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Should Voting Be Made Compulsory in Britain?

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Should Voting Be Made Compulsory in Britain?

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  • March 2008
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Politics & Economics
Should voting be made compulsory in Britain?
Britain currently employs a voluntary voting system, whereby it is entirely up to the individual to choose whether to vote or not. 32 countries across the world, such as; Australia, Switzerland and Belgium, employ a compulsory voting system, were the citizens of their countries must register their vote in elections. This paper is going to look into the positive, negative, opportunity and threat aspects of whether voting should be made compulsory in Britain.

One of the main arguments for Britain adopting a compulsory voting system is to facilitate higher rates of electoral participation after poor turnouts in the last two general elections, were only 59.4% and 61.4% of the public have turned out , the lowest amounts since World War I. In fact at the last election, non-voters were the largest single group, outnumbering those who voted Labour into power. Compulsory voting would cause this group to contribute, helping to address the issue that low participation indicates a lack of interest in politics and decreases the legitimacy of the party elected. ‘On average countries with compulsory turnout have 15 per cent higher turnout than countries where voting is voluntary.' Compulsory voting in Britain would therefore increase the amount of people who vote, thus helping to give more legitimacy to the victor. This is because a higher turnout, for example 80%, would take a broader public perspective and therefore be much more widely respected than that of a sample of only 61% of the population.

Conversely, a poor turnout does not necessarily justify compulsory voting. Employing a system whereby everyone was required to vote regardless would merely disguise voter apathy and legitimise a lack of content in policies and an inability to inspire the public. There is also no certainty that the public would actually pay attention to what each party stands for and may vote to simply avoid any...