The ‘right to vote’ is a freedom that many over the world have been fighting to have, yet Australians do not have a choice in the matter. Abraham Lincoln once said in his Gettysburg address that, “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people.” However, for a supposed democracy such as Australia, to force its citizens to vote is far from democratic. Good afternoon Anna and fellow students. Today I will be discussing the topic of how Compulsory Voting is Not Necessary for Democracy.
Alfred Deakin first advocated compulsory voting in Australia during the 20th century; before this voting was voluntary for the first nine federal elections. Compulsory enrolment in Australia was introduced in 1912, then in 1915 Queensland became the first state in Australia to introduce compulsory voting. Voting in federal elections was then made compulsory in 1924. The arguments for compulsory voting during those times were that it is a “civic duty comparable to other duties citizens perform, e.g., taxation, compulsory education, jury duty.” (Lijphart, 1997) (Australian Electoral Commission, 2011). However, compulsion is part of a slippery slope to totalitarianism. As W.H. Jones Morris said, “It needs no demonstration a totalitarian view of political life easily involves an obligation not only to vote but to do much more – and to do it all, in the ‘right’ direction.” (Morris, 1954). The initial concern that led to compulsory voting was the decline in turnout rates in the federal elections. During the 1919 elections there was a 71% drop in turnout rates, and then a further drop of less than 60% turnout in the 1922 elections. After compulsory voting was enforced in 1925, turnout rates increased to over 90%, making Australia the democracy with the highest voter turnout in the world. However, an argument was raised by Henry Abraham who stated:
It is difficult to see how we can remain faithful to the principles of democracy by compelling people to exercise an ostensible privilege, that of voting, contrary to their will. Since the ability to vote is a privilege conferred upon the citizens, it ceases to be such when he [sic] is compelled to exercise it. How can he be deprived of his right not to vote? (Abraham, 1955)
In 2006 Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron said, “Voting, to me, is a right, and not voting should never be a crime. The state is our servant and not our master, and to me, compulsory voting ranks alongside compulsory identity cards.” (Cameron, 2006). Compulsory voting restricts on freedoms such as freedom of choice, whereas voluntary voting is viewed as more because it does not force citizens to choose or punish them for having that freedom of choice. Failing to vote in Australia leads to getting fined. Australia punishes its citizens for not voting, even if they do not like the candidates that have been presented. The government punishes those who are not interested in politics and compel the ignorant to v...