Mandatory Voting in Canada

Canada, like many developed countries, has fallen victim to a pattern of disregard towards voting. In the 2011 federal election only 14 of the 24 million registered voters (61%) actually cast a ballot. These numbers are even worse at the provincial level, where the 2011 Ontario General Election saw a 49% voter turnout.

It is extremely sad to see something as fundamental to a democracy as voting being disregarded by so many people. Unfortunately none of the measures currently being employed to attract voters seem to stimulate any meaningful upturn in voter turnout.

I believe that the rights afforded to Canadian Citizens (and the citizens of other democracies) also come with responsibilities. This means that in a free and democratic society like Canada, the right to vote also comes with the responsibility to vote.

While there are Canadians that will tell you that the right to vote also affords them the right not to vote, they are failing to comprehend the true nature of the issue. While you are afforded the right not to vote, it is the right not to be forced to vote for a candidate or party, not to right to ignore the electoral system altogether. In Canada, this right comes in the form of being able to spoil or decline your ballot. By spoiling or declining your ballot you are choosing to not vote for any of the parties and candidates running, indicating your disapproval of the the available candidate and party choices while still participating in the election process. By making it mandatory for all Canadian Citizens to vote you are merely asking citizens to turn up at a voting station, around once every 5 years, to make a mark on a sheet of paper.

A perfect example of a country that has gone down the road of mandatory voting is Australia. After their introduction of mandatory voting their voter turnout levels jumped from ~60% to well over 90%. Australia also has a fine for Citizens that either fail to register to vote, and/or fail or go out and vote on election day. While this might seem harsh considering people might be away on holiday or a business trip, or working on election day, you have to consider all of the methods of voting made available to Canadians already. With weeks of advanced polling stations and mail-in voting available there is no excuse for not being able to cast a ballot in some form.

So while many people will claim that they have the right not to vote (which they still would) there is a moral obligation on citizens that the least they can do with their voting power, when so many around the world are not afforded that luxury, is turn up at a polling station on election day.


Hayward Peirce Written by:

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