Envision living in a nation where every person of age must vote for their elected officials. Not a single vote goes to waste or overlooked; every vote is essential. Now think of a nation where voting is up to each individual and whether they feel like acting on their right to vote. Votes are grouped together and specific areas with a higher voting population are focused on. The first nation spoke of is a description of Australia’s democracy with mandatory voting, while the second is a description of The United States’ democracy with no mandatory voting. Mandatory voting has positives and negatives, along with how mandatory voting is enforced or not enforced. Mandatory voting is the act of enforcing eligible citizens of a nation to participate in voting elections, otherwise said citizens face sanctions. Sanctions are restrictions or prohibiting a person from be able to access certain services, fines, and so forth. Mandatory voting first appeared in Belgium 1892, followed by Australia and a few other nations in the early twentieth century (IDEA). As of today, twenty-seven countries utilize mandatory voting – each with different sanctions and policies. One example is comparing modern day Australia to Boliva; Australia weakly enforces their mandatory voting in two sectors, yet Boliva issues every citizen a card that shows proof of voting and if not done, salaries can be withheld (IDEA). This is one of the many oppositions to mandatory voting, that sanctions can be too severe and spark fear into the people (Writte). These harsh sanctions also support the point of mandatory voting opposition democracy itself and would go directly against constitutions and set principles. On the other side, sanctions being severe can also prevent people from skipping their vote which leads to an entire nation having equal say in their officials. Many points on both sides of this issue show the positive and negative aspects of a singular point or idea, which will be presented throughout the paper. Focusing on the beneficial end of mandatory voting, positives include all voices being heard, solving injustices, and avoiding voter turnout. One positive outcome of mandatory voting would be the result of every voice in a nation being equally important. This would prevent candidates only focusing on certain areas with high electoral college or higher populated areas, “Voting access is the key to equality in our democracy… The size of your wallet, the number on your Zip Code shouldn’t matter. The action of government affects every American so every citizen should have an equal voice” (Herrie and Dionne). Many non-voters find there vote to be useless and cannot make a change, yet mandatory voting ensures every vote is as important as another during elections. This idea also helps prevent discrimination against racial, ethnic, sexuality, and gender groups during voting. This second point is one not commonly thought about from majority groups, yet is something minority groups face often. Many groups are intimidated or threatened for voting a certain way and prevent them from doing so. Mandatory voting places the civil duty on every eligible citizen and provides everyone a chance to put their opinion on the ballot. A third point frequently made is the elimination of voter turnout. High voter turnout occurs in many areas with optional voting, as high as fifty percent in some elections. The nation is not accurately shown by the current voter turnout, since most nonvoters are simply those who have less information in that area (Greenblatt). Many elections in the states have high voter turnouts, which is an issue some people believe will be solved by mandatory voting. Other fear is will only fuel the democratic party’s numbers, but rather is would only pull in the less educated into politics. The article also reassures that mandatory voting would help improve candidates’ ideals by taking everyone into account along with national issues. Overall, there is many beneficial factors from mandatory voting On the other hand, looking into the negative aspect of mandatory voting includes random voting, harsh sanctions, and leading away from democracy. One downfall is the fact random voting can, and will, occur from some voters. Parts of a population are uninterested, uneducated, or simply not concerned with their nation’s politics. Forcing someone in one of these categories to just vote does not help any party out, nor will it make a beneficial difference. Now if a nation requires and provides some sort of political education and resources to easily research candidates, then this point could alter. A second concern is the sanctions placed onto those who avoid voting. Not every person will willingly vote mandatory, yet this is against the idea of mandatory voting. This alters the effects of mandatory voting, to reprimand those who go against it (Birch 10). Birch mentions the many issues that can arise with those who do not vote, including imprisonment, restriction to banking/traveling, prohibition of certain services and/or employment, and so forth. Other issues include those who cannot vote due to medical circumstances or those in prison, and whether they are included in the “everyone votes.” A third point many worry about is straying away from democracy and its freedoms. Many have stated mandatory voting can alter a nation’s democracy to authoritarian by forcing those to unwillingly vote (Harsanyi). Mandatory voting is viewed as authoritarian by some and degrading the importance of voting. Mandatory voting forces those who are either uninterested, uneducated of the candidates, and so forth to vote for something they either do not care about or do not fully understand. Overall, there are many negatives that are concerning with mandatory voting.Combing both ends of the spectrum together, there is many positives and negatives to mandatory voting. Some individuals, like in Ossola’s article, suggest ways to incorporate mandatory voting in an entirely beneficial way, yet would require some fundamental principles to bend or alter entirely. Others believe mandatory voting can never be incorporated into a true democracy. Either way, mandatory voting has benefits and shortcomings s in every place it is present or not present.
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