I’ve just stumbled across a brilliant article that details how and why Australia became one of the few democracies in the world to practise compulsory voting:
To be honest, I had absolutely no idea why we embraced compulsory voting, but I’ve long seen the value of it. Compulsory voting makes representational democracy more democratic. Why? Because the silent majority is forced to make a decision, and that decision dilutes the power of both extremes.
As a member of the silent ‘middle’, I think that’s a Very. Good. Thing. The whole point of democracies is that the majority decide important issues. But if only the far right and the far left care enough to get out there and vote, the winner is always going to be from one of the extremes. And that, ladies and gentlemen, means that ordinary people who just want to survive and get along don’t have a say.
Another thing, which is specifically referred to in that article, is that compulsory voting makes greater choice possible. Instead of only being able to vote for the two or possibly three major parties, compulsory voting gives independents and smaller parties a chance as well. If they get in, their votes have to be won…via compromise, and compromise dilutes the extremes again.
I hope the IPA never get their way and scrap compulsory voting. We do not need extremes. We do not need people to be so polarised that they hate each other. We need compromise and balance and more choices, not less.
Australia’s democracy may be young, but it works. No offence to either the US or the UK, but I wouldn’t want to live in either country at the moment.