Maximising youth voting ­­­ By: Parul Purwar

Table 2: willingness to vote after compulsory voting

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Table 2: willingness to vote after compulsory voting

Australia introduced compulsory voting in the year 1925.It’s first nine elections were under voluntary voting. But after 1925, the country has gotten used to compulsory voting. Numerous surveys and studies have affirmed the public support for compulsory voting, with more than 70 per cent in favour of it.

As voting is compulsory, electors are given a number of ways to cast their vote at an election, including postal voting, pre-poll voting, absent voting, voting at Australian overseas missions and voting at mobile teams at hospitals and nursing homes and in remote localities, as well as ordinary voting at a polling place in their electorate.

In spite of this, the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on electoral matter (which holds inquiries after every election) recommended in 1996 that voluntary voting should be resumed. Debate still rages on the pros and cons of introducing compulsory voting in Australia. In The 1998 and 2001 JSCEMs received submissions on voluntary voting, but chose not to pursue the issue.

Netherland is an example of a country which had compulsory voting and later on abolished it. With the constitutional change in 1917 which also introduced universal suffrage (for men; women were granted the right to vote in 1919) and proportional representation (PR), compulsory voting was introduced.

There were two reasons for introducing it; the first was the argument that the act of voting is a task that serves the public interest and not one's personal interest, and a public right was regarded a public duty in this context; and secondly the newly introduced proportional representation system required a 100 per cent turnout for the election results to be truly proportional.

Compulsory voting applied to all elections. While it existed in the Netherlands, however, it was a much-debated issue and was amended many times. In 1945 an opportunity to abolish compulsory voting occurred when there was a vote in Parliament on the practice. The groups in favour of keeping it won by one vote, and it was not abolished until 1967 after recommendations made by a committee appointed by the government.
Figure 9: Comparison of the voter turnout in India, Netherland, Australia and Belgium

A number of theoretical as well as practical arguments were put forward by the committee: for example, the right to vote is each citizen's individual right which he or she should be free to exercise or not; it is difficult to enforce sanctions against non-voters effectively; and party politics might be livelier if the parties had to attract the voters' attention, so that voter turnout would therefore reflect actual participation and interest in politics. The parliamentary election of 1971 was the first to be held without compulsory voting since its introduction.

A summary of countries in Western Europe with compulsory voting is given below.

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