Compulsory Voting in Germany

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The persistent decline in voter participation continues to disappoint German politicians. When roughly one-third of the voting age population turns out for a Parliamentary election once every four years – let alone federal or local elections – it becomes difficult to defend the “free” right to vote. Voting is not only a right, but a responsibility. Therefore, voting in elections should be compulsory in Germany as a way to increase voter turnout and to raise overall political awareness. Contrary to the public belief that a legal obligation to vote is a rarity, compulsory voting has been used successfully in over twenty-five countries worldwide and for almost 125 years. For instance, both Australia and Belgium introduced compulsory voting in the early twentieth century to address the problem of low participation. During 1946 and 2012, both countries regularly yielded a solid 90 percent turnout of the eligible voting age population. Whereas, during the same period, Germany produced a scant 65 percent average. Compulsory voting not only increases voter turnout, but also broadens electoral integrity and democratic legitimacy. The obligation to vote guarantees that a winning candidate or political party represents a majority of the population, not only a minority of politically interested individuals who happen to vote. In addition, compulsory voting ensures that political parties do not neglect the poorest and most excluded members of society. Since they are required to vote, political parties are forced to create policies for their needs. Consequently, voters are compelled to better educate themselves. Compulsory voting encourages citizens to research the candidates’ positions on popular policies and issues more thoroughly. Well-informed voters oppose unrealistic plans or unnecessary budget-cuttings, therefore forcing better political decisions and reducing polarization. Another important benefit is that compulsory voting compels political parties to spend less time...
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