Many years citizens have fought for suffrage – and still do. Suffrage is one of the highest commodities in democracy. A commodity, which many citizens see as natural. Therefore, some countries introduced compulsory voting, in some it is discussed.

An example is Switzerland, which is on the one hand admired for its referendums but on the other hand suffers from a low turnout. It is so low, that many ask to introduce an electoral duty. However, should a right become an obligation? Is this even democratic?

We try to find answers to these questions in our new series.

Why compulsory voting is even discussed

Yet first, a definition: what does compulsory voting mean?

It obliges all eligible voters to cast their vote. If they do not do their electoral duty, citizens can be punished. The punishments vary in each country.

There are states where compulsory voting is more of a symbolic nature. Still, there are also nations where repeated non-voting is punished. In Turkey a fine has to be paid, in Bolivia, the bank accounts will be frozen and in Australia, even imprisonment is an option.

Positive and negative effects

Around 30 countries have already introduced compulsory voting, in others it is debated. Its supporters emphasize the possibility of increasing the voter turnout. This is an important argument since elections often lack a high turnout, which could lead to problems legitimizing the government.

Opponents of compulsory voting argue that it would be an interference with the citizens’ personal rights. Non-voting is a political statement as well, which would be impossible if voting is compulsory.

These two positions are irreconcilably opposites. In our new series about compulsory voting, we try to analyze the topic more thoroughly. We present pro and contra arguments and have a look at countries with compulsory voting.

If you would like to learn more about increasing voter turnout, read our helpful tips.