Discussions on the ethics of voting generally divide the normative landscape into two distinct conceptions of citizenship: The Republican/Participative model presupposes an ideal of civic virtue that requires active political engagement-- of which voting is key. The liberal model of citizenship presupposes a less demanding ideal of civic virtue, which leaves the individual free to decide whether to contribute to the common good politically or simply by respecting the law. In this project, I provide a justification of the moral duty to vote without basing my arguments on classic, republican conceptions of democracy. However, I deviate from the accepted liberal view on voting. Prevalent liberal approaches often reject the moral obligatoriness of voting, they only see voting as a right and a freedom. My exploration of voting as a fundamental civic act revitalizes a concern with political participation while maintaining a realistic view of human nature--one that doesn’t expect citizens to be relentless “political animals.”
The project's empirical part consists of several case studies of compulsory voting schemes including Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, and Ecuador; as well as countries that used to have compulsory voting such as Chile and Venezuela, which make for good examples to compare the effects of compulsory voting laws. Central questions in this section are: Do countries where voting is compulsory evince higher turnout levels at elections? Do voters vote with more information than in voluntary systems, or do they vote carelessly just to 'get government off their backs'? Do compulsory voting laws correlate with higher political responsiveness and/or equality? Do compulsory voting laws solidify a sense of civic duty or a sense of compulsion?