Voting is already compulsory in 22 countries across the world, including Australia and Belgium. In the last UK general election, in 2017, the voting turnout was 69%. In Australia’s 2019 federal election, it was 92%. The idea of something being enforced by law can seem constrictive, but I believe making voting compulsory is the opposite. Mandatory voting would empower, ensuring people participate in the democracy which we are so lucky to have in the UK.
In today’s society, political apathy feels like a contagious disease. At a time when UK politics feels so hopeless, people are quick to say that their vote will not make any difference, or that no party represents them and as a result, they do not care. I believe voting being required by law would help to alleviate political disinterest.
It is our moral duty to vote, especially in a country where we are able to vote so freely. In countries in the developing world, people are shot down at polling stations. It is that important to them to have their say that they would risk their life to do so.
And people did risk their lives for some of us to have this opportunity in the UK in the first place. Suffragette Emily Davison died for the cause. Yes, we have come a long way, but why not make it compulsory? Why not recognise that this is something that should never have been fought for in the first place? Voting is something everyone should be doing, it is important to the extent that if people are not doing it, there will be legal consequences.
Voting is a matter of life and death, often literally. People’s lives are affected so severely by the even the smallest decisions that our government makes. Those who say that their life is not affected by politics are simply wrong. Everyone is affected by the decisions made in Parliament, whether they realise it or not. And people who are affected but are in a position where the effects may be minimal are incredibly lucky.
Often it is those who are not voting, because they are politically unaware, who are most affected by injustices that arise from decisions the government makes. Furthermore, those who are not politically aware are more susceptible to scaremongering tactics, false advertising and other dishonest practices used by political parties in the wake of an election. This means that voters may be unknowingly not voting in their own interests.
The point of making voting compulsory is not to punish people for not voting. In the same way, it is not to reward people for voting. For instance, I do not agree with financial incentives to vote. I believe the incentive is already there; participating in one’s democracy, the feeling of empowerment that comes from voting, is incentive enough. The point of making voting mandatory is to encourage those who are not, for whatever reason, to do so. Instead of people being put off voting, people will be encouraged to want to educate themselves about it.
If someone is making you do something, you are more likely to want to know about it. Why are they making you do it? How can you exercise power when you are being told to do something? Clearly, in how you do it. In this case, in how you vote.
In the UK at the moment, we have a choice between voting and not voting. If voting were to be made compulsory, then the choice becomes whether to make an informed choice or an uninformed choice.
Currently, people may feel they should not vote because they are not educated enough. I can totally sympathise with this view; it is a feeling I myself have struggled with and I am sure is common, especially among younger voters.
But politics is undeniably complicated – no one is ever going to understand all of it. Making voting compulsory takes away the burden of not feeling politically aware, because the whole electorate would have to do it.
By making voting compulsory, we are demonstrating the importance and value of every person’s vote in the British electorate. It would suggest that everyone’s vote is so important, that we simply cannot run the country effectively without everyone’s input.
Though initially, forced voting might sound like a taking away of power, it is actually a giving of it. Clearly, how to implement law enforced voting in the UK and how to increase political education are different issues altogether. But making voting compulsory is where we should start.
“It would be transformative if everybody voted – that would counteract money more than anything.” Barack Obama
Image: Huffington Post