Compulsory voting has received scholarly and public attention as a technique to mitigate some of the challenges of low voter turnout. It could help increase the diversity of voters to ensure that more people influence political policies. It would also ensure large voter turnout which would enable underrepresented groups to address their concerns and hold politicians accountable. It might appear to be forcing some people to do something they do not want, but some measures can be implemented to combat this perception. Voting in Jamaica should be made a compulsory duty since it would be beneficial for the citizens and the democratic system without infringing anyone’s rights.
Compulsory voting would assist the majority of Jamaican citizens who want to vote, but are unable due to some manageable inconveniences. In Jamaica, as much as 50% of eligible voters do not cast their ballots (Carter). While most people understand that they have a responsibility to vote, they still do not participate in this important process. Elliott found that the most popular reasons for not voting were being busy, conflicting schedules, and transportation issues (662). To solve these types of inconveniences and enable willing voters to vote, voting should be made compulsory which would increase the chances that they will prioritize it and make plans to mitigate the potential future inconveniences.
Despite the many benefits of voting, some Jamaicans do not think that it is their right and responsibility to vote. Even if the people do not feel like they should vote, making voting compulsory would nudge them to scrutinize politics which would increase their interest and willingness to participate to influence the outcomes (Elliott 657). Elliott argues that mandatory voter turnout for people who do not think that they should vote should be thought of as welcoming the people to conduct surveillance over the political decisions (Elliott 665). Thus, voting could be made compulsory to help people who are not interested in voting to gain some interest in politics.
Mandatory voting would limit the politicians’ ability to redesign policies in a manner that only benefits a few Jamaican citizens. Low voter turnout has been shown to contribute to the formation of policies that benefit the wealthy people at the expense of the majority of the citizens (Elliott 656). When there is a low voter turnout, it encourages political leaders to design policies that do not cater to most citizens which leads to social divisions and damages the economy in the long run (Moyo). Compulsory voting would increase people’s participation and mitigate these potential problems.
Mandatory voting would also enhance the make-up of the electorate and potentially influence the representation. Low turnout is associated with unequal representation of the minority groups in the government (Elliott 656). Moyo asserts that mandatory voting would increase political participation from minority groups. In Jamaica, the youth are more likely to experience voter apathy. By making voting mandatory, more youth would participate in the voting process (Carter). This would result in a change in the type of political leaders that are elected which would be beneficial for addressing the concerns of the minority groups such as the youth (Moyo). Therefore, mandatory voting would promote equal parliamentary representation for minority groups.
Compulsory voting in Jamaica would benefit the citizens in the long term and uphold the integrity of the government and political system without violating the people’s rights. Compulsory voting would force the people who want to vote to plan for it in advance and commit to it. For the people that are not interested in voting, it would nudge them to develop an interest in observing politics which would increase the surveillance on political decisions. Compulsory voting would also increase the people’s ability to influence the design of policies to ensure that they serve the interests of the majority. It would also help increase the minority representation in the voting process thus ensuring that their concerns are addressed.
Elliott, Kevin. “Aid For Our Purposes: Mandatory Voting as Precommitment and Nudge.” The Journal of Politics, 2017, vol.79, no.2, pp. 656-669.doi.org/10.1086/690711
Moyo, Dambisa. “Making Voting Mandatory in the U.S.” The New York Times, I5 Oct. 2019 www.nytimes.com/2019/10/15/opinion/united-states-voting-mandatory.html. Accessed June 14, 2020.
Carter, Jediael. “Why I didn’t Vote: Young people disclose what led them to stay away from polling booths”. Jamaica Observer, 27 Feb. 2016, http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Why-I-didn-t-vote_53061. Accessed June 14, 2020.