Governance · Law · Politics · Public Policy

Compulsory Voting in India: A Good Idea?

An Election is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. Elections[1] may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the executive and judiciary, and for regional and local government. This process is also used in many other private and business organizations, from clubs to voluntary associations and corporations.

Importance of Elections in India

The importance of elections in India—and for that matter, in any democracy—is as follows:

Choice of leadership: Elections provide a way for the citizens of India to choose their leaders. They do so by casting their vote in favour of the candidate or party whose views appeal to them. This ensures that the will of the people is reflected in the elected candidates.

Change of leadership: Elections in India are also a platform for the public to voice their resentment against a ruling party. By voting for other parties and helping elect a different government, citizens demonstrate that they possess ultimate authority.

Political participation: Elections open the door for new issues to be raised in public. If a citizen of India wishes to introduce reforms that are not the agenda of any of the parties, he or she is free to contest the elections either independently or by forming a new political party.

Self-corrective system: Because elections are a regular exercise, occurring every five years in India, the ruling parties are kept in check and made to consider the demands of the public.

Voting is a method for a group such as a meeting or an electorate to make a decision or express an opinion……

Why Voting is Important[2]?

Voting in India is a Constitutional right if one is a citizen over 18 years of age[3]. However, that also makes it optional. It has been a tendency among voters, especially in the urban areas, to treat the voting day as a day of rest. While skipping the vote may not seem to cause any harm, the long-term consequences are disastrous.

  • Local Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and State Referendums– Vote for President may be a grain of sand on the beach, but local votes can be rocks in a bucket. Voting for or against Zoo funding, the Governor, School Board appointments, Vouchers, the Definition of Marriage, or any other variety of ballot initiatives- local elections are the ones that have the most significant impact on peoples life. The state level is where the decisions are made on how to fund public education. The state level is where laws are made and created regarding whom and when you can marry. We even get to elect whether or not to keep our judges! Many of these elections are won or lost by a few hundred votes, and we have the opportunity to voice our opinion. In these elections our vote could possibly be the deciding vote. That’s exciting citizens that is the opportunity to make real and immediate change. How often do we get that chance?
  • Voting is DemocracyVoting isn’t just important to Democracy. Voting is Democracy. You can’t have a successfully run democratic system without the support and votes of the citizens.  The definition of a democracy even has voting in it.  A democracy is a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.  That is what our fore fathers envisioned for our country.
  • Right to Enjoy-Voting rights at one point were only given to the rich land owners, and then it was amended and given to men even if they didn’t own property.  Now women can vote and the voting age is 18.  All these things were done to get more people voting.  These things would never have happened if voting was not important.  In the last election fifty percent of eligible voters voted.  It was the highest it’s been for a long time.  It’s good to see a high rate of voting, that means people are doing their part in keeping our democracy alive.  Without the votes of the people our democracy would expire.  It would turn into a country run by the people in the white house, senate, congress, and special interest groups.  That wouldn’t make people happy.  In fact our government would become a dictatorship rather than a democracy.  Nobody wants to live in a place run where your thoughts and opinions don’t matter.
  • Education-Voting makes people curious, they go on line, research different candidates and issues, and learn about both sides of arguments and makes educated decisions about the standing representatives. Elections bring important issues out into the light and make people eager to discuss upon it. Even if we’re not voting on something in particular everything becomes fair debate around election time, just thinking about things is important sometimes, and elections make us think accordingly.
  • Express Opinions-Voting gives the ability for people to express their opinions about the government. The power lies in our hands when we vote.  We are given a really great opportunity that many people don’t take advantage of.  We are given the opportunity to change what we don’t like and bring about something you do like.  Every vote reassures our democracy and makes it stronger. We can’t allow for it to weaken and disintegrate.  I bet many people couldn’t even imagine living in a place where the people’s opinion doesn’t matter.
  • Obligation and a Peaceful Transition of Power- voting is like a responsibility. We often times heard the saying “If you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain.” While that sounds witty, and at times I’m sure people wish it were true, the fact is that we all have the right to complain whether we vote or not. Voting is not a requirement, but it is a responsibility. It’s an obligation. It’s part of a bigger picture.

  Why every citizen of India must cast his or her vote?

  • Agent of change: Voting is the agent of change. If the people of India think that the ruling government is not performing its duties satisfactorily, they can show it the door by voting against it[4]. Refraining from doing so can result in the same party, or a worse one, being elected for the next five years.
  • Every vote counts: In a country so populous, a voter might feel that a single vote does not make any difference. However, the balance tilts when this becomes a national attitude and lakhs—perhaps crores—of votes are not cast. By casting their vote, citizens may not necessarily be able to get the best candidate elected—politics being what it is—but by avoiding casting their vote they improve the chances of the unsuitable ones winning the polls. At the end, it is only the voter who has to suffer through poor governance.
  • Get heard: Voting offers every citizen a medium of expression. In a country as vast and diverse as ours, different regions have different concerns and priorities. The process of voting allows every citizen to have a say in what should constitute the matters of importance by voting for the candidate he or she deems fit for the purpose. While it is true that the outcome of elections is seldom predictable, by not casting one’s vote, that citizen is giving up on the chance of getting heard.
  • Voting as a responsibility: Voting is as much a responsibility as it is a right. The whole edifice of Indian democracy is built on the foundation of voting. If citizens are not careful about casting their vote—or worse, skip their vote altogether—it will jeopardize the existence of our democratic Republic.
  • Voting as an honour: Finally, voting is an honour conferred on the citizens by the founding fathers. By exercising their right to vote, citizens demonstrate their respect for the history of the country.

Suggestions:

  1. We need to make voting mandatory as this ensures that people learn about their position with respect to issues such as social change, empowerment, financial policies and other aspects that are of critical importance for national growth and development.
  2. Indian voters need to become more involved in the electoral process. Currently, there are gaps between the urban and rural areas of India when it comes to critical issues such as growth and development. Encouraging Indians to vote is not enough. Electoral politics has become rampant because only a cross section of the population bothers to vote. This can change if voting is made compulsory.
  3. Crores of money is wasted during every election and yet the benefit out of the system of election is hardly reached. And when a party comes to power it is found to be not one of the most liked parties of the country. People openly criticize the government when things go wrong but isn’t it us who brought them to power; either by our votes or by not casting votes. They come to power by only 20 to 30 percent of votes simply because a larger population of the country doesn’t vote at all. If you want change to happen in the system, you have to contribute your part to the mission that could bring change and voting is one such contribution.
  4. People easily neglect elections since they believe all parties are corrupt at the end of the day and whoever comes to power will continue with the same process of corruption and selfish government. This is not true. It is not power that makes a person corrupt but giving power to a corrupt person that troubles the entire system and its people. It is high time that voting should be made compulsory in India. It is only when everyone castes votes, politicians will come to know of the real power of common man. We complain about the fact that a larger proportion of politicians in India have criminal charges against them and those are not the charges that were put on them after they came into power. It is clear that a wrong and undeserving person was voted to the authoritative post. Who do you think is responsible for this? It is none other than the common people of India who neglect their right to vote and choose the right person who can run the government in the right way.
  5. Australia is one of 10 countries across the globe which mandates that voting is compulsory. It is doing well on the economic front. Countries like the island nation of Singapore are forging ahead because all its citizens are mandated by law to cast their votes.
  6. If India wants to rival the growth and development of such countries, the legislators and the bureaucrats must summon the courage to initiate processes for making voting mandatory.

Conclusion

Not having enough time to vote is cited as one of the most common excuses cited by those who do not bother going to the polls. If Indian voters are encouraged to exercise their right to vote, strength in numbers can eliminate electoral malpractices. If the entire nation judges the performance of the regional or central government, elections will reflect the true hopes and aspirations of the Indian population.

Voting should be made compulsory. Even if it is not a compulsion, it is the duty of every citizen of the country to cast their right to vote.

Before making the voting a compulsion, we definitely need to analyse the reason for which we are not getting the citizens out of their houses to decide the most important issue in the country? Despite the democracy, why are people so ignorant regarding casting their vote?

Reason is very much clear that people no more believe in any of the contesting candidates. The politics has become a mean game without any sort of healthy and appreciable moves. It is very important to have the NOTA, the no confidence note in the electoral selection process, so that people, who do not want to choose any candidate, should have the power to announce that clearly. Only with such an option, it would be just to make voting compulsory.

Creating awareness amongst people for voting is not the way to ensure that everyone castes their votes. Only the learnt and socially aware citizens shall follow the norm but what about the larger proportion of poor and illiterate people of the nation? There are instances and cases where it is said that people of certain region or religion are prevented from reaching the voting booths by the party people. Especially in rural areas this kind of crimes might be highly in practice and hence the undeserving criminals are voted to power. If voting is made compulsory these kinds of nasty practices can be stopped and a change could be brought in the existing form of government.

Still today only half of all voters take part in voting day.  Many people are angry with the government and don’t care to vote.  Others despise the candidates or don’t believe their vote counts, and don’t have interest in the issues that are up for vote.  No matter what their reasons are they need to vote.  You can’t bicker about the government when you don’t go out and vote and try and change what you are angry about.  It’s you right as an American and it should be taken advantage of.

Is there any way to get more people to vote?  I think we should do something to get more people voting.  We should make it a law.  We wouldn’t have a problem then.  Every one would vote.  If they didn’t they would get in trouble.  We could also give benefits to the people who do vote.  They could be given a bonus on their tax returns or something.  It could act as some kind of tax right off, like they do to people who give money to charity.  There could also be better representation of things.  Give more of a broad spectrum of different parties for people to be represented by.  That could allow for people to feel like they are represented more accurately and maybe get people more excited to vote.

 Democracy is not possible without the peoples’ vote.  It is has been important since our government was founded and it always will be, as long as people do their duty by taking part in the single and easy process of registering to vote and voting.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Election accessed on 12-02-2015

[2] http://www.askyourdadblog.com/, Why Vote, By Jhon Kinnear, accessed on 12-02-15

[3] http://www.elections.in/, why should we vote, accessed on 12-02-15

[4] Ibid

About the Author

Megha ShankarMegha Shankar is a Final Year Law Student, pursuing B.A. LL.B. (Five-Year Integrated Course) from Faculty of Law, Mody University of Science & Technology, Rajasthan. She is inclined towards writing and research. Besides that, she loves blogging and runs her own blog. Currently, she is interning with the Model Governance Foundation.

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