With its numerous referendums, Switzerland is regarded as the model democratic state. However, a relative low number of citizens use this method of influencing politics directly. Previous referendums have had a voter turnout of around 30%. That is why the Swiss, as well as other countries, are thinking about introducing compulsory voting. In this part of our series, we have collected and summarized the advantages and disadvantages to this proposal.
Pro compulsory voting
There is no denying that the advantages are obvious:
- The voter turnout increases. In all countries where compulsory voting is in place, turnout increased. In Australia, where not voting is punished, voter turnout is at 90%.
- It works against political apathy because everybody has to form their own opinion.
- Compulsory voting prevents the influence of the few who participate on the election results of becoming too strong.
- It contributes to the stability of the government since political apathy and a low voter turnout are threats for democracy – for more info click here
- A high turnout reduces the financial expenditure for election campaigns. This is how the influence of donors on parties and politicians is decreased.
- Voting is a democratic and moral duty, so why shouldn’t it be directly written in law?
Con compulsory voting
Still, there are arguments against introducing a law:
- The introduction would violate personal freedom and personal rights.
- Not voting can also be a political statement. A law would prevent it.
- Compulsory voting is not a cure to domestic policy crises. If someone is unsatisfied with the state and system, they will deny voting despite their electoral duty.
- Non-voters have to be punished consistently so that compulsory voting makes sense. A symbolic electoral duty is less useful. This poses the question of practicality, since pursuing non-voters costs money and time.