Should voting be made compulsory ?
The best answer is written by Vivek in the comment section of the debate.We have taken his text/analysis and added our view in this regard.
Compulsory voting means voter are obliged to cast their votes. If eligible voter do not exercise his/her franchise then he/she will be liable to some form of punishment.
Voting process can be looked from two different perspectives. One, as an “expression” and another as a “duty”. If we take former interpretation it can’t be made compulsory while in case of latter it is necessary.
However, voting is neither exactly a duty nor exactly an expression.It is certainly falls little short being being a duty ,or an expression ; in our understanding of these two terms and their application.One can say it is a duty , but it is not obligatory and one can say it is an expression , but expression is essentially manifestation of free will, but in voting free will is limited by choices.
- To know people’s opinion– Voting is an integral part of democracy, without this process we go back to an oligarchy where only a few number of people decide. The idea of democracy is to avoid this. This also enhances the clarity of the people’s opinions. Moreover if it turns out that for instance 36% had “No Vote”, Political parties may start to wake up and realize that over 1/3 of the population don’t agree with any of them.
- It will enhance the democratic engagement– Compulsory voting is conducive to a higher level of interest in politics among the general population. It is not a perfect system as many times the voters may not fully understand the complexity of the policies, but it does minimise the likelihood of lobby groups and corporations taking control of the government.
- Everyone has a duty to vote for the government of the country where they exercise their rights-It is inconceivable to think that we are governed by political parties who are voted into power by such a small number of voters. It is the responsibility of each individual to make their opinions known regarding who they want in power.
- Elected government will be the representative of larger population rather than section of population which forms electorate.
- Obvious solution for low voter turn-out in election which could not reflect the true will of the people in a democracy.
- Compulsory voting will bring down the cost of elections and reduce the role of black money- Under a regime of compulsory voting, political parties would no longer have to spend a lot of money on “encouraging” voters to come to the polling booth. And given that a large proportion of the funds spent on “encouraging voters” to vote is black money, it is probable that this expenditure might come down in a scenario where the voter has no option but to vote.
- Voting can be made compulsory because it’s our moral and legal responsibility to be part of the nation-building process and stake our claim to having a hand in deciding who should run the country,”
- Intra party democracy– Voting should be made mandatory especially after the inclusion of NOTA option in the Ballot box, where the people can exercise their will of not choosing any of the candidates. So it will bring a great reformation within the political party and will democratize the party internally which the political parties are currently lacking.
- If you don’t vote, you are not becoming the part of democracy. If is it so, then you should also have no right to enjoy the benefits of democracy.
- Voting is an informed choice. Given to the state of education across India, it is highly unlikely the choice will be informed.
- It is an infringement of individual liberty and violated freedom guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution and Violation of Fundamental Right to Expression (Art. 19) which gives us right to not express.
- Mandatory voting violates the freedom of choice– If voting were to be mandatory, the main problem would be that we are no longer in a free and democratic society. This would be one of the first steps on a long slippery slope towards a dictatorship. Even if it is implemented, it will lead to random voting and may lead to political instability. But fewer people know that NOTA is nothing but toothless.NOTA is not considered as a negative vote but rather a NULL vote. Even if NOTA gets more vote in a constituency than any candidate, it will not result in re-elections. Rather candidate who stands at second place (first being NOTA), will be declared winner unless he/she himself persist for re-election.
- Nature of punishment– If voting has to be made compulsory by law, then it goes without saying that such a law will come with its own set of deterrents and punitive action in case of non-compliance. In practical terms, it is very difficult to implement compulsory voting. In the last general elections, nearly 300 million people did not vote. If this is punishable under law, we’ll have to file that many cases, virtually clogging and choking the already overburdened legal system.
So though making voting compulsory is in the bigger interest of democracy but certain preconditions need to be ensured after careful analysis of the cause and nature of low voter turn-out.
The real question is – Does low voter turn-out signify a problem with the voter, or is it a problem with the political system?
- One of the biggest reasons that people choose to stay away from voting is that they believe the vote will not make a difference, and we’ll continue to have corrupt, inefficient and incompetent people in governance.This notion could be avoided by increasing awareness, level of education and perhaps actively involving the people in decision making process. The Election Commission has also set up a voter’s education division, which takes up campaigns using social marketing principles to deal with voter apathy. The strategy has resulted in a significant increase in voters’ participation in the last seven state elections.
- Inadequacy of infrastructure– Given the diversity of the country and the lack of suitable measures for the voting of military personnel, service holders, disables and hospitalized personnel etc. any measure of compulsory voting will be futile.In this digital age and day, that’s unlikely to be a grave challenge. With the new UID (Unique Identification Number) one will be digitally enabled to vote. People who don’t want to make the trek from their homes to the polling booths or those who’re unable to do so for reasons of health or safety can use their UID to cast their vote.
- Lack of leadership qualities in many politician – It has always been about the leader. If the leader is good, non corrupt and displays enthusiasm , the voter will be there for him/her to vote.But over the time, the quality of Indian leadership has deteriorated and this created a gulf between ruled and ruler.Public cynicism perpetuated our society where we usually think the leaders are corrupt due to the various scandals and misuse of public authority or property from time to time.
It shall not be made compulsory rather than state must endeavor to find the cause why people do not exercise their franchise. A dis-satisfied citizenry looses hope in the system which results in his/her reduced engagement. In this situation if Voting is enforced compulsory it is likely to enhance the further dis-satisfaction. Hence, Voting should not be made compulsory but state need to find ways which increases the overall satisfaction of citizen and in result engagement will increase without coercion.Technology and better leadership are the solution , a legal solution to technical problems may render futile.