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This is somehow a followup of this answer about vote meaningfulness.

According to this article, "Overall, people living in countries with more liberal policies reported higher life satisfaction than those in countries with less liberal policies, irrespective of their own political views". So, I will define democracy quality to how liberal that democracy is.

By liberal, I am referring to the definition from Wikipedia:

[...] fair, free, and competitive elections between multiple distinct political parties, a separation of powers into different branches of government, the rule of law in everyday life as part of an open society, and the equal protection of human rights, civil rights, civil liberties, and political freedoms for all people.

I am also assuming a country with a fair amount of liberal democracy (like in most Western countries): multiple political parties, separation of powers, protection of human rights. So, dictatorships are ruled out.

To make things even more specific, I am talking only about countries that are considered liberal democracies according to this source.

My assumption is that higher vote turnout correlates to the quality (as defined above) of the democracy. So, compulsory voting correlates to a high quality democracy.

I have an example from Romania:

A list of countries using compulsory voting can be found here.

Question: can one assume that compulsory voting within a republic democracy is correlated with high quality democracy? Or are there too much factors to be taken into account to obtain a high quality democracy?

[EDIT] I will try to improve the question by providing more examples. Using information from here:

  • Liechtenstein, Cyprus and Belgium have a form of compulsory voting and all seem to have a balanced Legislative
  • Romania, Bulgaria and Albania do not have compulsory voting , and thus lower voter turnout and have polarized Legislative (one big party dominates the Parliament).

I could not find a top dealing with "how liberal a democracy is", but I could find statistics for European Union. The first three are better when it comes to freedom of the press, economic freedom and perception of corruption.

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    Does liberal here refer to the classical meaning of liberal(liberty loving) as opposed to the current popular meaning(progressive) – SoylentGray Feb 22 '17 at 17:16
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    North Korea has compulsory voting. – endolith Feb 22 '17 at 17:16
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    @endolith - Yes, indeed. Big exception to my assumed correlation. I will have to add another criteria for the correlation to make sense. – Alexei Feb 22 '17 at 17:27
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    also compulsory voting kinda flies in the face of political freedom and civil liberties. – SoylentGray Feb 22 '17 at 17:30
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    I don't see why it would. Compulsory voting doesn't improve the choices voters are given. We think of democracy far, far too narrowly. Voters need meaningful choices that appeal to them. If voter turnout is low, we shouldn't be forcing voters to the polls, we should seek to reengineer our electoral system to produce more attractive choices. The only thing that compulsory voting is sure to do is breed voter resentment. – J Doe Feb 22 '17 at 18:48
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Some jurisdictions do not recognize the results of (certain kinds of) elections if too few voters participate. In these jurisdictions, voting is not compulsory; but not voting can affect the result.

There have been situations where the refusal of a large portion of the population to vote invalidated elections. Such non- compulsory voting laws played a large part in the liberalization of Poland in the late-1980s, and helped end the Cold War.

In other countries, similar non- compulsory election laws can help ensure that tax referendums are voted on by a large fraction of the populace. This prevents tiny minorities from holding quiet elections to impose taxes. It increases the legitimacy of those taxes that are successfully imposed.

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Suppose we draw a numbered line, the numbers representing the number of citizens in a nation. On the right side is the number of citizens, and we can put a dot there representing voter compulsion under which that number would also be the number of voters, M. Just to the right of the middle somewhere, we might draw a dot representing the number of eligible voters who want to vote, V. Somewhere to the left of that dot, we draw a dot representing the number of eligible voters who successfully vote and have their votes counted, C. Voter suppression equals V - C.

If we renumber the line, but keep the dots right where they are, and make C < 0, V = 0, and 0 < M, it allows thinking of voter compulsion as sort of inverse function of voter suppression.


A partial and inductive answer is implied by a corollary question: are democratic republics made better by aggressive voter suppression?

If voter suppression makes democracies better, then compulsory voting, (with zero voter suppression by default), would therefore tend to make them worse.

If voter suppression makes democracies worse, then compulsory voting, (with zero voter suppression by default), would therefore tend to make them better, because:

  1. Those democracies would be free of that particular crime (voter suppression) and its many consequent national injuries.
  2. The resultant vote would more completely reflect the will of the nation's voters in general, without being skewed by the will of any oppressive factions.

The above induction leaves out the possibility that the national gains made from the no longer suppressed voters (V - C) might not be offset by the remainder of citizens (M - V) who never voted being either dangerously ignorant or froward and voting accordingly.

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    Though it can be proven that A implies B, that does not imply that not A implies not B. – Drunk Cynic Feb 23 '17 at 3:00
  • @DrunkCynic, agreed, which is why it's labeled a partial and inductive sort of answer. – agc Feb 23 '17 at 3:05
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    @DrunkCynic - However, in propositional logic, according to this source: "It is the inference from the truth of "A implies B" the truth of "Not-B implies not-A", and conversely.". Of course, this is mathematics (logic), not politics. – Alexei Feb 23 '17 at 8:19
  • Silliness. "to prevent the coercion of some people coerce every one" There are reasonable arguments for compulsory voting, but this isn't one. – user9389 Feb 23 '17 at 17:54
  • @Alexei Valid points, though the rules of logical argument apply through out, particularly when you're making a logic based argument. In the last, it should be expected that those familiar with the application of logic will provide critical assessment. – Drunk Cynic Feb 23 '17 at 18:52
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Question: can one assume that compulsory voting within a republic democracy is correlated with high quality democracy?

One certainly can but in my view it wouldn't be wise.

The only safeguard to any democracy is the quality of its voters. Not the quantity of its voters. Conceptually, compelling people to do anything they don't otherwise wishing to do hasn't turned out to be large scale success. Obamacare being the latest example and I'm sure you can list out many more examples.

  • so you're suggesting that Germany is not a democracy? (or something along those lines) – Federico Feb 23 '17 at 16:17
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    Please clarify why merely choosing to vote makes a voter of quality. If a good democracy ought to be filtering for quality, by similar principles, it might justify limiting voting exclusively to those with PhDs, or successful in business, (perhaps having a certain minimum income), or those who have won awards and badges in their fields. – agc Feb 24 '17 at 14:17
  • @Federico I think he is suggesting that compulsory voting doesn't improve the quality of Germany's democracy. Germany has a decent quality democracy not because of compulsory voting but because of institutions that maintain the quality of its voters, in spite of compulsory voting. As I understand his argument. – J Doe Feb 24 '17 at 21:17
  • @JDoe Germany does not have cumpolsory voting, but it has compulsory health insurance, something that apparently is equally bad, given this answer. I was trying to understand what makes that bad. – Federico Feb 24 '17 at 21:46

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