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Author Topic: Compulsory Voting
fern hill
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posted 12 November 2003 12:01 PM      Profile for fern hill        Edit/Delete Post
Today's Toronto Star's Voices Voices page has a bunch of extremely lame excuses for not voting. People cited not getting voter registration cards, not getting enough information about candidates (?), not knowing where to vote, etc. My favourite is the person who said s/he didn't vote because not one candidate came to her/his door!

I want to know more about compulsory voting. Australia has it, yes? How does it work? Has it affected election results? Increased spoiled ballots?

Me, I always vote. I figure if I don't vote, I can't bitch about the results.


From: away | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged
Scott Piatkowski
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posted 12 November 2003 12:32 PM      Profile for Scott Piatkowski   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
I didn't vote because I'm still angry over Dalton McGuinty's flip-flop on several key election issues. I'm fed up with politicians who offer the moon but deliver Swiss cheese. Fool me once . . . etc.

Larry Beck, Scarborough, Nov. 11


That doesn't mean you should give up voting... that means you should stop voting Liberal.


From: Kitchener-Waterloo | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Stockholm
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posted 12 November 2003 12:40 PM      Profile for Stockholm     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Australia has compulsory voting. if you don't vote you get fined something like $20. (I'm not sure of exactly how they enforce it). Of course you are free to vote and spoil your ballot, but you must vote.

The turn out is therefore about 90%. This has not stopped them from getting stuck with a rightwing conservative "Liberal" government under John Howard.

I think compulsory voting like in Australia might not be a bad idea. I think they take the view that voting is like jury duty - it is a civic obligation and not just a frill that you can choose to exercise or not.


From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
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posted 12 November 2003 12:45 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
That doesn't mean you should give up voting... that means you should stop voting Liberal.

Hmmm. But the NDP flip-flopped just as bad under Rae. So, what you're saying is that we should all vote for the Tories again?? Or are we stuck with the only party to have never broken a promise: the Rhinos?


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Trinitty
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posted 12 November 2003 12:54 PM      Profile for Trinitty     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Voter Turn out in Ottawa was historically low.

30% of people bothered to vote.

It should be compulsary.


From: Europa | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 12 November 2003 01:09 PM      Profile for Zatamon        Edit/Delete Post
Compulsory voting? Hmmm...I have seen it in Hungary -- we all showed up, 90% of the people spoiled their ballots, and the Communist Party reported a 99% victory.

You can lead a horse to the well, but how do you make it to drink?

A better solution: change the system from a mockery of democracy to meaningful participation and then people will go, without force applied.

If we can't remove the cause, we will have to live with the consequences.


From: "The right crowd" | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
Stockholm
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posted 12 November 2003 01:27 PM      Profile for Stockholm     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
A better solution: change the system from a mockery of democracy to meaningful participation and then people will go, without force applied.


and how do you define "meaningful participation"? Is it Swiss style direct democracy? Reform Party style recall and referenda? California style recall circuses? Is there an example of a country you can point to that has "meaningful participation" and as a result gets 90%+ turnouts?


From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
fern hill
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posted 12 November 2003 01:27 PM      Profile for fern hill        Edit/Delete Post
I just did some reading on Australia's system. (Compulsory voting started nationwide in 1925!)

I like the idea. (I also like the idea of compulsory national service but that's another thread.)

Modern life is so splintered. My mother talks of a time when you could walk down a street in the summer (windows open) and not miss a word of the radio show Amos and Andy.

Sure, you can call that kind of situation boring, conformist or whatever, but I think there's something lacking in a society where its citizens have almost nothing in common on an individual level. (OK, we all pay taxes, and look what a fertile subject that is

In Australia, everyone must register to vote at age 18. The fine for not voting is $20, but it's waived if you've got a legit reason.

This isn't terribly onerous. And we'd all have something else to bitch about.


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Albireo
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posted 12 November 2003 01:41 PM      Profile for Albireo     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Most people who don't vote are removed from the political process, ill-informed and ill-equipped to vote. If you force them to vote, their choices will be random, poorly informed and/or based the flimsiest reasons. There are enough people like that who choose to vote already, without forcing whole herds of them out to the polling stations.

We must encourage people to involve themselves and vote, but to force them is pointless and cheapens democracy.


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Zatamon
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posted 12 November 2003 01:45 PM      Profile for Zatamon        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Stockholm:
and how do you define "meaningful participation"?
Meaningful participation is a system where democratic representatives are allowed to represent their constituents (instead of having to toe the party line) and elected officials are accountable to keep their promises. It is a system where the votes are not bought by bribes (to be paid by taxpayers) and not influenced by media circuses, charisma contests and mud-slinging. It is a system where the elections are not financed by the wealthy contributors (individual and corporate) and there is an actual and substantial difference between the parties and the policies, giving voters real alternatives. In short: democracy.

No, there is no such country (to the best of my knowledge) where there is such a system. However, my previous comment was not meant to tell you how to create such a system (good luck!) but it was meant as an explanation of WHY so many people don't bother to vote (I always vote by declining my ballot -- I do not participate in a farce).

People are not stupid -- most of them know when they are taken for fools and stay away.

The rest will hang on to their illusions because it feels so good.

PS. And, of course, meaningful participation means participation on a daily basis in your local political institutions and decision making processes, as opposed to showing up for half an hour at a polling station once or twice every 4-5 years.

[ 12 November 2003: Message edited by: Francis Mont ]


From: "The right crowd" | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
minimal
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posted 12 November 2003 01:56 PM      Profile for minimal     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Part of the democratic process is to allow free choice. Some people choose not to vote for any number of reasons but it all boils down to this: these people choose not to keep up with the issues, never read a newspaper or a newsmagazine, don't watch news programs or public affairs programs and never attend political meetings of any kind. If they choose to be idiots when it comes to politics then I would prefer that they not vote. That is democracy.

Forcing someone to vote is akin to forcing someone to do any or all of the following:

1. Play golf
2. Wear a tie
3. Listen to Bono


From: Alberta | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
fern hill
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posted 12 November 2003 01:56 PM      Profile for fern hill        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by albireo:
Most people who don't vote are removed from the political process, ill-informed and ill-equipped to vote. If you force them to vote, their choices will be random, poorly informed and/or based the flimsiest reasons. There are enough people like that who choose to vote already, without forcing whole herds of them out to the polling stations.

We must encourage people to involve themselves and vote, but to force them is pointless and cheapens democracy.


How cheap is a democracy when only a third of voters spread their votes out among however many candidates and one of them wins?


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Albireo
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posted 12 November 2003 02:01 PM      Profile for Albireo     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I agree that it stinks, but we would do no better by forcing ill-informed people who don't care about politics to go and vote.
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Kiavash Najafi
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posted 12 November 2003 02:02 PM      Profile for Kiavash Najafi     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Compulsary voting can end up boosting the support of the extreme right wing parties. That was the case with Austria. There are people who just whine about politics. They never bother to learn anything or seriously consider different solutions to different issues. So, they find something or someone to blame things on: unemployment, crime, etc... all because of those damn immigrants! And they want quick, simple solutions; something right-wingers are good at: kill the criminals, stop immigration. The good thing is that many of these people don't bother to vote. If voting was compulsary, their vote would go to the most right-wing party.

There are ways to encourage voter participation though. The easiest one is to give people the choice of different parties and indicating that their vote matters. Our elections seem to be races between different parties with different ideas, but really, at the level of a riding, most races are between two parties. If you're an NDP supporter in Calgary, why would you bother voting? Your vote is a waste! It's not going to be counted and it's not going to be represeted. The value of our votes changes based on the parties we support and the riding we happen to live in. So, let's stop fooling ourselves with our democracy.

Proportional representation is going to be a great help. But it won't deal with the whole problem. I'm sure others have other ideas for encouraging voter participation.


From: Toronto and Ottawa | Registered: Jun 2003  |  IP: Logged
WingNut
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posted 12 November 2003 02:25 PM      Profile for WingNut   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
So what will the net effect of compulsory voting be? We will get up to triple the number of people voting on name recognition only?

How about compulsory voter education?


From: Out There | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 12 November 2003 02:29 PM      Profile for Zatamon        Edit/Delete Post
'Compulsory Democracy' -- I like the sound of it. Isn't that what they are trying to do in Iraq?
From: "The right crowd" | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
swirrlygrrl
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posted 12 November 2003 02:31 PM      Profile for swirrlygrrl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Interesting to note that compulsory voting in Australia was orignally brought in to hinder the Labour party, as the conservatives thought the non-voters were more likely to favour them. Labour has since become a strong supporter of the idea of compulsory attendance (as pointed out, they can't force you to vote...you just have to take a ballot). The idea that voter turnout is increased by compulsory attendance is somewaht of a farce, as one can see by looking at several South American countries with the practice in place, and turnouts in the 30% range.

Also intersting to note that the classical "non-voter" (marginalized, young or very old, poor, lower education) is eroding in western democracies, and a new non-voter is rising - its not confined to the margins anymore. The very strong correlation between education and voting is weakening, and the life cycles theory of voting behaviour is losing strength as increasing numbers of those outside the domain of youth choose not to vote (apparently, we don't "grow into" voting anymore). The World Values Survey and Eurobarometer show us that, regardless of the level of interest in politics people express (which is itself reflecting a chasm between those who are highly interested, and those with no interest), voting is down. And the case of New Zealand means that electoral reform doesnt' necessarily solve the problem either.

The easy answers aren't there anymore, if they ever were, on voter participation. Which isn't to say that I'm not in favour of compulsory voting (cause I am). But systemic problems require radical changes to achieve a solution, and I'd say in the meantime, lets start somewhere, by making voting an obligation, a responsibility, the minimum you have to do to earn your keep as a citizen and benefit from the state, like paying taxes.


From: the bushes outside your house | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
fern hill
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posted 12 November 2003 02:46 PM      Profile for fern hill        Edit/Delete Post
I didn't know about Labour/conservative expectations in Australia. What I read was that compulsory voting was brought in when voter turnout sunk to 24%.

It would scare the bejeesus out of me to think my country/province/city was being run with the support of so few of my fellow citizens.

I scrutineered in the Ontario election both at an advance poll and on e-day. At the advance poll, I saw a whole lot of keeners. On e-day, I saw a whole lot of older, non-English speaking voters who seemed to take the process very seriously. I was impressed.

Stockholm's idea of voting being a civic duty like jury duty is a good one. Maybe Elections Canada/Ontario could run a campaign like the MADD campaign again drunk driving. Make not voting uncool, unneighbourly, irresponsible and stupid.


From: away | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 12 November 2003 02:56 PM      Profile for Zatamon        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by fern hill:
It would scare the bejeesus out of me to think my country/province/city was being run with the support of so few of my fellow citizens.

An example of practical democracy:
quote:
When the president’s $87 billion appropriations bill to fund the continued occupation of Iraq recently came up for vote in the U.S. Senate, 94 U.S. Senators — including those who were leading the charge to blindly and unconstitutionally support the president one year ago — were again overcome by a paralyzing fear of the electorate, causing them to run away from the battlefield, cowering in fear somewhere in their offices or homes.
How were only six U.S. Senators able to approve such an important bill?
Click

How much more proof do you need that it is a farce?


From: "The right crowd" | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 12 November 2003 03:33 PM      Profile for Zatamon        Edit/Delete Post
PS. OK, I have a few other ideas.

Whatever is not forbidden – make it compulsory.

As long as voting is compulsory, might as well tell us what party to vote for.

If voting is compulsory, then remove the secret ballot and make sure no one spoils anything.

Make blood donation compulsory too, it’s in a good cause.

Bottom line: as long as we are seen to go through the motions, all is kosher. To hell with the essence of democracy. After all, “the medium is the message”.


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arborman
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posted 12 November 2003 04:42 PM      Profile for arborman     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The problem, at least from my academic memory, is that most people don't feel as if their vote means anything. In most cases, unfortunately, they are right.

Unless we find a way to value every vote (not just those who happen to have the most fellow votes in one riding) many people won't bother voting.

Most of us who do vote tend to vote against soemthing, rather than for it. I vote for whoever might beat the Alliance candidate in my riding (except when I lived in East Vancouver). Choosing between the disastrous and merely unpalatable, basically.

Not voting is a way of disenfranchising oneself through apathy. The trouble is when there is enough of a crisis that those people do come out and vote, because they will often vote for someone disastrous as a result of a fairly undeveloped level of political understanding. Hence Mussolini etc.

Better to work to improve the voting and representation system. It doesn't have to have been tried somewhere else first either (meaning don't use examples of other states to debunk such a statement, cause they aren't us).


From: I'm a solipsist - isn't everyone? | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged
swirrlygrrl
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posted 12 November 2003 06:45 PM      Profile for swirrlygrrl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Better to work to improve the voting and representation system. It doesn't have to have been tried somewhere else first either (meaning don't use examples of other states to debunk such a statement, cause they aren't us).

What a tautology - every situation is unique, even within a country's history, but that doesn't mean you can't learn something from the expereinces of others.

So, yeah, New Zealand voted to move from an SMP to an MMP electoral system, and voter turnout kept dropping (and, people were still unhappy with the electoral system). I think its clear from that that the electoral system was not the problem. That doesn't mean it can't be part of the solution. But it does mean we should keep that in mind if anyone suggests that electoral reform is a panacea for the problems of the Canadian polity.


From: the bushes outside your house | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged

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