Here is a thought provoking blog post from my friend, Heidi:
Last night on Twitter, we had a worldwide discussion about voting and the differences in voting practices among countries.
I was really surprised to learn that Australia has compulsory voting. If they don’t show up at the polls, they are fined $100 each!
People wondered why I would raise strong personal objection to this …. and so we’re kicking off a world-wide round-robin blog discussion. Everyone is cutting and pasting each blog entry onto their blog, and then replying with their own thoughts. I volunteered to go first.
Why wouldn’t compulsory voting work in the United States?
As much as voting is a right of an American citizen, having the choice NOT to vote is equally important.
We’re taught from as far back as we can remember that in our country, we’re allowed to make our own decisions.
We can say the pledge of allegiance to the American flag.
Or we can burn the American flag and tromp on it and spit on it.
We can volunteer to serve in the armed forces.
Or we can protest our involvement in a war and curse servicemen.
We can throw our weight of support behind government leaders.
Or we can voice negative opinions about them without fear of retribution.
It doesn’t matter, either way.
Everything is fair game.
That also applies to voting.
Voting is a fundamental right.
And choosing not to vote is also a fundamental right.
To force people to go the polls takes away from the original intent of the founding fathers — that each person has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
You can red the rest here and I encourage you to do so.
It’s now my turn in the round robin discussion!
Compulsory voting is neither inherently wrong or right.
Should compulsory voting be introduced in the US? No
Should compulsory voting be taken away in Australia? No
Have I lost some of my freedom because I have compulsory voting? A loud, resounding NO
Compulsory voting was introduced in Australia in 1924 over concerns of low voter turnout. We gripe about the inconvenience of having to take 15 min out our day very 4 years to tick our name off a list. However, it’s on the same level as griping about having to do the laundry or grocery shopping that week. It’s never a question of our freedoms being taken away. Australians are free. I am free.
The arguments in favour of compulsory voting are:
- Voting is a civic duty similar to other duties e.g. taxation, compulsory education, jury duty
- Election results more accurately reflect the “will of the electorate”
- Governments must consider the total population in policy formulation and management
- Candidates can concentrate their campaigning energies on issues rather than encouraging voters to attend the poll
Arguments against compulsory voting:
- It is undemocratic to force people to vote – an infringement of liberty
- Resources are used to determine whether those who failed to vote have “valid and sufficient” reasons.
To me the 2nd of the two arguments against is the most powerful as it is always good to question whether the benefit outweighs the extra “bureaucracy” involved in the enforcement or implementation.
It appears that there is a fundamental difference between how freedom is viewed or defined between Australia and USA. To me, it appears that freedom in the US is being able to do what you want, all the time (or close to it). And to be honest, it seems like there is a very real fear that one’s freedom can be taken away.
In Australia, freedom is that while we live in a collective society with responsibilities and obligations for the good of many, freedom to exercise our basic human rights is freedom.
Taking 15 min out of my day is not an interference of my liberty but an inconvenience to my day at worst. I can still choose not to vote (by either ticking my name off and walking out again or choosing to pay the fine), choose who i want to vote for, burn the Australian flag, not serve in the armed forces, and speak out against the government.
One thing is sure, who runs our countries is important and Australians and Americans are privileged to be able to decide who does it.