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Acta Politica

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 23–39 | Cite as

Why Compulsory Voting Can Enhance Democracy

  • Bart Engelen
Original Article

Abstract

Even though more than half of all citizens in the world are currently able to exercise the right to elect their leaders, many of them choose not to vote. This article considers the role of compulsory voting in order to enhance the democratic values of political participation and equality. Raising turnout considerably, it is an effective instrument to motivate citizens to express their voice in public life, thereby ensuring that their concerns will be heeded. Opponents of compulsory voting, however, argue that it is undesirable because it violates the value of personal liberty and drags uninterested citizens to the polls. This article tries to rebut these arguments and challenge their underlying concept of democracy. As compulsory voting sends the message that every vote matters, it is able to restore rather than harm democracy and its values.

Keywords

compulsory turnout compulsory voting political participation turnout political equality 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The author acknowledges financial support for this research by the Fund for Scientific Research – Flanders (Belgium). Further, the author thanks Yvonne Denier, Sylvie Loriaux, Thomas Nys, Joris Van Damme, Professor Antoon Vandevelde and an anonymous referee of this journal for their comments on an earlier version. Of course, any remaining flaws or errors are my own.

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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bart Engelen
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Assistant of the Fund for Scientific Research – Flanders (Belgium), Centre for Economics and Ethics – Institute of Philosophy (K.U.Leuven), Centre for Economics and Ethics – K.U.LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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