Via Make My Vote Count I learn that The Hansard Society are launching a pamphlet on compulsory voting. In the British Journal of Political Science, Volume 29, 1999, pp205-216, Mark N. Franklin wrote that:
"My basic contention is simple: people vote in order to affect the output of government in ways that are meaningful to them. Low turnout thus reflects a paucity of choices or a lack of evident connection between electoral choice and policy change. Raising turnout by making it compulsory does not directly affect either of these critical variables but may mask their effects." â€”Mark N. Franklin, "Electoral Engineering and Cross-National Turnout Differences: What Role for Compulsory Voting?"
For me, compulsory voting has no place in the UK, partially for the reason above, but also as the administration would be expensive, and the result would be a turnout of people who couldn't be bothered otherwise.
Compulsory voting would increase the turnout of the ill-informed, hardly a good basis for a decision.
My preference for reform would be severalfold:
- Add a 'None of the above' or 'Reopen nominations' to the ballot in order to allow a distinction to be made between apathy and disillusionment.
- Make votes count, replace the 'First Past the Post' system which ensures that a Labour vote in Surrey, or a Conservative vote in Scotland is unlikely to bear fruit.
- Replace it with a 'Single Transferable Vote' system, which still has the constituency link, still allows people to vote for individuals (not lists), and avoids the problems involved with 'splitting the vote' when several stand against an unpopular candidate, who then wins because the opposition vote was split. E.g. With Neil Hamilton in 1997, the Lib-Dem and Labour candidates stood down to give Martin Bell a clear field. Though Hamilton was not re-elected it did remove choice from the electorate, and would have been unneccesary under STV.
- Moving toward 'STV' would allow several candidates for a particular party to stand in the same seat, allowing the electorate a true choice. I imagine that this would be rare for financial reasons, but would occur when there is a real split in the local party - thus providing a real electoral choice.