I’m told that David Winnick, MP would like to see compulsory voting introduced in the UK. I’m afraid I find his arguments absurd.
He proposes that you would not have to actually vote for any of the candidates, but if you don’t, you should register your abstention. What difference would it make to be able to say that so many voters abstained by ticking a box instead of by not ticking a box beats me.
He makes comparison to paying taxes, which is compulsory as well. But the money raised from taxation is used, partly at least, for improving your living standard. Having to go to a poll station when you don’t intend to vote for anybody is just a meaningless nuisance.
But the most bizarre argument is the idea that if you force people to vote, they will become interested and involved. As if compulsory school attendance turned all pupils into dedicated scholars. As if by making a law that everybody must visit at least one sports competition each year you would turn couch potatoes into fitness centre frequenters.
Human psyche does not work like that. By forcing somebody to do what he does not want to do you will not make him want more of it. You will probably make him loathe it even more. But it is sometimes difficult to explain to an enthusiast that try as he might, some people will simply never be interested in the object of his enthusiasm.
That said, if you force people to attend at a polling station, chances are many would actually make their cross next to some candidate. That would not mean a more engaged nation. What it would mean is politicians claiming more ‘support’ than they really have.
Do I hear a distant echo of the 99% support Communist parties used to get in the former Soviet bloc – where of course voting was compulsory?
(Disclaimer: I did vote both into the EU and in the referendum last year. That does not mean I felt any ‘civic duty’ to do so.)