Some countries have mandatory voting laws and whenever we have an election in North America, someone always brings up the subject of whether we should follow the example of countries such as Australia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and about eight others that actually enforce such laws.
Canadians and Americans have so far shown no significant interest in passing mandatory voting laws. The suggestion is usually an extreme reaction by those who have some inordinate concern about the lack of voter participation.
The most recent Eye on a Crazy Planet poll shows readers are opposed to mandatory voting laws by a 2.5 to 1 ratio.
As the recent municipal election in Toronto has taught us, when the election is interesting, voters will turn out. Although even in a very contentious, controversial election such as that, there was still less than 60% voter turnout.
But the fact remains that while voting is a citizen's right in a free country, so is not voting. It's a statement, and it shouldn't require citizens to be forced by the state to inconvenience themselves by appearing at a polling station to declare their lack of interest in voting in a particular election.
There are elections in which I haven't voted. It was my way of saying "all these candidates are a bunch of jerks and I don't want to participate in any of them getting power."
And frankly, low voter participation never bothered me. Why is it that some people derive some sense of satisfaction knowing that people who have no interest and little knowledge of public affairs or current events have selected those who make the choices that will affect society at large?
We're probably better off that lots of people aren't interested enough in the political system to vote. What would happen if these people who lack either the interest, knowledge, or motivation to exercise their right to their democratic franchise were compelled to use it. Would we have better leaders, or leaders chosen by an even less informed segment of society?
As far as I'm concerned, our system is working fine. I may not agree with the outcome of every election, but I am comfortable in knowing that people are voting out of choice and not compulsion.