IS COMPULSORY VOTING A GOOD IDEA?

Democracy is a part of the basic structure of our Constitution and rule of law and free and fair election are basic features of democracy. Sir Winston Churchill described the importance of vote in a democratic election in the following words: “At the bottom of all tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into a little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper – no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of the point”. The right to elect or to be elected though provided for by the constitution, it is neither a fundamental right nor even a common law right. According to article 329 of the Constitution of India, it is a right created by statute and is entirely governed by statute. They are also governed by statutory limitations.

Vote

There are currently 32 countries with compulsory voting around the world. They include Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, Singapore, Cyprus, Greece, and others. Of these 32 countries, 12 aggressively enforce their mandatory voting laws with penalties of varying kinds, including nominal penalties and small fees of as low as $15 and the deprivation of government services or the freezing of one’s bank account. Australia is considered particularly notable for its mandatory voting because it is a large “mature” democracy.

The debate surrounds whether mandatory voting enhances a democracy, improves voter participation, increases voter awareness on key political issues, and reduces arguably wasteful campaign spending on such things as voter turnout. But, opponents wonder whether compulsory voting violates the “right” to vote, and thus to not vote? Finally, should voting be seen as a duty or merely a right? These and other arguments are which needs to be pondered upon.

Image Credit: blogs.lse.ac.uk

Post Contributed by:

Ashish Ransom

Indian Institute of Legal studies

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