Republican liberty and compulsory voting
This paper starts from four observations: (1) voter turnout is declining in established democracies; (2) low turnout means socio-economically unequal turnout; (3) compulsory voting is an effective means to increase turnout; (4) 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.
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