*Make voting mandatory in the US (2019)
*Voting should be mandatory (2019)
A case for compulsory voting (2014)
Compulsory voting laws would unify American politics (2011, gated)
Make voting mandatory (2012)
Why compulsory voting can enhance democracy Even though more than half of all citizens in the world are currently able to exercise the right to elect their leaders, many of them choose not to vote. This article considers the role of compulsory voting in order to enhance the democratic values of political participation and equality. Raising turnout considerably, it is an effective instrument to motivate citizens to express their voice in public life, thereby ensuring that their concerns will be heeded. Opponents of compulsory voting, however, argue that it is undesirable because it violates the value of personal liberty and drags uninterested citizens to the polls. This article tries to rebut these arguments and challenge their underlying concept of democracy. As compulsory voting sends the message that every vote matters, it is able to restore rather than harm democracy and its value
Compulsory Voting in Australia: A Basis for a ‘Best Practice’ Regime.” Compulsory voting can work as an effective preventative of declining voter participation in established democracies that are currently experiencing a turnout problem. Britain and the United States are just two examples. The first part of this paper provides some background to the problem of non-voting and an explanation of why compulsory voting is the most efficient and effective means for improving voting participation. It also canvasses some of the benefits of compulsory voting. The bulk (and remainder) of the discussion proposes guidelines and desiderata for a compulsory voting regime suitable for adoption by established democracies considering a switch from a voluntary to a compulsory system. This ‘export’ standard template is loosely based on Australian arrangements, though with modifications as suggested by ‘good’ and ‘bad’ practice in other regimes as well as experience of the positive and dysfunctional aspects of the Australian system. Recommended changes include reforms aimed at expanding the franchise and limiting the coercive aspects of the practice as well as measures to meet the charge that compulsion limits democratic choice.
Electoral and Policy Consequences of Voter Turnout: Evidence fromCompulsory Voting in Australia Despite extensive research on voting, there is little evidence connecting turnout to tangible outcomes. Would election results and public policy be different if everyone voted? The adoption of compulsory voting in Australia provides a rare opportunity to address this question. First, I collect two novel data sources to assess the extent of turnout inequality in Australia before compulsory voting. Overwhelmingly, wealthy citizens voted more than their working-class counterparts. Next, exploiting the differential adoption of compulsory voting across states, I find that the policy increased voter turnout by 24 percentage points which in turn increased the vote shares and seat shares of the Labor Party by 7–10 percentage points. Finally, comparing across OECD countries, I find that Australia’s adoption of compulsory voting significantly increased turnout and pension spending at the national level. Results suggest that democracies with voluntary voting do not represent the preferences of all citizens. Instead, increased voter turnout can dramatically alter election outcomes and resulting public policies.
Compulsory Voting and Income Inequality: Evidence for Lijphart’s Proposition from Venezuela. What difference does it make if the state makes people vote? The question is central to normative debates about the rights and duties of citizens in a democracy, and to contemporary policy debates in a number of Latin American countries over what actions states should take to encourage electoral participation. Focusing on a rare case of abolishing compulsory voting in Venezuela, this article shows that not forcing people to vote yielded a more unequal distribution of income. The evidence supports Arend Lijphart’s claim, advanced in his 1996 presidential address to the American Political Science Association, that compulsory voting can offset class bias in turnout and, in turn, contribute to the equality of influence.
On Compulsory Voting and Income Inequality in a Cross-Section of Countries. This paper explores the link between compulsory voting and income distribution using a cross-section of countries around the world. Our empirical cross-country analysis for 91 countries during the period 1960-2000 shows that compulsory voting, when enforced strictly, improves income distribution, as measured by the Gini coefficient and the bottom income quintiles of the population. Our findings are robust to changes and additions to our benchmark specification. Since poorer countries suffer from relatively greater income inequality, it might make sense to promote such voting schemes in developing regions such as Latin America. This proposal assumes that bureaucratic costs related with design and implementation are not excessive.
*Low Voter Turnout in the United States: Is Compulsory Voting a Viable Solution? America’s turnout problem is among the worst of any of the established democracies. Even a reform as sweeping as the NVRA (Motor Voter Act) has failed to remedy it. Adopting an empirically informed normative approach, the author proposes and defends an ambitious solution: compulsory voting. Anticipating considerable resistance to this proposal, the article explores likely cultural, practical, political and legal barriers to its introduction and, in some cases, suggests strategies for overcoming them. It is concluded that most of the likely impediments are not technically, but rather, culturally and politically intractable. Yet, compulsory voting could have many benefits. Not only could it improve turnout more effectively than any other measure, but it could also close America’s yawning SES voting gap, limit some of the problems associated with campaign finance and break the cycle of low efficacy, alienation, non-participation and exclusion that characterizes American politics. Finally, compulsory voting can serve and protect such important democratic values as representativeness, legitimacy and political equality.
Does compulsory voting reduce income inequality? The principal defense of compulsory voting suggests that it bridges socioeconomic inequalities by fostering a higher, and hence less socioeconomically biased, turnout. However, this article argues that this does not automatically translate into a less biased political voice because compulsory voting also generates socioeconomically biased invalid votes, which is demonstrated on the case of Ecuador. Normatively, we deny the existence of a general moral and legal duty to vote, which would justify compelling a citizen to vote. Achieving higher levels of social equality does not automatically take priority over a citizen’s rights to liberty and conscience. Furthermore, we object in general to the paternalistic justification of compulsory voting made by its defenders. Thus, we find that instituting compulsory voting as an instrument of reducing class inequalities is unwarranted both empirically and normatively.
Liberalism, Democracy, and the Ethics of Voting This article summarises objections to compulsory voting developed in my previous work. It shows that compulsory turnout is harder to justify than compulsory voting and that considerations of democratic legitimacy do not usually justify it either. When abstention is morally wrong, it is unlikely to be because it is unfair to those who voted. So concerns for fairness will not justify compulsory voting. The article shows that democracy is a competitive as well as a co-operative business, and this means that political ethics are more complex than proponents of compulsory voting suppose.