Why voting should not be mandatory


Voter turnout in this country is not great. At the 2019 general election 67% of the people that are eligible actually put their mark on a ballot paper. So what happened to the other third? Why did they not vote and what can be done about it?

One way of solving the problem would be to make voting mandatory. People would be forced by law to come out and make a political preference. But would this help? I doubt it.

I expect that the reasons people don’t vote are complicated, with many factors in play. Research backs this up citing problems with registration, lack of understanding and a sense of alienation from the political process. Will making people vote by law solve these problems? No, of course not with the possible exception of registration. If you are going to require everyone to vote then you will need to make sure everyone is registered in the first place.

Then there is the issue of what you would do if people don’t vote. Would you fine them or jail them? Most people abide by the law because it is the right thing to do rather than because of the threat of punishment and so the people that are going to vote are going to vote anyway, in the main.

If you want more people to vote then you need to get more people engaged in the process. It needs to be more relevant and feel like their vote can make a difference. According to the Electoral Reform Society of the 32 million votes cast in the 2019 General Election, only 9.4 million votes were ‘decisive’ in securing a candidate’s election. The vast majority of people’s votes made no difference at all.

This is the problem that needs solving, rather than making voting mandatory we need to mandate that all votes matter. Turnout would then improve.

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