Voting is arguably one of the most valued rights around the world. Canada prides its self in being a democracy in which voting is the active way for its citizens to participate in political realm. However, in the past and in recent times, the number of people enforcing their right to vote has been shockingly low. In the last three federal elections on average only 62 percent of eligible voters voted. This has led to political figures inquiring whether they should implement mandatory voting laws in Canada. Mandatory voting, synonymous with compulsory voting, is defined as laws that require eligible citizens to register and vote in elections. Through the analysis of “The Case for Mandatory Voting in Canada” by Senator Mac Harb and Compulsory Voting: A Critical Perspective by Annabelle Lever, it is clear that voting should be mandatory in Canada.
Canada’s democracy is based on the premise of majority rules, yet if more than 40% of eligible voters are not voting, it is very easy for there to be disproportionate representation within Canada’s political system. The Canadian parliamentary system should implement a mandatory voting system as suggested by Senator Mac Harb to improve low voting turnout and reduce socioeconomic voting inequality. By imposing Bill S-22, Canadians will be required to participate in the electoral process thus increasing voter turnout. Mandatory voting increases the legitimacy of elected representatives as the candidates winning seats are most likely a reflection of the citizens’ votes. It is common for citizens to suggest that voter turnout would be increased if only it were easier instead of enforcing an entirely new law, but as evidenced by Australia, mandatory voting can have immediate and substantial effects. Australia first implemented compulsory voting in 1924 after a low turnout of 57.9 percent but now for the past twenty-four elections has had an average voting turnout of 94.5 percent. This proves that enacting mandatory voting can turn improve low voting turnout and is inherently useful to Canada’s electoral system. Additionally, mandatory voting is needed to bridge to socioeconomic voting inequality. According to Matthew B. Peters and the “relative power theory”, the more socioeconomic inequality, the greater “the negative impact on political engagement due to how power is distributed throughout society.” Peters highlights how policy outputs in Canada have a “fixed quantity” therefore only people in a greater position can influence political outcomes. This implies that the wealthy, due to their economic advantage are more likely to influence political behaviour in their favour. This implicitly suggests to the less well-off citizens that their voices’ in the political system does not matter, causing their participation in politics to decline. However, as stated by Harb, mandatory voting will “demonstrate to individual Canadians that… each vote has value” thus increasing not only voter turnout but also the legitimacy and belief in the Canadian political system.
Despite the benefits of mandatory voting, many citizens believe that enforced voting is disadvantageous to the political society. Many politicians have argued that imposing mandatory voting is infringing on citizens’ rights not to vote.. By transgressing on this right, mandatory voting can be seen as challenging freedom of choice. With that in mind, one could argue that voting is a way conveying ones political ideals yet not voting is also revealing one’s political ideals.
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