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Type: Journal article
Title: Compulsory voting and the promotion of human rights in Australia
Author: Hill, L.
Citation: Australian Journal of Human Rights, 2017; 23(2):188-202
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Issue Date: 2017
ISSN: 1323-238X
Statement of
Lisa Hill
Abstract: Under what democratic conditions does the ‘vertical accountability’ mechanism of voting maximise rights protection? Using an empirically informed political theory approach I argue that the Australian case demonstrates that it does so where compulsory voting laws are in place and are appropriately administered. It achieves this in often unappreciated and undetected ways. I begin by showing how compulsory voting uniquely ensures that the right to vote is transformed from a merely formal to an instantiated, material right; from a right that exists on paper to one that is not only exercisable but also exercised. It does this in a number of ways. First, compulsory voting, as it is practised in Australia, promotes the right to vote itself simply by removing most of the ergonomic, practical and even psychological costs of voting that often deter voters in voluntary regimes. Second, governments elected in compulsory voting elections are more responsive to the needs of all citizens, rather than just the (privileged) subset of citizens that vote in voluntary elections. In turn, this means they are better able (and willing) to protect such rights as the right to equality before the law and the right to be free from discrimination. In promoting these negative rights, compulsory voting also serves a number of positive welfare rights.
Keywords: Human rights; compulsory voting; democracy; voter turnout
Rights: © 2017 Australian Journal of Human Rights
RMID: 0030079097
DOI: 10.1080/1323238X.2017.1363373
Appears in Collections:Politics publications

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