Mandatory Voting: The Wrong Response to Low Voter Turnout
The trend of declining voter turnout across the western world has led some in Canada to call for mandatory voting. Australia is often cited as a successful example of compulsory voting in a Westminster system. While the aim to increase voter turnout is noble, there are many non-coercive methods of improving democracy and voter turnout that Canada ought to adapt before resorting to mandatory voting. Assessed methods include electoral reform, lowering the voting age, and instituting online voting; all are non-coercive ways to improve public satisfaction with the political process in Canada. Additionally, mandatory voting reduces Canadians’ ability to abstain from participating in the political system should they choose to do so which could have important philosophical implications. Furthermore,voter turnout data for Australia does not take into account important differences between registered voter turnout and voting age population turnout. Importantly, when analyzed these numbers indicate that compulsory voting in Australia is not as successful as many believe. Despite its ostensible attraction as a clear way to increase voter turnout, a legal requirement to vote is not a panacea to the issues of political distrust, dissatisfaction, and disengagement in Canada that are the root causes of low voter turnout.
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