Should voting be compulsory?

Should voting be compulsory?

R S Deshpande, Director, ISEC: “The age group of people who were standing in the queue to vote was surprisingly young. If this is any indicator, then mandatory voting may not be required in the future. But for now, let us try it out”

Poor response coupled with apathy among citizens towards voting to choose their representative at the recently concluded BBMP elections have raised questions over the “duty” of every citizen to vote.
While some believe that voting, if made compulsory, will remind the people of not taking democracy for granted, others opine that a clause of mandatory voting will destroy the very fabric of democracy.

The so called young Turk from the Congress party, MLA Krishna Byregowda, is one such politician who believes that mandatory voting system will be against the very meaning of democracy. “Forget the question of whether the mandatory voting system is viable. Compelling people to vote would definitely set a wrong precedent in a governance system such as ours,” he said.

“Citizens seem to be disenchanted with the political system. We need to understand this and address such issues rather than making voting compulsory,” he said. The MLA from Byatarayanapura states that there needs to be some motivation for the voters to exercise their rights. “Why don’t we look at the voters list as an example. The number of missing names, deletion and other mistakes seen over the past three elections is enormous. The government needs to examine these issues and then consider mandatory voting,” he said.

But R S Deshpande, Director, Indian Institute of Social and Economic Change , hopes that mandatory voting system will induce a positive response from voters. “At least they will not take democracy for granted,” he said.

He believed that the apathy shown by voters is a sign of them taking democracy lightly. “The excuses given by people of heavy rush at the polling stations, too far away from their homes are all flimsy and baseless. They are trying to avoid their responsibility,” believed Deshpande.

Having heard two sides of the same issue, should a citizen feel that it is his  “right to vote” or does he now have to feel that it is his “duty to vote”? They are two sides to the same coin. One can only hope that in the bargain to ensure that participatory democracy does not lose its value, the State as an enforcing agency does not trample upon the rights of a citizen. A fine balance needs to be maintained, after all democracy is of the people, by the people, for the people.

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