In Germany, voting is a right which citizens can refuse to exercise. However, in other countries, it is compulsory. In the second part of our series, we present these countries and explain the consequences on society.
There are currently 30 countries worldwide where voting is compulsory. These include Brazil, Turkey, Egypt, Luxembourg, Belgium, Italy, Greece and Australia. In most countries, citizens are threatened with a penalty but the government often does not enforce it. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that compulsory voting results in a higher voter turnout in many countries.
Countries with real compulsory voting
In the following, we would like to present some examples for countries where compulsory voting is put into practice and not voting could lead to prison in the worst case.
Turkey: 8 Euro fine
Compulsory voting in Turkey was introduced comparably late in 1986. If citizens do not go to vote, they have to pay a fine of eight Euros. The voter turnout is since introducing the law is at 86%. Still, this number is quite low in comparison to other countries with compulsory voting.
Account lock in Bolivia
In Bolivia, non-voters pay a fine for staying away from election the first time. However, regular non-voting results in collecting the ID card or passport or account lock.
Best compulsory voting model: Australia
Barack Obama called the model transformative and thought about introducing it in the US during the last presidential campaign. Other countries have also discussed adapting the Australian compulsory voting model.
Since 1924, voting has been compulsory for Australian citizens. The reason is that Australia had to cope with huge losses in the First World War with nearly 60,000 Australians using their lives. Thus, to pay tribute to this loss, the act of voting became a symbolical duty. If an Australian stays away from the polling station the first time, they have to pay 20-dollar fine. If someone does not vote regularly, they can expect a prison sentence.
Australians consider compulsory voting positive. Hence voter turnout never went below 92% since the 1960’s. In addition, protest voters take part as well by just giving invalid ballots, which was only done by 3 per cent of voters in the last years. Moreover, compulsory voting could influence the party landscape since populist parties only received 1% of the vote in the last Australian elections.
Countries with symbolic compulsory voting
In countries with symbolic compulsory voting, there is a law for electoral duty in political elections but the punishments with which the voters are threatened are not executed.
No more penalties: Belgium
Since 1893, Belgium has a compulsory voting law. Voter would have to pay a fine of up to 50 Euro if they cannot take part in the election. If voters do not cast their vote, they are threatened that their name is deleted from the electoral roll. However, these sanctions are not applied and voter turnout is still at close to 90%.
High voter turnout: Luxembourg
There is a compulsory voting law in Luxembourg but non-voting has not been punished anymore since 1964. Voter turnout is still high with an average of 95%.
Italy: entry in the police clearance certificate
In Italy, voting in political elections is a civic duty. It is written in article 48 of the Italian constitution. However, no Italian voter has to fear an entry in the police clearance certificate since non-voting is not punished anymore. Compulsory voting should prevent extremist minorities from influencing the formation of government.
Voter turnout in countries with legal compulsory voting is often between 85 – 95%. A lot of countries dream of these high numbers. The question is, how high is the price for a country to introduce compulsory voting? Is a compulsion to vote not a violation of personal rights? The topic of compulsory voting is controversially discussed and has many advantages and disadvantages. A great advantage is of course the higher turnout increases the legitimization of the government. But are there other possibilities to increase the voter turnout? These questions will be debated in the next article of this series.