Debating compulsory voting in Parliament Week

The Palace of Westminster by Diliff Creative Commons Share Alike 2.5

Do you think that voting should be compulsory?

Does individual freedom to decide whether or not to vote trump a responsibility to society to vote in elections? Does the apathy of young people mean that they in particular need the push of voting being compulsory to push them into participating? These were the issues iDebate’s World Debate Clubs have been grappling with this week.

We have been looking at this topic because this week (13th to 19th November) is Parliament Week where there are all sorts of events promoting democracy, and educating about democracy. Our participation has been to organise debates on this one topic ‘This House believes voting should be compulsory’ (simplified for newer clubs) across a number of our clubs.

And getting into the spirit of the theme we are doing some compulsory voting of our own by having the participants in our clubs vote before and after the debate to give their views on the motion. We wanted to know whether young people would swayed one way or the other so have been having two votes per debate – one at the beginning of the session when the vote is revealed and a second at the end.

So what were the results? 

Unfortunately, only around half our clubs (7) participated, and a couple forgot to have votes… oops! None the less where things did go without such hiccups there were some results.

Having allowed a middle ground unsurprisingly there was a general movement away from ‘undecided/don’t know’ – the total dropped from 21 to 13. There was an increase in the for site by two and the against side by 6 clearly implying when presented with the arguments our young participants moved against compulsory voting.

However, that does not tell the whole story as there were a couple of cases of people moving in ways that contradict this; at Queens Park Community School there were only three voters. But they changed from 1 undecided 2 against to one each way and one undecided. At the same time there were two debates where no one changed position.