Living in a country where mandatory voting exists and experiencing the results in another without mandatory, I'm wondering:

What are the advantages and disadvantages of mandatory voting?

  • 1
    @KevinPeno At the same time, if it is open ended, then it is not constructive.
    – jrg
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 22:41
  • 3
    @Jrg: I don't think this question is too open ended
    – Casebash
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 1:04
  • 2
    @Casebash it leans dangerously close to a list question. However, jkor has managed to get a good answer in on this one.
    – jrg
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 1:08
  • @jrg: I think this issue deserves to be discussed on Meta: meta.politics.stackexchange.com/questions/24/…
    – Casebash
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 1:21
  • @Casebash and I have tossed an answer in the ring.
    – jrg
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 2:02

8 Answers 8


There a few things that come to mind.

  1. The votes are a representative sample of the whole population, not just the people who are active enough to want to vote.
  2. Because everyone has to vote, the whole country may become more politically literate and they might actually learn what their positions on different issues are, allowing them to make very informed decisions about their choice.


  1. If Advantage 2 does not happen, the (majority/ large minority?) of people who vote might not actually know what the people running stand for, and because they have to vote, they must choose a candidate. This could have the effect of swaying the vote to the candidate that is worse in the long run. Although, that is all hypothetical, it might not happen.
  2. A possible result of Advantage 2 is that the country may become more politically divided much quicker. I know that the United States has started to become very politically divided, and I feel that it is very possible that it may have happened faster if everyone was very strong in knowing how they stand on every issue.
  • 8
    When the voting is free and secret, people who don't care about politics have the option to vote invalid. This, of course, is under the premise that invalid votes are counted as invalid. Many pseudo-democracies with mandatory voting count invalid votes as votes for the current ruling party.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 13:48


  • Legitimacy

One of the major issues raised by people who are for mandatory voting is legitimacy, the authority the elected candidate has over the governed people. However, not voting has the same effect of casting a blank or null vote, which renders the legitimacy arguement invalid.


  • You may obligate doing but not thinking.

The State can only control whether a person did or not vote, that's it. All the talk about the importance of dedicating part of your precious time to choose the best candidate is just invalid. How can you prevent people from voting to the most handsome candidate or picking any other meaningless criteria?

  • Better quality propaganda

If the number of people who vote are reduced to those who are interested, the candidates are going to make a better effort than repeating pretty words such as: education, jobs, health, etc. They may have to actually show how they intend to solve these problems and even adress sensible issues such as abortion and legalization of drugs.

  • Cost

Fewer people means less budget to organize the elections.

  • 2
    For me this is the best answer. I'd suggest explicitly writing "Disadvantages of..." otherwise it can be confusing.
    – Diego
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 20:33
  • 6
    "voting to the most handsome candidate" - That already happens, independently of mandatory voting :)
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 19:13
  1. Mandatory voting increases the impact of the moderate vote, as many moderates wouldn't bother to show up if it was optional. It also means that more effort is focused on getting moderates to swing over to your side, while in optional voting much of this effort is instead focused on ensuring your supporters turn up to vote (by demonising the opposition). It encourages the political parties to head towards the centre.

  2. There are frequent claims that poorer workers are afraid to leave work to go vote as they want to be seen as hard working.

  3. If someone doesn't want to vote, do they really care enough about the issues to have an informed opinion?

  • 4
    As for #2, those claims seem mostly BS for USA, since most states either have laws on the books about taking time off to vote, or extended polling hours that allow voting way outside the usual poor workers' hours, or voting by mail.
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 19:16
  • 7
    And, of course, you could vote on Saturday, like we do in Australia.
    – Mark Hurd
    Commented Jan 2, 2013 at 13:27
  • In last nights vote (UK leaving EU) it been very care that both sides were spending most effort to getting their people out to vote. The outcome may not have been the same with moderate vote,. Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 11:16

I think it's an absolute 'no-brainer'. Voting in a 'liberal democracy' should be mandatory, a responsibility of every citizen. Is it not rather hypocritical when someone who hasn't turned up to vote starts to complain about what the elected politicians are doing?
If people want to see real change in society, they need to engage more in political issues and mandatory voting would encourage a greater level of interest. Alongside this, basic politics should be taught in all schools as part of a compulsory life skills course. This isn't, of course, what many governments would want, as it is likely to result in greater public scrutiny of the workings of government and the parties in power being held more accountable for their actions.

  • 6
    How is it hypocritical when that person chose not to vote because they oppose the system itself? If I find it morally reprehensible that the majority physically forces its will on the rest of the populace and I abstain from voting for that purpose, then I'm before the fact declaring my disdain for all candidates and the system itself. When I later verbally voice my complaints, there is no hypocrisy.
    – Tyler
    Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 4:16
  • 1
    @Tyler, someone can still choose not to vote, as no one knows if they put a cross in the box, they are just forced to turn up. Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 11:19

I would be ok with mandatory voting if "non of the above" was an option and if the electoral college wasn't the actual group electing the president. Based on that premise, if enough voters selected the NOTA option, the parties would have to select new candidates. I personally wouldn't vote for any person as I believe that when you vote for someone for any office, you share responsibility for what they do while in office. I don't mind voting issues. The problem with the people who run for any office these days is that they are in it for personal gain, not for any good they could do as an elected official. If political office was an unpaid position and had no benefits to offer the elected (retirement, health care etc.) only those interested in making a difference might run. Of course I'm sure that they would still figure out a way to acquire some sort of personal gain. IMHO...

  • 2
    Although this may be a good argument against mandatory voting, I'm afraid that this post does not fully answer the question. Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 16:29

While my previous post might not have been a complete answer and by the way, I don't think there is a correct answer. If the voting population were required to vote, in order for that system to be fair and honest, the option for "none of the above" would have to be a part of that system. I also feel in our current system here in the US, any registered voter who doesn't vote should count as a vote for "non of the above". Why are we forced to choose between 2 candidates, neither of which are a good choice for the office of which they are running? If those running for any office don't receive a minimum percentage of the available votes, say for example (I'll keep this small scale) 100 voters are registered, and each candidate receives 25 or less votes, the election would be void, and new candidates selected. Yes I know this would never happen, but this would be a fair system. None of you can honestly tell me you are happy about our choices for president, so why do we have to chose the lesser of 2 evils?


Mandatory voting becomes a nightmare for unpopular minorities if voting is not secret.

The anecdote I read was from before the days before the WWW, but a fellow of a certain historically-persecuted minority lamented that he would rather not be eligible to vote than be obligated to vote when the ballot was not secret. It invariably happened that whichever side did not get his vote would come around and beat him up.


Populist, leftist parties in countries with low levels of education love the mandatory voting system because it makes available to them masses of gullible, easily manipulated citizens who will in effect sell their votes for very little in return. A tee-shirt is enough. This is the case of Brazil. Moreover, such a system makes possible election based on name recognition only, thus aiding the candidacies of show-business personalities. In the last congressional election in Brazil (where all candidates run state-wide rather than in electoral districts) the candidate who received the most votes in the state of Sao Paulo was a television clown.

  • 5
    Since when has populism been the sole purview of leftists? Ever listen to Conservative talk radio in the US? Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 16:59
  • And then the educated people of one such countries vote for a man that is hand in hand with racket schemes who waged a political campaign based in the most outrageous fakenews. Which isn't even atypical; the two best educational systems of the world, in the 1930s, were those of Japan and Germany. Formal education is not political education, and conversely. The amount of college educated political illiterates is awesome. Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 22:48

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