Work in Progress

 

  On The Ethics and Practice of a Duty to Vote

Ongoing book project

Received wisdom in most democracies is that voting should be seen as a political freedom that citizens have a right to exercise or not to exercise. But would liberal democracies be any less liberal if voting were seen as a duty? My book proposes that we have a duty to vote well –with knowledge -- and that this duty is not especially burdensome. It is one among many instantiations of a natural duty to promote and support just institutions. Thus, the duty to vote is not inspired on the civic humanist/republican perspective that obligations derived from citizenship may supersede individual freedoms; as it only demands episodic political engagement as morally obligatory. My arguments link justice with democratic epistemic virtues to ground the validity of the obligation to cast a ballot
  

The project's descriptive/empirical part consists of several case studies of compulsory voting schemes including Belgium, Argentina, Uruguay, and Australia; as well as countries that used to have compulsory voting such as Chile and The Netherlands, which make for good examples to compare the effects different voting systems. Compulsory voting is related to the philosophical question about whether there is a duty to vote for an obvious reason: Moral duties can also be legal duties. If voting were to be seen as a moral duty, should it also be legally enforced via mandatory voting rules? Many moral duties are not legally compelling. An example is the duty to give to charity. Should the duty to vote be left to the moral judgement of the individual;  or should it be backed by the force of the law? And if so, how harshly? In other words, what penalties would be ethically acceptable for nonvoters? Other 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 resentment fueled by compulsion?