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The ISSUE: Should voting be made compulsory?
10:00am Monday 7th May 2012 in Columns
'NO': Marcus Ferrar, Summertown resident I have just voted in the Oxford City Council elections.
Outside the polling station were two party volunteers and inside four officials sat at desks. But apart from my wife and I, there were no voters.
It seemed a lot of effort for not much response.
So should one force people to vote? Definitely not, in my view.
I remember election day in Communist East Berlin when I was posted there as a Reuters correspondent.
Military bands paraded through the streets at 6am to rouse the voters.
The whole Communist Party apparatus was mobilised to get citizens into the polling booths. If you resisted, you were branded an enemy of the people and life became very difficult.
But there was no real political choice. If you didn’t mark your ballot paper, that counted as a vote for the Communists.
Few people dared to retire behind curtains to vote in secrecy. So obligatory voting did nothing to improve the people’s lot and it did nothing to legitimise the regime.
In Switzerland on the other hand, nobody has to vote.
Turnouts are often below 50 per cent. But that doesn’t mean people neglect their democratic rights.
Swiss are constantly voting – up to six times a year, on issues as well as politicians.
From time to time they don’t bother. Yet the country is governed well and people are well-off.
Compulsory voting doesn’t lead to better government, and a country can be well ruled even if voters don’t always turn out. Don’t force people to participate.
'YES': Gordon Roper, Blackbird Leys Parish Council chairman I think voting should be compulsory, because everyone then has a say about who they want to be in parliament and choose whoever they want to run the country, the county and the city.
If everybody has voted and the candidates they voted for don’t do their wishes or make a mess of it then the people can do something about it the next time they vote.
If they don’t vote, people can’t complain about how the country is run.
You’ve got the blues, the yellows, the greens and the independents – surely there must be one party that people can turn around and say “they must be able to do a good job”.
If it was compulsory to vote there would be a better turnout than there is now.
The voter turnout these days really is a bit of a scandal.
Surely people can spend 10 minutes maximum to vote?
A lot of the political parties go around and offer lifts to the polling stations to people who want to vote and they can post their votes too.
I always vote myself – I’m not saying I always make the right decision, but you learn by experience.
We are lucky to be able to have a vote – take some of those countries where they can’t vote and they’ve got dictatorships, we’ve never had that.
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