Author Topic: Should voting be made compulsory?  (Read 11135 times)

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Offline Alligator

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Should voting be made compulsory?
« on: May 06, 2006, 11:00:20 AM »
MJAD has raised an interesting topic, on another thread, regarding the calls for voting to be made compulsory as it is in Australia.  I think this subject is worthy of being a discussion in its own right.

So I thought I'd kick off the discussion here.

My initial thoughts would be that it could appear to contradict the meaning of democracy if people are forced to be part of a process they would prefer not to take part in.  Freedom of choice???

One other point on this would be that it assumes that someone would wish to vote for one of the parties on offer.  This may not be the case, and when you add to this the debate over party funding (specifically the possibility of parties receiving public funds, instead of 'loans' for peerages, or big business buying the right to do wat they want) and you could find a number of people not only being forced to vote, but forced to vote for a party that they fund and yet still can't be guaranteed to be able to vote for the party of their choice.

I also believe that in Australia the turnout is usually around 90%, so I'm not sure what the other 10% have to do to get away with not voting, or whether a lot of people 'spoil' their vote in order to comply with the law, but avoid casting a meaningful vote.



Offline Simon

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2006, 03:47:13 PM »
Yes, but only if there's a "reopen nominations" or similar option on the ballot paper.

Alternatively, seeing as more people seem to vote in Big Brother than in elections, maybe we should have a weekly vote to decide which MP should be evicted from the house of commons.
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Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2006, 08:33:51 PM »
Interesting...... reverse the trend of 'I'd rather be at home watching eastenders than voting' by:

1) knocking £5  off the annual household council tax bill for every person, on the electoral roll for that household, who votes.....

That might encourage more people to visit the polling booth....

2) adding a 'none of the above' box to the ballot papers for those voters that don't like the choice of candidates.

making voting compulsory is wrong I think, but encouraging them to vote seems sensible....even if it means charging an extra, but refundable, 'Voting Levy' on your council tax bill.  :popcorn:

Offline Alligator

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2006, 08:50:05 PM »
I'm inclined to agree that incentives may work, but I'm not sure how....maybe have freebies to give away at polling stations.  Any politician that pushes through legislation for the 'voting levy' would probably see themselves lose a shed load of votes at their next election....the irony is that in attempting to get people to exercise their democratic right to vote, you would technically be charging people who exercise their democratic right NOT to vote.

I think that we should look at making it easier to vote, run elections over 2 days, enable the technology for e-voting, let people vote at different polling stations instead of their allocated one.

A few years ago I voted electronically at one of those I booths in the town centre, it was great and very convenient.

Offline Lynda

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2006, 08:52:55 PM »
No.

Lynda  NO2ID 07802 151464  Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

mjad

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2006, 08:28:42 AM »
the electoral commission are asking for comments on the pilot schemes at the last election

in swindon there were 3 changes:

- changes in the design of postal votes & not requiring a witness signature (aimed to increase voting)
- no counterfoils on ballot paper books (they said to reduce fraud, but cannot work out how this would help this)
- watermarks in the paper (to reduce possible fraud)

http://www.electoralcommission.gov.uk/elections/pilotsmay2006.cfm

But i am sure they would accept other comments as well

mjad

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2006, 08:35:07 AM »
I think that we should look at making it easier to vote, run elections over 2 days, enable the technology for e-voting, let people vote at different polling stations instead of their allocated one.

A few years ago I voted electronically at one of those I booths in the town centre, it was great and very convenient.

It was 4 years ago we used the i-kiosks as an experiment! - i also voted that way

I would like to see the telephone & internet voting return - but it's very expensive & so would people want to see Council tax to go up to pay for it?  In Swindon we do run experiments - but - they have always been funded by central govt.

The main reason why Swindon keeps getting chosen is the quality of the elections team who run things very well in Swindon (& have done so for as long as I have known).  Could be worse we could be in Birmingham where the BNP got a cllr as the counters made a mistake & double counted some votes  :censored:

i am not sure about the extended day (or even the hours we have this year) - i don't think this will significantly increase voting.  but, allowing people to vote at places other than their polling station could work (we do have the technology to do it) i would like to look into

Offline newman

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2006, 01:51:08 PM »
I also have only good words to say for the Swindon elections team. I note that one of the Barking and Dagenham decalarations is also subject of a high court petition as the wrong result was anounced on the night. (And before conspiracy theorists get involved, in both cases there were more votes recorded as counted than ballot papers issued!!!)

On compulsory voting. This is one of these ideas that comes in cycles, normally when a government is becoming unpopular, and its core supporters are protesting by staying away. The hidden thinking is clearly that if we could just get the blighters into the polling station, then they would have to vote for us.
I think this is flawed, and compulsory voting under the first past the post system would be a very bad combination.
In any event what Millbank really want is "compulsory Labour voting"

The answer is for the political parties to actually deliver real change to the benefit of their electors. Unfortunately the concentration upon swing voters in a few key marginal constitiencies (by all parties) results in conformity and safety, as if it is the function of government to only worry about the undecided residents of Middle Wallop.
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Offline newman

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2006, 01:56:22 PM »
Oh yeah - in case it wasn't obvious:
"compulsory voting under the first past the post system would be a very bad combination."

There are two drawbacks, that could woek in combination:
If you force people to vote who take no interest, which means that they will vote for the parties with the best name recognition - irrespective of policies.
And/Or
Under first past the post, the system works reasonably well with 2 or 3 parties, but as soon as you get the possibility of 4 or 5 way marginals, then even small shifts of voting can result in a landslide for a minor party (which is more likely with compulsory voting)
Nick Griffin for PM anyone?
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Offline Tobes

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2006, 05:12:18 PM »
I like Geoff's idea - carrot's better than the stick - and I think the point that compulsion is almost contradictory to the idea of choice and democracy is one well made.

The reason that turn out is so low these days is dead simple - that you can only get a cigarette paper between the policies of the main electable parties. As a result, I think that none of them seem to reflect a quorum of mainstream views. I mean, who the hell should I vote for? I'm Euro sceptic without being phobic about it, but I'm a liberal with a small 'L' and believe in personal freedom and choice, whilst thinking that a lot of stupid 'liberal' thinking and central govt. interference has created a world of PC social engineering gone mad: but at the same time I'm a strong believer that market forces need to be reigned in and that we ought to support our state services and provide for the less able. Where the hell does that put me without being in conflict with a major party's declared policies?
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Offline Simon

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2006, 08:38:45 PM »
Oh yeah - in case it wasn't obvious:
"compulsory voting under the first past the post system would be a very bad combination."

There are two drawbacks, that could woek in combination:
If you force people to vote who take no interest, which means that they will vote for the parties with the best name recognition - irrespective of policies.
And/Or
Under first past the post, the system works reasonably well with 2 or 3 parties, but as soon as you get the possibility of 4 or 5 way marginals, then even small shifts of voting can result in a landslide for a minor party (which is more likely with compulsory voting)
Nick Griffin for PM anyone?


Good point, which I hadn't thought of. I've always considered voting to be a civic duty, and it really annoys me when I read people at the anarchic end of the spectrum (who otherwise share many more of my beliefs than the average person) urging people not to vote on the grounds that it somehow legitimises the existing system. I've never seen compulsory voting as a problem from a civil liberties point of view, but seeing the responses here, I'm starting to reconsider.

The current first past the post system certainly leaves a lot to be desired, not least because it generally lumbers us with a government who have absolute control despite receiving far less than 50% of the vote, who then go on to behave as if their every act has an overwhelming public mandate, e.g.

Quote from: Anne Snelgrove
Thank you for your email of 22nd January 2006. I think we can summarise the debate as you are against ID cards, I am for them for the reasons described in my previous correspondence.

ID cards formed part of the Labour Party Manifesto upon which both Tony Blair and I were elected. I see no point in continuing this correspondence if you refuse to accept my explanations.


Here's a good analysis of what's wrong with the first past the post system
Quote from: Democrat Diarist
Unlike a grown-up democracy the UK voting system does not throw together a varied range of politicians representing the myriad of political views that make up a diverse civil society; representatives who must then work together and compromise much as we all do in our day to day lives. Rather we elect one group to dominate the scene. Under our system a party must win the most votes in a regional constituency to have a representative in parliament. The result is that parties with a degree of support across the country but no actual majority in any one place (e.g. the Greens) have no representation whatsoever in government. Many voters who understand this dynamic then abandon the small parties they might otherwise have voted for, holding their noses and voting for the ones they know can win. The system under-represents the small parties and over-represents the large ones, which in turn encourages voting behaviour that exaggerates this disparity further. The outcome is parliaments dominated by one party, as opposed to ones that represent a balance of all views. The dominating party might have the support of less than two fifths of the population, and many of them may have only supported it for what they perceive as pragmatic reasons.


I'm all for a change to proportional representation, or at least some form of electoral reform which is fairer to smaller parties and independents. But I can imagine the reply if I were to write to my MP urging her to work towards this goal...

Quote from: an imaginary Anne Snelgove
I am a turkey and will not be voting for Christmas.


Cynical, me? Maybe, but I certainly seem to be going off topic (i.e. whether voting should be compulsory) somewhat  :bottom:

Of all the candidates who stood in this month's elections in Swindon, most of the names I recognised (except for existing councillors seeking re-election) were people I know through grass-roots campaigns which I've been involved with, and from that knowledge of them, I'd be more likely to trust them to be a worthy representative of the people rather than a time-serving party loyalist. Most of the names I recognised were standing for the Green party (which was a bit of a surprise, as some of them I didn't even realise were involved in party politics), but unfortunately the current system means that they start with a distinct disadvantage. I worked out that the Greens got 6% of the vote across the whole of the town - if the entire council were picked on the basis of the overall vote, then we'd have 3 Green councillors today, but instead we've got none.

PS I'm nothing to do with the Green party, but I still think it's a real shame at least one of their candidates didn't get elected.
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Offline Alligator

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2006, 09:43:20 PM »
Following Simon off topic, I think the attached article, taken from the American news. If true this highlights how little say we, the voter, may have in what happens in government.   :censored:

I'm delighted to see that this country may be represented abroad by someone that has to be approved by the inbreed in the Whitehouse.   :censored:  :(

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/05/07/politics/main1596108.shtml

Offline Justin Tomlinson

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2006, 06:53:55 PM »
I don't support compulsary voting, it is us up to us politicians to be worth voting for.

Offline Robert Buckland

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2006, 08:37:12 AM »
I don't think voting should be made compulsory.  I remember canvassing a few years ago and being told by the householder that she wasn't going to vote for me.  Stunned, I asked her why, and she told me that because she and her family were Jehovah's Witnesses, they did not vote. 

Non-voting is not purely apathy - there are plenty of us who conscientously refuse because they have no candidate to vote for.  Nonetheless, turnout at General Elections is about 10% down from the usual 70% achieved over much of the last thirty years.  The low point was the 2001 General, which many people thought was a foregone conclusion.  Iit does seem that numbers have been climbing since then.  Turnout at this year's local elections in Swindon was up, so its not all bad news.

Meanwhile, its up to people like me to go around stirring up enthusiasm/apathy...
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Offline newman

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2006, 01:15:37 PM »
Note that all local elections in Scotland in 2007 will be by PR - it will be interesting to see what effect that has, particlualrly for the Green party and the Scottish Socialist Party, both of whom may expect to win an extra 100 or so councilllors.

With regard to compulsoary voting, an American socialist , James Cannon, observed years ago that people often have two reasons for what they do, the good reason and the real reason.

I think that the real reason that so many in the Labour Party oppose PR is because first past the post currently massively favours them, and for demographic reasons and how the votes are distributed, even if the Tories had excatly the same number of votes across the whole country, there would still be a Labour government.

But there is also a "good reason" that there is still a fond memory of the Labour party for the 1945 landslide government, during which they achieved so much - and a belief that PR could prevent them ever reallly having that opportunity again.
But they should wake up - after 1997 Labour had the majority to implement a radical policy agenda had they wanted it, but chose not to. the result is - to parphrase Justin Tomlinson - many core Labour voters no longer think New Labour are "politicians worth voting for"

As an aside on PR - it is worth mentioning the Snelgrove's remark during the debate at New College during the general election where she said that she favoured any electoral system that would prevent people like me being elected!
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Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #15 on: May 18, 2006, 01:20:49 PM »

As an aside on PR - it is worth mentioning the Snelgrove's remark during the debate at New College during the general election where she said that she favoured any electoral system that would prevent people like me being elected!

Well......if the Government get the The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill through Parliament I think she'll get her wish.  >:(

Offline Tel Hudson

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #16 on: August 07, 2006, 12:08:48 AM »
I am against compulsory voting because it doesn't work.

First let's get rid of the red herring. Unless you have some form of electronic voting, you can always select, "None of the above." Just mess up the paper.  Electronic voting is a problem. When we had it here I reported back to the Commission that a spoil button was needed.

In Australia they have compulsory voting using single transferable vote - that is the system where you rank the candidates 1st, 2nd etc.  What they find is what is known as the Aaron Aardvark vote. The Okkers (thickos to you and me) simply walk in and scrawl 1,2,3 down the page and walk out.  There is already a big advantage for people whose name starts with A even with our system.

Justin Tomlinson was only partly right when he said that political parties must make themselves attractive. What we must do is make voting worthwhile. Certainly there must be a point to voting for at least one party but what if there is no chance of that party winning?

If say you live in a rock solid Labour seat why go out and vote. If you support Labour then they will win anyway. If you don't support Labour, your vote won't do any good. In any election, most people might just as well stay at home for all the good it does them.

Personally, I have voted in every election since I could and sometimes my choice was elected. However, the result was always completely clear cut. Basically my vote has never been worth the effort in casting it.

We need a system that takes into account the votes from losing candidates as well as the surplus votes of successful candidates.

How about this for an idea. To become a Councillor you require 1000 votes. If you achieve 1000 you are in - even if your Ward opponent got more. You can give any votes over 1000 to any other candidate anywhere in Swindon. If you get less than 1000 votes you can give all your votes to another candidate.

Alternatively, put all three Councillors up in a ward at once, but only have a third of the wards up for election each year. Then elect the Councillors by the alternate voting system.  (The one where you rank the candidates 1,2,3 etc.)  This guarantees that 75% of the votes cast will have some bearing on the result as opposed to the current 35 - 40%
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Offline Justin Tomlinson

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #17 on: August 07, 2006, 10:54:26 AM »
I have a major, major problem with PR...

Politicians will be answerable to their Party masters, and not the electorate - corruption here we come (Italy... etc)

Locally - Anne Snelgrove has come in for a lot of stick from left-leaning voters locally for being too loyal to New Labour.  I am sure, with her wafer thin majority she will have to at some point think for herself, otherwise her fears of being a one term 'wonder' will be a cert.  Under PR, her devout loyalty would simply be rewarded, racing up her teams pecking list.

Think back to 1997, Portillo was probably the most hated of the Tories (and that was pretty hard!) and he lost his seat (monster shock).  Under PR, he would  have been in the top 5, safe, as safe can be. 

Parties and individuals need shocks, and need to be directly answerable.

We have seen with MEPs how remote they have become since they became answerable to only their Parties members.

I know for the minor parties it is tempting as you can get your foot in the door, however it can let all sorts of people in.  BNP polled higher than the Socialist Alliance in Goresehill & Pinehurst, would we really want them having a say in how our town is run?

Anyway PR rant over!


Offline DaveWood

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #18 on: August 07, 2006, 11:48:19 AM »
I have a major, major problem with PR...

Politicians will be answerable to their Party masters, and not the electorate - corruption here we come (Italy... etc)

Depends what system you use.

All your effects describe the party list system.  There are always others to think about.

Offline Justin Tomlinson

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Re: Should voting be made compulsory?
« Reply #19 on: August 07, 2006, 12:28:06 PM »
Ok, such as...