Compulsory Voting: Elections, Not Referendums

12 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2011

See all articles by Graeme D. Orr

Graeme D. Orr

The University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law

Date Written: August 30, 2011


Intractable debate about compulsory voting is waged on an axis between the egalitarian-instrumental (it increases turnout) and the libertarian-deontological (there's a right not to vote). Scant attention has been paid to the underlying nature of the voting choice itself.

I argue that it is right to compel turnout at elections, but wrong to compel it at referendums. Electoral issues are multifarious, and government is for all: it is right that everyone's voice should be heard equally at election time. Referendums however are typically discrete topics, often of a legal form. It is wrong to demand that all citizens have an opinion on them.

Keywords: Compulsory Voting, Election Law, Referendums, Political Rights, Suffrage, Franchise

Suggested Citation

Orr, Graeme, Compulsory Voting: Elections, Not Referendums (August 30, 2011). Pandora's Box, Vol. 18, pp. 19-30, 2011, University of Queensland TC Beirne School of Law Research Paper No. 12-2, Available at SSRN:

Graeme Orr (Contact Author)

The University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law ( email )

The University of Queensland
St Lucia
4072 Brisbane, Queensland 4072

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