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In this paper, I am going to present a discussion about why citizens must vote. I chose this topic because it has been found out that a significant number of people do not vote in elections. However, each and every citizen need to determine which kind of leadership his or her country is supposed to have. Every vote counts and that is why all citizens need to participate in any election. The paper is going to explore the reasons why citizens must vote. Moreover, I am also going to put into consideration the reasons why some citizens do not vote. The paper will end with a conclusion in which a summary of the discussion is going to be presented.
Citizens must vote
The citizens of any particular nation serve as a “source of power in democracy” (“Voting Required” 44). Among the most significant ways through which the citizens of a nation can exercise the power they have is through voting (“Voting Required” 44). Voting helps the citizens to be in a position to engage in expressing their views and pass over a message to the government about what they really want (“Why should young citizens vote?” 1). Moreover, through voting, citizens are able to ask for change (Brennan 4).
In a country where there is true democracy, each and every citizen ought to have a right to vote and all votes cast by the citizens must have the same weight (“Why should young citizens vote?” 1). In the United States of America and also in a large number of other democracies, voting is considered as a right and responsibility of each and every citizen (Brettschneider 12). However, many of these democracies experience lower rates of voter participation. For instance, in the U.S, the voter participation is below sixty percent. But on the other hand, the voter participation in a country like Australia is more than ninety percent. However, before putting in place a law that encouraged voter participation in Australia, the percentage of voters that took part in an election in this country was below fifty percent (Brennan 11).
Having a high voter turnout is of great significance as it helps to keep “small, well-organized, extreme groups from gaining too much power” (“Voting Required” 44). The elections should provide the citizens with an opportunity to have a feeling that they are also important participants in the making of the government decisions. A large number of experts hold a belief that democracies need to have high rates of the participation of the voters in order for them to be effective (Brennan 12).
Several democracies have sought to come up with ways that can help in improving voter participation. Some of these ways include; advertisement campaigns, making an urge to the citizens to participate in voting, making it possible for the citizens to engage in voting before the actual election day, making it possible for the citizens to register on the day the elections are being held, and having longer election hours among other ways (” Voting Required” 44).
The non-governmental organizations have made attempts to boost higher rates of voter participation, and mostly among the young people. Some of the efforts undertaken by these organizations include “ad campaigns in youth media, voter registration drives on college and high school campuses, and education campaigns about issues and candidates (“Voting Required” 44). There are those people who support the idea of having a law that requires people to engage in mandatory voting or pay a fine.
It is reported that in twenty nations around the world, “voting is the law” (Citizen Capitalism 1). Some of these nations include Australia, Belgium and Greece among others. Taking the case in Australia, it is reported that the citizens who do not vote pay a fine of twenty dollars and in Greece, a person who does not vote can encounter hardships in obtaining a driver’s licence or even a passport. These nations consider voting as being a very significant part of citizenship to a level that it is supposed to be “a legal obligation for every eligible person” (Citizen Capitalism 1).
It is reported that the citizens of Australia “have been required to vote in federal elections since 1924”(Weiner 1). Following the issue that the vote turnout in Australia had gone below sixty percent, there was enacting, by parliament, of mandatory voting and beginning from that time, this move has never been challenged. Basing on polls, it has been found out that about eighty percent of the Australian people are in support of mandatory voting (Weiner 1).
The citizens of Australia are convinced that having mandatory voting enables their country to be a more healthy democracy. However, Weiner is quick to point out that there is no proof which indicates that the citizens of Australia “are better-informed citizens than Americans” (Weiner 1).
He points out that, in any case, mandatory voting has facilitated reinforcement of “straight party-line voting, since reluctant voters find it easier to align themselves with one party or another and get the whole business done with as quickly as possible” (Weiner 1). According to Weiner, mandatory voting is not politically impartial and it can have an effect on which political parties perform better at the polls and which ones do not do well (Weiner 1). Generally, a belief is held among political scientists that mandatory voting offers an insignificant edge to liberal political parties because, most probably, once the poor or less informed people are forced to vote, they tend “to vote liberal” (Gaus 13).
It is reported that a large number of people in the United States of America are against putting in place a law that aims to make voting to be compulsory for each and every citizen (“Voting Required” 45). The people who are opposed to this idea cite a poll conducted by ABC in the year 2004 which found out that the majority of the citizens of the United States of America are against compulsory voting. They present an argument that having a low rate of voter participation serves as a reflection of approval of government. They point out that in case the citizens are not happy, “they would be more likely to vote” (“Voting Required” 45). Those who oppose also present an argument that voting is among the ways through which the citizens can be able to express their annoyance at “corruption and political system” (“Voting Required” 45).
The citizens who belief that elections are not fair and also that the counting of their votes is not carried out in a careful manner, or that conducting elections cannot bring in any difference, consider mandatory voting as “a way of forcing them to support a process they don’t believe in “ (“Voting Required” 45). It is pointed out that the communist nations do experience very high rates of voter participation, but “the elections are a sham” (“Voting Required” 45).
Reasons for Not Voting
In a big national election like the United States presidential election, voting is greatly irrational (Caplan 5). This is for the reason that the vote of a citizen would possibly make a very small difference (Caplan 5). Kanazawa presents some statistics that in a hotly contested election such as the one conducted in the year 1960 in the United States, “the probability that any one voter will influence the outcome is 0.0000843355” (Kanazawa 1). This figure can be even smaller in the actual sense.
Kanazawa is among the people who are against the idea that citizens must vote. He points out that since a person’s vote is insignificant and will not make any difference, in case a person’s favourite candidate is destined to win, he or she will win and on the other hand, if the candidate is bound to lose, the candidate will definitely lose. This is of course not true; it is out of the decision that is made by each single voter that determines the general outcome of an election. The question that comes in is; why do a large number of people spend their money, energy as well as time to engage in voting and yet their vote does not, according to Kanazawa, count at all towards the final outcome. Kanazawa attempts to answer this question by giving various reasons which can be regarded as weak ones.
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One of the reasons presented is that people ask themselves the question that; what if everyone made a decision not to vote? (Kanazawa 1). It is believed that if this occurred. it would lead to collapsing of democracy. Kanazawa believes that this is a fallacy. He points out that a person’s decision not to vote will not have an effect on other people’s decision to vote or not to vote (Kanazawa 1). But the truth is that, each and every individual citizen should make a contribution towards having the right leadership in the nation. As the saying goes; “a thousand miles start with one step”.
Kanazawa presents another reason for massive voting that, it is believed that “it is a civic duty of every citizen in a democratic country to vote in elections” (Kanazawa 1). On this issue, Kanazawa points out that it is not all about attempting to “affect the electoral outcome; it is about doing your duty as a democratic citizen by voting in elections” (Kanazawa 1). He argues that this way of thinking fails on particular grounds: civic duty to defend democracy has a similar problem “as affecting the electoral outcome as a reason to vote” (Kanazawa 1).
A single voter does not make any difference in the overall results “as it takes a large majority of citizenry to uphold democracy and if democracy were to be upheld, it will be upheld without your voting; if it were to collapse, it will collapse even if you voted” (Kanazawa 1). However, as a personal opinion, as much as Kanawaza’s argument can make some sense, the truth of the matter is that every citizen must vote.
All citizens are supposed to vote. Through voting, the citizens are able to decide the kind of leadership they want and they can also be able to bring in change. Some countries have made voting to be compulsory; however, as it has been considered in this paper, such a move is not effective enough to encourage citizens to engage in voting. All that citizens need is to be educated about their right to vote and why they should vote. Each vote counts and this is a very important tool that a citizen can use to determine the kind of leadership he or she wants.
Brennan, Jason. “Polluting the polls: when citizens should not vote”. The Australian Journal of Philosophy, 87.2 (2009):1-18.
In this journal article, Brennan points out the idea that just because a citizen has a right to vote, this does not imply that any vote is right. This author stresses that the citizens should not vote in a bad manner. He points out that this responsibility to evade voting in a bad manner is grounded in the overall responsibility not to take part in the communally destructive acts when the personal cost of self-control is low. He draws a conclusion that citizens are not supposed to be making contributions to “public bads” when the gains to themselves are low.
Citizen Capitalism. It is illegal not to vote, 2011. Web.
This article points out that it is illegal not to vote. The author gives examples of nations in which voting is considered as being a legal obligation. The penalties of failing to vote in some of the nations are mentioned. The article also considers some of the nations where voting is a right and not an obligation and presents Canada as an example. The article concludes by seeking people’s opinions on whether voting by citizens must be compulsory or not.
Kanazawa, Satoshi. Why do people vote?, 2009. Web.
In this article, Satoshi Kanazawa discusses about why people should not necessarily vote. This author argues that in a presidential election, which is a large election, a vote cast by a citizen does not count. Its effect is very small. The author presents some statistics that the probability that a person’s vote will make a difference is very small, as small as 0.00008 or even below. The author points out some reasons why people vote, which he eventually disagrees with. This is an important article to be used in presenting some of the reasons why citizens must not vote.
Voting Required, n.d. Web.
This article talks about why people should vote. It presents some of the ways through which voter participation in the U.S elections can be encouraged. The article also considers the issue of compulsory voting by citizens. The article is important in presenting the reasons why there should be no compulsory voting in the United States of American are presented in the article.
Weiner, Eric. You must vote. It’s the law, 2004. Web.
Erick Weiner discusses about voting in Australia in the article. The author talks about mandatory voting in Australia and how the Australians view it. He also discusses the main reason why parliament enacted a law that requires all the Australian citizens to vote. The author considers the consequences of one not voting in this country. The article is important in examining the effects of mandatory voting.
Why should young citizens vote? n.d. Web.
This brief article presents some of the reasons why citizens should vote. Moreover, the article also mentions about the people who should not vote. These are people who engage in voting but do not have an idea of what they are voting on. This is an important article because, even if it is brief, it presents a full message in the most concise manner possible.
Brennan, Jason. Polluting the polls: when citizens should not vote. The Australian Journal of Philosophy, 87.2 (2009):1-18.
Brettschneider, Corey. Democratic Rights. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. Print.
Caplan, Bryan. The Myth of the Rational Voter. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. Print.
Citizen Capitalism. It is illegal not to vote. 2011. Web.
Gaus, Gerald F. Contemporary Theories of Liberalism. London: Sage Publications, 2003. Print.
Kanazawa, Satoshi. Why do people vote?, 2009. Web.
Voting Required, n.d. Web.
Weiner, Eric. You must vote. It’s the law, 2004. Web.
Why should young citizens vote?, n.d. Web.