Compulsory Voting

JS agred with the virtues of a free society but argued that secret ballots and compulsory voting are essential safeguards.

I agree with JS (Letters to the Editor, TableAus, Jan/Feb 2007) that secret ballots and the right to vote are essential safeguards of a free society, but I disagree with his gluing them to compulsory voting to make a single package. Voting does not have to be compulsory to be secret, making it voluntary does not equate to “restricting voters from attending a polling booth,” nor does protecting everybody’s right to vote if they want to require forcing them to do so.

Perhaps one could argue that elections would be somehow “better” if everyone was forced to at least attend a booth. But one could equally, and I suggest better, argue that elections are distorted by forcing people to vote when they think or know so little that they have no firm opinion, or they don’t really care. But my fundamental reason for opposing compulsory voting is that voting is not a primary axiom of politics so sacred and fundamental that it needs to be imposed. Rather, starting from the fundamental political principle that government exists to delegate and objectively apply defensive force (itself not a rootless axiom, but based on fundamental morality which in turn is based on the nature of human beings), the need for democratic elections and the right to vote follow. But nothing in that demands that voting should be forced, indeed, any such initiation of force contradicts the origin of the right to vote itself.

© 2007 Robin Craig: first published in TableAus.