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Speaker: Compulsory voting and election turnout

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  • bmk,

    On the compulsory voting thing - I'm strongly opposed. Why should we compel people to be somewhere they don't want to be? It seems to go against basic principles of freedom. The census at least doesn't require leaving your house. The census too is an element of compulsion albeit one I can support; but compulsory voting is just going too far imo.

    Since Jun 2010 • 327 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to bmk,

    On the compulsory voting thing - I'm strongly opposed. Why should we compel people to be somewhere they don't want to be?

    That's in large part the point of the legal system. You're just not allowed to go wherever you want, whenever you want. Everything from property laws to jails to to the nation-state itself is about "compel people to be somewhere they don't want to be" or "preventing people going where they want to go". I think linking that to compulsory voting is a bit of a stretch.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    this article on Australian identity has some interesting comments on Howard's attempt to teach civics towards the end. Well worth a look.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to bmk,

    The census at least doesn't require leaving your house.

    Interesting thought.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • bmk, in reply to Moz,

    There's a huge difference between laws preventing people from going somewhere or doing something to laws that force people to go somewhere or do something. To say that because the state can prevent you from doing x therefore the state can force you to do x doesn't sound right to me.

    I think any law that compels an action from someone needs to have really strong benefits to outweigh the loss of freedom and with voting I just can't see it.

    Since Jun 2010 • 327 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to bmk,

    ... to laws that force people to go somewhere or do something

    To get a driver's license I have to go the the issuing centre. To get out of jury duty I need to turn up to court and look dodgy. To enter the country I need to turn up to customs when they can be bothered attending. The legal issue exists even without compulsory voting

    I think any law that compels an action from someone needs to have really strong benefits to outweigh the loss of freedom

    I think democracy is a pretty strong benefit. Letting people opt out is if anything worse than letting them opt out of paying taxes. Admittedly I think we should stop people doing that as well, but I realise I've lost that argument.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • bmk, in reply to Moz,

    To get a driver's license I have to go the the issuing centre. To get out of jury duty I need to turn up to court and look dodgy. To enter the country I need to turn up to customs when they can be bothered attending. The legal issue exists even without compulsory voting

    All of those though are voluntary - you are choosing to do them - other than the jury duty. People hate jury duty - compelling people to vote will only make them feel about it like they do about jury duty. The compulsion needs to have a clear benefit which I just don't see.

    If you want more people to vote, make them want to vote. Forcing people to do it isn't really solving anything - it's just making people feel better that everyone is being involved.

    Since Jun 2010 • 327 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Moz,

    Howard’s attempt to teach civics

    That was a particularly nasty example of the kind of rule the political roost triumphalism that poisoned the Howard era. The intention was to reduce the historical component of ‘civics’ to a bedtime story, by effectively locking off discussion of what Howard termed ‘black armband’ issues. The involvement of Howard’s favourite historian, the aggressively reactionary Keith Windschuttle, turned the program’s treatment of aboriginal issues into a form of state sanctioned holocaust denial.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    To explain my position more clearly: the first thing I should (re)emphasize in response to several previous commenters here is that – as Alex says in his blog – the “compulsory voting” label is incorrect.

    Alex clearly doesn’t support genuine compulsory voting – and nor do I – but rather we both support an extension of the current compulsory enrolment system, i.e. a sort of “compulsory enrolment plus”. This would effectively extend the current compulsory enrolment system to require all voters to both enrol and actually appear at a polling place – and actively choose EITHER to vote OR not to vote OR to vote for none of the above candidates/parties, i.e. the voting slip would look something like this:

    TICK ONE OF THE OPTIONS BELOW:

    * I DO NOT WISH TO VOTE

    * VOTE FOR MUSSOLINI, B.
    * VOTE FOR HUN, A.T.
    * VOTE FOR GRACEWOOD, J.
    * VOTE FOR NONE OF THE ABOVE CANDIDATES

    Just to hammer the point home, the most important thing to note here is that people are not required to vote, i.e. you can select the “I do not wish to vote option”.

    To expand further upon what I said before, I think the strongest argument in favour of this “compulsory enrolment plus” system is that it would help protect voters from the actions of a corrupt government.

    If a government (any government) believes that they can win elections by deterring voting – either by making it difficult to vote or by deliberately framing all politics as beneath contempt – then they may well be tempted to do so. By setting a legal requirement for all eligible voters to appear in person at a polling place, and actively choose whether or not to vote, then the incentive for a government to act corruptly (in this regard) is removed.

    Moreover, a properly designed “compulsory enrolment plus” system would also gives voters an extra freedom beyond what they currently have – the freedom to officially decline to vote OR to choose the “none of the above candidates/parties” option. This relates to the point Craig made:

    I don’t think a 100% turnout with 23% of the ballots spoiled or otherwise invalid (or 23% of the electorate being criminalized) is any more laudable than what happened on Saturday.
    … We already have [the “I don’t want to vote” option and “none of the above” option], and 23% of registered voters exercised it on Saturday by not voting.

    But there is a huge difference between “I don’t want to vote” and “none of the above” – options which voters are completely denied at the moment.

    To make this difference clear: I know Christians who do not believe in democracy; they believe in letting God choose a suitable monarch (although, incidentally, they say that if they did vote, they would vote for John Key) – these people would obviously choose the “I don’t want to vote” option. Similarly people who genuinely don’t care which parties form the government (or find themselves unable to decide) would also choose this option.

    But this is an entirely different situation from someone who fervently believes in democracy, but also believes that none of the candidates and/or parties should be in government. They would like to vote, but have no-one to vote for – hence they would choose the “none of the above candidates/parties”.

    I would argue that it is important for the health of a democracy to know the support for these two options. Are those people currently not voting just disbelievers in democracy (or don’t care which party forms the government) – or do they think that none of the parties should be in government?

    Clearly a government which talks about a mandate from voters would be on shaky ground if the “none of the above” option got more votes than they did. (There is also the point about whether they should form a government in this situation – but that is another debate). And you can’t tell which is which without everyone ticking one of the boxes.

    And I’d also like someone to rebut the point Robyn made near the top of the thread. What’s the stick here that won’t disproportionately affect the poor and the young…

    We currently have a compulsory enrolment system with a fine of $100 if eligible voters do not enrol (and $200 for a second offence). I see no reason that a “compulsory enrolment plus” system would cause any more problems in this regard than what we have now.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Jack Harrison, in reply to David Haywood,

    Democracy is a work in progress. Very new thing historically speaking.

    wellington • Since Aug 2014 • 296 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to bmk,

    The compulsion needs to have a clear benefit which I just don’t see.

    I assume you mean benefit to the individual. The benefit to society as a whole is pretty obvious.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Jack Harrison, in reply to Dismal Soyanz,

    Well said.

    wellington • Since Aug 2014 • 296 posts Report Reply

  • krothville, in reply to bmk,

    People hate jury duty - compelling people to vote will only make them feel about it like they do about jury duty.

    Can we stop comparing jury duty (which has the potential to go on for weeks) and voting (which lasts a few minutes).

    Since Sep 2014 • 73 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin, in reply to David Haywood,

    I'm not sure if I appreciate that there is much of a distinction between compulsory registration and compulsory voting on your model (as opposed to you must vote for someone). If we are all ok with the former, then we should be ok with your scheme too I'd have thought.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1019 posts Report Reply

  • Jack Harrison, in reply to Ben Austin,

    I guess it's time to explore true democracy. The true mood of the nation. I vote for a party that I think is best out of the bunch, it doesn't mean I am one with everything they do. It does mean I have performed democracy. Our thing.

    wellington • Since Aug 2014 • 296 posts Report Reply

  • bmk, in reply to Dismal Soyanz,

    I assume you mean benefit to the individual. The benefit to society as a whole is pretty obvious.

    I meant both. Society won't benefit either if you force people to vote. You'll simply have more informals, more donkey voting, more voting for recognised names solely on the basis of name recognition.

    The sole benefit I would see is that it would make people feel better that everyone is contributing. Instead if we want everyone to contribute, we need to make it so they want to. Far harder admittedly but a much better end result.

    Since Jun 2010 • 327 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to bmk,

    Society won’t benefit either if you force people to vote. You’ll simply have more informals, more donkey voting, more voting for recognised names solely on the basis of name recognition.

    Yes, you'll get more of everything - probably on average 25% more, going on the current numbers.

    You left out "more informed votes, from people who suffer from the rational voter paradox of not seeing the value of the vote outweighing the effort of casting it". These people have the paradox removed. They are the primary targets. Most of the people I know who don't vote are in this category.

    You left out "more people who may wish to not vote, who didn't have a way to express that via the poll". This is important information about the engagement of the citizenry.

    You left out "people who are not allowed to vote by coercion". The investigation of their failure to front up might shed light on something that should be known. Very important in any democracy to catch these people's oppressors.

    You left out "people who have a habit of leaving things to the last minute, and then missed out". These people might try a bit harder.

    You most especially left out "People to whom $20 is a significant amount of money". These people absolutely should be voting, because clearly the entire system is failing them.

    You left out "more people who wish to vote, but don't feel there is an adequate representative". These people could be differentiated from the ones above. Further important information.

    The sole benefit I would see is that it would make people feel better that everyone is contributing

    There is more than one benefit, certainly more than that backhanded swipe at the idea of compulsory voting, like it's motivated by something entirely petty. It isn't, it's motivated by the knowledge that something is really quite broken in our model, and the possibility of a very, very easy fix.

    The arguments against are the ones based on the more insubstantial theoretical benefits, with the much broader and more difficult solutions. I mean, is chasing up a few thousand unvoters (which mostly pays for itself in fines) really much harder than fixing the entire education system to give due weight to civics education? Something that many people would be entirely against on principle? Is waiting for a group that appeals to the non-voters to cross the damned MMP threshold without its base even voting a sound policy for reaching out?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Compulsory voting will never happen here, more likely voting will be abolished under the current Government on the basis that, well, look what happened this time, people lied and people said nasty things, So, best not do it eh?.
    The Herald is STILL harping on about Labour's decision to do or not do something that is nothing to do with anyone but the Party. Really, who is leader of the Party means nothing, it just gives the media someone to point the finger at, it means nothing till we have another election, hopefully within days of the outcome of a rigorous inquiry and hopefully soon. Then and only then do we need to know who will lead the people to the promised land, the land of milk and honey,, well, honey, well if the veroa mite gives up we might have honey but that milk is a problem. Whooda thunk we all drink powdered milk all winter, methinks someone is pulling the proverbial sheepskin over our eyes on that one.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Hark the Herald Angles...

    The Herald is STILL harping on about Labour...

    When they should be squaring up to the returning rampant Government, asking what THEY will be doing differently, letting THEM know they are on notice, in light of what we now know, and their own reporters reported on...

    But no, they are harrying the weakened bewilderbeest that has been marginalised by the herd... hardly exemplar behaviour.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7886 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    The Herald is STILL harping on about Labour’s decision to do or not do something that is nothing to do with anyone but the Party

    I remember quite a long time ago, when Brash was being hounded for various things, DPF saying "When the government is held accountable, that's called democracy. There's another word for when the Opposition is held accountable". Probably not exact words, but that was the gist.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to BenWilson,

    +1

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • stephen clover, in reply to BenWilson,

    There’s another word for when the Opposition is held accountable

    What is that word?

    wgtn • Since Sep 2007 • 355 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to stephen clover,

    What is that word?

    Balance?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7886 posts Report Reply

  • DaiKiwi,

    I went looking for some numbers.

    In Aussie the federal fine is $20, but each state also has their own fines, ranging from $55 to $70.

    Australia has about the same percentage of unenrolled as NZ. Turnout is for Federal elections is about 93%. Spoiled or invalid votes is about 6% (versus 0.89% in NZ 2011), and has been rising steadily since the 1980s.

    On that basis, about 400,000 more valid votes would have been cast in the NZ 2011 election, bringing it up to about 85%. That sounds good, but really only brings it up to the lower end of most elections between 1914 & 1999. Turnout results

    On the other hand, there's the cost of enforcement, which would be a few million dollars. The handiest numbers I found were for the ACT in 2012, which has about 256,000 registered voters. 19,000 'please explain' letters were sent to all non-voters. Two reminders were sent to non-responders. In the end 4,500 people paid a fine. Further, 1,000 court cases were started but 630 of them withdrawn (presumably because fine paid or valid reason given). Multiply those numbers by 12 to scale up to NZ.

    Since Sep 2014 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to BenWilson,

    I remember quite a long time ago, when Brash was being hounded for various things, DPF saying "When the government is held accountable, that's called democracy. There's another word for when the Opposition is held accountable". Probably not exact words, but that was the gist.

    The current caucus divisions within Labour are a given. But I sometimes wonder how much of what we're seeing is actual factionalism, and how much of it is wilful FUD from the usual Dirty Politics suspects.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5415 posts Report Reply

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