, in itself, an opinion. Compulsory voting violates this by compelling citizens to take a position on a specific issue (the election) when they may have no opinion or they may be disenfranchised and not agree with any available options. Alternatively, someone may support a non-democratic system entirely and thus compelling them to participate in a democratic election violates their belief system.

-Compulsory voting results in poorly informed or random votes that compromise the integrity of elections

Compelling apathetic, uninformed, or conscientious objector voters to cast a ballot inherently means that more votes will be cast randomly or based on weak reasoning (3). Name recognition, which is already a disconcertingly powerful factor in elections, will be an even larger factor in elections with compulsory voting. In Australia, which has enforced compulsory voting, much attention has been given to the phenomenon of "donkey votes," whereby voters simply mark their preferential ballots in order from top to bottom (4).







Cheers man.

My argument is centered around two points outlined below:

-In western, liberal societies, rights are granted alongside responsibilities. Voting, since it is the entirety of democracy, should be a responsibility of the citizen.

Such responsibilities include paying taxes, registering for the draft, jury duty, and obeying the law. Making voting compulsory would go a long way towards solving the crisis of voter apathy that affects many countries. In the U.S, overall voter participation hovers around 55%-50%(1).

This means that half of the eligible population is not being participating in government, but is still being taxed to fund it and still bound by its laws.

Furthermore, the voting demographics themselves incentivize policy makers to appeal to specific groups at the detriment of others. In the U.S, older individuals are much more likely to vote than younger ones(2), and women are somewhat more likely to vote than men(2), which creates both an environment that elects those that are more likely to serve these groups, and one that reinforces all elected officials to do so, so that they may remain in power.

Given my above arguments, I assert that voting is not only a right, but a responsibility, as well as a necessity for a fair and functional society.

-Optional voting creates a system in which fringe, hard-line voters are over-represented. To fix this, everyone must be compelled to vote.

Voters that exist at the extreme edges of the political spectrum are much more likely to vote(3). This means that they are also more likely to get the politicians they want in office, which creates a large group of disenfranchised voters that believe their vote has no significance. This can very easily create a negative feedback loop, in which politics get more extreme and those that do not fall into either side becoming less and less likely to vote. This also leads to situations such as the one the U.S is currently facing, with many voters left without a choice at all.

With the above arguments said, I assert that leaving voting optional will create a system in which a majority of citizens' voices are entirely unheard.




Debate Round No. 2


Thank you for presenting your arguments.

==Rebuttal - Voting is a Responsibility==

Many of the other examples you provide could be debated on their own merits and demerits, but I don't want to devolve into a kritik about the legitimacy of the state in general.

What I will point out is that this is an issue of speech and political association and that whether voting "is the entirely of democracy" (something I would dispute as democracy is also about structure of government in other respects, a certain from of legal system, certain fundamental principles, etc) or not, not everyone believes in democracy. Our society is supposed to value expression as a right, and compulsory voting contradicts that with the threat of force.

==Rebuttal - Low Voter Turnout/Under-representation==

I would posit that if a citizen is uninformed, apathetic or disenfranchised, it is better for them not to participate in an election than to cast votes on random or unfounded grounds (as I referenced in my opening statement).

I reject the assumption that low voter turnout is inherently a bad thing or high voter turnout is inherently a good thing. What matters moreso is that those who do vote make informed and cogent choices.

==Rebuttal - Catering to Interest Groups and Specific Demographics==

My response to this is simple; if certain demographics receive less attention from policy makers than others on the basis that said demographics vote in lower numbers, they can combat this by reversing their voting trends and demonstrating that they are a powerful demographic.

Further, compulsory voting would not eliminate this concern, only shift what demographics politicians would need to cater to. The focus would simply no longer be what demographics are most likely to vote, but the raw numbers comprising the whole population of various demographics. In other words, instead of appealing to interest groups with high voter turnout, they would appeal to the largest demographics, period.

==Rebuttal - Fringe Voters Over-represented under Voluntary Voting==

I find this argument to be particularly off base, especially when you cite the United States as a supporting example. Among the most common criticisms of two-party systems is that they stifle debate and encourage voter apathy precisely because they necessarily must present "mainstream" platforms and ignore alternate views that fall outside majority belief systems (1)(2).

I would further state that what constitutes "fringe" or "extreme" political views is inherently subjective, those labels do not make the beliefs in question wrong, and I reject the underlying assumption that it is an inherently bad thing for people with non-mainstream belief systems to vote in greater proportions than others.

==Rebuttal - "Leaving voting optional will create a system in which a majority of citizens' voices are entirely unheard."==

Coercing someone into either spoiling a ballot or casting it for someone they wouldn't voluntarily wish to vote for is not letting them have their voice heard. Freedom of speech necessarily entails the freedom not to speak when one doesn't wish to.



Thank you as well. I will address your points in the order they were posted:

"-Voting is a right, not a duty"

As it currently stands, this is factual. However, it is invalid as a point since it is itself the subject of debate, similar to saying "God is real" as a point within a debate discussing if god is infact real.

I reject your implication that it is possible for someone that is informed to not have an opinion whatsoever, for this to be true the individual would have to be beyond apathetic. However, in case the individual has no interest in any candidate, I suggest that there be an option on the ballot for rejecting all candidates and starting anew. This also addresses your point on the disenfranchisement of potential voters.

If an individual happens to object to the idea of democracy themselves, there is no way for them to express this view, short of revolution, outside of participating in the process.

"-Compulsory voting results in poorly informed or random votes that compromise the integrity of elections"

A vast majority of apathetic voters are this way due to ignorance. One feeds the other. Frustration in the system can feed into apathy as well. This can all be fixed by giving voters more options and compelling them to be informed one way or another. Conscientious objectors exist only because of a lack of options they'd prefer, which we could remedy by adding the previously mentioned option in which all candidates are rejected.

What is more likely to compromise the integrity of our elections is a lack of participation in said elections. Smaller and smaller groups deciding things for everyone.
Debate Round No. 3



==Voting is a Right, not a Duty==

I disagree that this is invalid; the point is that there exists legal protections that, if one were to accept, should extend to the issue of compulsory voting. These legal protections are themselves based on certain principles that are central to the underpinnings of democratic societies. Since I didn't establish otherwise you're entitled to attack this as a kritik, but in the context of this debate it seems we've both accepted a democratic governmental framework as the starting point, so it would indeed be relevant.

-Informed Apathy-

I think this US presidential election cycle demonstrates loudly and clearly that informed voters can easily be inclined to reject available options. I would accept that those who do not wish to actively support any candidate could spoil the ballot, but then why compel them to participate in the process if it does not equate to actual participation? Why compel people to turn up at polling stations and waste an hour of their day just to spoil a ballot, when staying home would have accomplished the same thing?

==Poorly Informed or Random Votes Compromise Elections==

As I demonstrated with the "donkey vote" phenomenon in Australia, it's inevitable that some people will cast random votes instead of spoiling the ballot. It is an act of protest in itself; they are deliberately derailing the integrity of the electoral process as an objection to being coerced into voting. In tight races, this can be a game-changing factor.

As for "compelling them to be informed," not only is that not realistically possible, but to the marginal extent that it could be, it raises a whole host of problematic questions about how the state is going to present information to voters. Especially when incumbent candidates are already part of the government that would be tasked with this, and therefore they could and would manipulate things to give a more favourable impression of themselves and less so of opponents. This would just further expand the existing incumbent advantage.

You can mandate voting but you can't mandate knowledge. People who do not care and do not want to know won't suddenly absorb information by force. And if they could, that's even more troubling a prospect.



My defense:

-"Rebuttal - Voting is a Responsibility"

For the sake of this argument I assume that we are considering the state legitimate.

Similar to other such duties that have exceptions for certain objectors, voting could indeed have one as well. It would be better for voting to be an opt-out system rather than an opt-in one.

-"Rebuttal - Lower Voter Turnout/Under-representation"

I suggest that, rather than not encourage their participation in the system, we find solutions. Giving voters options and information(meaning, giving them the incentive to figure things out for themselves rather than the state teaching them) .

Low voter turnout in a democratic system is self evidently a bad thing. Democracy is the rule of the people, by the people. Less people participating means that less people are a part of the ruling, but still a part of the ruled. I agree, however, that voters must also not be careless in their decision making.

-"Rebuttal - Catering to Interest Groups and Specific Demographics"

I would argue that appealing to the largest demographic is the best possible outcome. It means that the largest amount of people possible are affected in a positive way.

-"Rebuttal - Fringe Voters Over-represented under Voluntary Voting"

My point is that what is mainstream becomes more radical over time, thus making moderate views the alternatives that are ignored.

Politics itself is always going to be subjective, this is unavoidable. What is considered fringe/extreme in my example is what falls outside of a given standard deviation. In a majority of cases, these beliefs are reactionary in nature and are a counter to another set of extreme beliefs, which makes them much more likely to be "bad."

-"Rebuttal - "Leaving voting optional will create a system in which a majority of citizens' voices are entirely unheard."

Regarding voices of voters being heard, spoiling the ballot increases the chances that they can actually be heard when there is, at the time, no viable alternative.
Debate Round No. 4


Many thanks to my opponent for engaging me in this debate.

As this round is just for closing statements, I'll keep this brief: I would encourage voters to support me on the basis that I don't believe my opponent adequately addressed either of my arguments. In response to the point of rights, my opponent merely stated that objectors could spoil ballots, which doesn't address them point of them being compelled to participate on principle. In response to the issue of compulsory voting leading to inadequately thoughtful votes, my opponent again repeated the option to spoil ballots without actually addressing my point about "donkey votes" or name recognition bias (which I had backed up with citations of these being real issues in jurisdictions with compulsory voting).

Thanks for reading.
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Debate Round No. 5
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