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|Web of Science®
|On the reasonableness of compelling citizens to vote: The Australian case.
|Political Studies, 2002; 50(1):80-101
|Blackwell Publ Ltd
|The legitimacy of compelling citizens to vote is rarely explored beyond claims about partisan benefit or infractions of liberty and democratic freedom of choice. Using the Australian model as a particularly successful and well administered case, I explore more deeply the issue of whether the state imposed obligation to vote is a legitimate one. The problem is approached via a number of questions, among them: Does compulsion have any properties that make it superior to a voluntary system? Does compulsion place an undue burden on voters? Is voting in the interests of individuals? Does voting do any good? Is there an obligation to vote? And, if so, to whom is the obligation owed? I conclude that compulsion is reasonable because it yields collective (and ultimately individual) goods and protects a number of democratic, liberal and moral values. It is suggested that although there may be an obligation (but not a duty) to vote, this obligation is not owed to the state but rather to other citizens. An important effect of compulsory voting is its capacity to make voting a more 'rational' activity because it limits informational uncertainty and reduces opportunity costs. Compulsion removes most, if not all, the barriers to voting normally experienced by abstainers in voluntary systems. In doing so it releases or generates a variety of positive values, utilities and capabilities.
|The definitive version is available at www.blackwell-synergy.com
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