I worked at a polling place during the last local election. As the registration officer, I expected to be completely busy throughout the day. At times I was. However, according to the local area’s population, there were not nearly enough people voting. Obviously, not everyone who could vote actually did. This is acceptable to some extent. Low voter turnout is not such a crime. But when voter turnout dips dangerously low at less than 20%, it becomes a serious problem. The fact that this is a continuing and growing trend makes it critical. A solution to this problem is compulsory voting.
The history of democracy proves that compelling people to vote has worked before. In Ancient Athens, where democracy began, all male citizens over 18 years of age had to attend the Assembly. It was their duty to have their say and cast their vote. If a citizen did not attend or was late, he was marked with red dye and charged a fine. Why such Draconian tactics? People often led busy lives with other concerns. They needed to be reminded to participate in government matters. Therefore, I argue that having consequences for not voting could persuade people to become more involved.
There are many countries in the world that have mandatory voting laws. Some of these countries include Australia, Singapore, and Brazil. Consequences for not voting can vary from prison sentences, community service, to fines. Each community or country chooses which option works best for them. When people know that they have to vote, they become more informed about the candidates and the issues at hand.
Of course, the most important question to consider when discussing mandatory voting is whether or not voting is important at all. Does it matter if only a few people decide who a nation’s leaders should be? The answer to that question should be an overwhelming yes. It does matter. If only a few people select leaders, that makes a country into an oligarchy. Democracy means “power in the hands of the people” and this means all the people. The true meaning of democracy explains that citizens have both rights and responsibilities to their community. Voting is a part of civil responsibilities that must be fulfilled in a working democracy.
In closing, voting is a necessity. Compulsory voting is a way to make voting better. If it works for other countries, it can work for ours as well.