Voting, Rights & Compulsion

Stream: Panel 21 - Human Rights & Democracy: The Role of Courts, Parliaments and Electoral Systems in Enforcing Human Rights 
Date: Monday, 26 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


In this paper, I examine the benefits to democratic legitimacy conferred by compulsory voting regimes, and question the degree to which these benefits in fact arise from the fact of compulsion, rather than from other aspects of institutional practice which occur (in a jurisdiction like Australia) concurrently with it. In particular, I argue that a significant amount of the benefit of compulsory voting comes not from the fact of voting being compulsory, but from the infrastructure which is required to reasonably support a compulsory voting system. Where this is the case, it is the provision of sufficient voting infrastructure that generates the democratic advantages appealed to by proponents of compulsory voting, and this infrastructure is positive independently of compulsion. I explore whether compulsory voting is a) necessary for, or b) the best way to achieve, the desired outcomes of widespread participation and resulting legitimacy in democratic outcomes. I claim that we can achieve these outcomes without compulsion, and discuss whether we should attempt to do so.


Nicholas Munn (Presenter), University of Waikato
Nick Munn is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Waikato, in Hamilton, New Zealand, where he has worked since 2012. He completed his PhD through the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE) at the University of Melbourne in 2010. His primary research focus is political inclusion in liberal democratic states, and he has recently published articles on this subject in Democratization, Social Theory and Practice, and the Journal of Youth Studies.