Libertarians Can Kiss My Patootie, But Let's Get Rid of Compulsory Voting

07 October 2013
Compulsory voting. We're one of only ten countries in the world to have it, and you either love it or you hate it. Traditionally, the left has triumphed compulsory voting as ensuring franchise for all, whilst libertarians decry compulsory voting as a contradictory attack on their freedoms. Now, I'm yet to meet a libertarian I wouldn't happily give a kilo of sand and a hammer to pound it in with, but if we're to address the decline in our democracy, compulsory voting has to go.

The biggest argument in favour of compulsory voting is that it allows everyone to have a say. But it doesn't really. Most elections come down to a few thousand undecided voters in a handful of marginal seats. Undecided voters, who tend to be less educated and less engaged in the political process, are now calling the shots. Politicians ignore the major issues to chase after the concerns of those who care the least. No wonder our electoral coverage is dire, no wonder political discourse is dumbed down. Compulsory voting is why we can't have nice things. Can we end this now please?

Compulsory voting makes politicians complacent in safe seats and pander to desperate populism in marginal seats. Why is it so important to involve people in elections who just don't want to get involved? Instead of fighting for the votes of people who don't care, let politicians work for the votes of the people who do care. There's the inevitable argument that the end of compulsory voting would leave the system open to abuse - particularly people being kicked off the electoral rolls. But the system is open to abuse now. On election day, I witnessed several young people arriving at the polling booths confessing that they didn't know how to vote, only to be handed a how to vote card by a particular party's volunteers and told "here, it's easy, just follow this".

Or worse. We all saw the frenzy of hysteria the Murdoch press whipped itself into in the lead up to the recent election (and doesn't that editorial seem a bit ridiculous now). Would they have bothered if they knew a lot of their target audience wouldn't bother showing up? More to the point, would their lies have had such effect? I've never seen anything like the number of voters lamenting that they voted Liberal, given Abbott's abysmal performance less than a month in to the job. "All the signs were there, how could you not know?" we ask. They shrug sheepishly. They believed the Murdoch press. These are people who trusted the word of a man who taps dead children's phones. Wouldn't it have been better if they never voted at all? Yes, countries without compulsory voting have vile partisan media as well - but they're preaching to the converted, not convincing the confused.

We should all be grateful for the right to vote in safety and freedom. But we should also be grateful for the right to live in safety in freedom, and some people are so ungrateful their attitude to those who drown trying to reach this freedom is "serves you right". We can't force people to care. It's a lot easier to make someone scared and angry than enlightened and compassionate, and these voters are ripe for manipulation. So let them go. Put democracy back in the hands of those of us who care, and it will save us a lot of time convincing people not to draw dicks on their ballot papers.


  1. i'm at pains to agree with this, but you really can't argue with the logic and stark realities. you're right - it has to go :/

    1. Yeah I can't believe things have come to this either.

  2. We should all have the same free and equal right to vote, free from government coercion. Our decision to vote should be democratic. If our politicians needed to inspired us to vote rather than being the least worst option and letting compulsory voting do the rest, we might get a higher voter turnout. Currently we have around 10% who are not registered to vote, around 6% who submit invalid votes and many more who don't vote, or donkey vote. This leaves our voter turnouts at around 80% which is lower than many nations where voting is voluntary including Sweden, Denmark and Iceland.


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