• Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

It should be compulsory to vote

ByLouis Fenner

Nov 9, 2023
Voting signs in Spanish, English, and Chinese show the way to the polling station.

Elections in the UK and around the world have a serious issue of disengagement and low turnouts. Turnouts to General Elections in the UK rarely ever go above 70 per cent, generally fluctuating between 60 and 68 per cent. This of course is for general elections, not local elections which in England saw a mere 35.9 per cent turnout in 2021. Beyond the fact that these are low, in particular in local elections, the real issue behind these figures is that turnout is much higher among certain age and ethnic demographics.

At the 2017 election, people aged 18-24 were 43 per cent less likely to vote than people aged 65+. This also does not fully highlight the extent of the problem, as these figures are calculated from the number of people who are registered to vote with younger people as well as those from immigrant and ethnic minority backgrounds being less likely to be registered to vote.

What this leads to is certain groups having more political influence and power, as parties will give greater precedence to issues that affect groups who vote in larger numbers, something that greatly favours conservative policies, which do not represent the views in particular of younger people. The only way for real change that accurately reflects the views of the entire country, instead of having a country run by a geriarchy of conservative voters, is through getting greater attendance to the voting ballot.

However, with an issue such as this which is so embedded, not just in the UK but also in other countries such as the US, the only way to ensure quick-change that creates a democratic voting ballot that accurately reflects the demographics of the country is to introduce compulsory voting.

This is not a new idea. 21 countries including Australia already having compulsory voting laws in place. Australia in 2019 saw 92 per cent turnout at their federal election, a figure unheard of in a democratic country with optional voting laws. In addition to ensuring a turnout reflective of the population these laws would further protect the democratic process making voter suppression such as the recent Conservative Voter ID law, that seeks to further entrench the voting disparities between demographic groups, much more difficult.

Of course, this is not going to be a solution that completely solves British electoral politics. Australia, for example, still faces many of the same problems that we do. However, what it should represent is one a wider group of policies, including things such as greater political education at school, that seeks to establish the idea of a civil and moral duty behind engaging with our political system and casting a ballot.

Furthermore, a population that is more engaged through casting a ballot as well as better educated on the operation of our political system can better hold our politicians to account and break through the myths that our political system is impossible to understand and that voting has no real effect on the running of the country.

Vote Aqui! Vote Here!” by US Department of State is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.