Should Australia Adopt Voluntary Voting?

Posted by | September 06, 2013 | Opinion, Ormondian | No Comments

FOR - Carly Cassella

After spending a semester separated by thin walls, it doesn’t surprise me that Isaac Martin gets a thrill from the government tying him up and forcing his will. I’m here to persuade you, however, that voting should not be mandatory.

Isaac may prefer to be gagged – but voluntary voting allows an entirely legitimate form of political expression. Choosing to not vote at all is potentially a more active, more powerful political protestation than showing up at the voting booth and casting a thoughtless, pointless donkey vote. Regardless of the reasoning, an Australian citizen should have the individual right to make whatever ‘choice’ they like, even if this means making no choice at all. It is not the citizen that has a responsibility to the government; it is the government that has a responsibility to the citizen. Not voting is a freedom of expression that should not be denied anyone.

Although Isaac’s pain threshold is unreasonably high, the greater harms of mandatory voting are too much for the rest of us. Beyond the infringement of civil liberties is a potential for an apathetic voter to swing elections. They might not be making the best choice for themselves or for the country – but they are forced to make one regardless.

Isaac is going to tell you that no one will vote if it isn’t mandatory. I’m here to tell you that lying is all part of his role-play. Australia is one of the only countries that enforces mandatory voting. In countries with similar political structures – like Canada and New Zealand – around 80-86% of the population votes. In the last federal election only 93% of Australians voted despite it being mandatory. Not such a huge discrepancy, huh?

We should all have the choice to not make a decision. Remember, it is not the citizen that has a responsibility to the government. Don’t let it, or Isaac, chain you up.

AGAINST - Isaac Martin

I entered into this debate with the intention of carrying out a passionate and involved exercise in rhetoric with my dear friend Carly Casella. Her predisposition to deviancy however (one that may be testified to by all who know her well) has resulted in her total refusal to take part in any form of open discussion. I will therefore respond to the two primary misdirected statements I expect her to include in her own work, and in turn reveal their fundamentally misdirected nature.

  • People have a right to total freedom, and so may be exempt from democratic duty if they so desire.

While you may feel dismayed at the thought of being forced to participate in the election rather than kick back to Saturday Arvo Footy/beers, you do have an obligation to maintain the political diversity of the Nation. Consider the myriad of freedom restricting laws that regulate our society; a compulsory vote is a necessary violation of freedom in order to sustain effective democracy. It also forces political parties to engage with the entire population, rather than developing policy targeted only at likely voters.

  • Look at the U.S.A. and Scandinavia, their political systems work so well!

The result of a voluntary voting system is a heightened level of political disillusionment. Remember, only 57.5% percent of Americans voted in the 2012 election. Australia suffers already from a strong disenchantment with the importance of rhetoric and public policy making. A compulsory vote acts as an incentive for political participation, and though it is not entirely foolproof, it is a catalyst for political engagement. We’re not as comparable to Scandinavia as we might like; we wouldn’t have 75% voter turnout on the 7th if Collingwood was playing at the G.