Republican Liberty and Compulsory Voting

MPIfG Discussion Paper No. 11/17

30 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2012

See all articles by Armin Schäfer

Armin Schäfer

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies

Date Written: November 1, 2011

Abstract

This paper starts from four observations: voter turnout is declining in established democracies; low turnout means socio-economically unequal turnout; compulsory voting is an effective means to increase turnout; even low-turnout countries, however, have neither introduced nor even contemplated a legal obligation to vote. A closer look at the arguments against compulsory voting shows that these draw on assumptions from liberal political theory, which defines freedom negatively as non-interference. This concept of freedom has been challenged by 'neo-republican' writers who, in the neo-Athenian tradition, understand freedom as 'sharing in self-government' and, in the neo-Roman, as 'non-domination.' Both strands of republicanism attach importance to political participation and, it will be argued, offer reasons to support compulsory voting. The purpose of this paper is to show that opponents to mandatory voting have to rely on liberal assumptions that have not remained uncontested and to outline a republican defense of equal participation.

Keywords: neo-republicanism, compulsory voting, liberty

Suggested Citation

Schäfer, Armin, Republican Liberty and Compulsory Voting (November 1, 2011). MPIfG Discussion Paper No. 11/17, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2018112 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2018112

Armin Schäfer (Contact Author)

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies ( email )

Paulstr. 3
50676 Koln
Germany

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