Legitimacy is a key factor for a stable government. The fewer people vote in general elections the fewer legitimacy does a government have, which can even lead to a fall of a country. So voting is a very crucial factor for the wellbeing of a country. However, most of us see how the turnout is going down every year, for example, the parliamentary elections in Cyprus; in 2011, the turnout was at 78.7% and in the elections of 2016 at 66.7% (Cyprus | International IDEA). This shows that people are going more rarely to vote nowadays then it was some years ago. That is why some countries have compulsory voting which helps the turnout not to go down. Compulsory voting should be legally required because the freedom not to vote might become the fall of a country, a high turnout is a core for a stable government.
The right not to vote is one of the civil liberties, so if it is removed, it will violate the civil liberties. However, if compulsory voting would be removed or not enforced anymore the turnout will go down very fast. This gives no legitimacy to the newly formed government and it can change the laws without even having the real right to pass new bills or change the constitution. A government has truly the right to change something, only when it has the majority of votes, so people can give their mandate to the newly formed government that gives true legitimacy to a government. Then almost anyone can withhold their support from one’s government because the government itself has committed treason (broken the law) by overturning the laws that made it legitimate, so it cannot be seen as a disloyal act, akin to treason (Greffenius). Moreover, an illegitimate government without the majority can easily become a lawless government.
Some will say even that the turnout increased that does not mean that the voters will be really participating in the democracy by informing themselves and making right choices. However, people will start voting and information will spread around, even if it is not something you read because you wanted to read about it, but we live in a world focused on technology, so advertisements are almost everywhere. A person can stumble upon things everywhere so it will inform people politically anyway over time. In the end, people will have a small knowledge about what they vote for in the future elections. In 2012 presidential elections in the USA, Barack Obama spent 52,006,072$ in ads for his campaign, so it is very likely that a person will stumble upon an ad during the campaign (Stampler).
Fig. 1. Infographic, Business Insider 5 November 2012, https://goo.gl/Ne6jWJ
In addition, it is said that many people do not vote because they do not support any of the candidates, but most of the people who abstain from voting don’t even look at the manifestos the parties offer and judge before even knowing many things they have to offer. “67% of people don’t read manifestos” (BMG Research Poll: Two-thirds of people do not read political manifestos – BMG Research). That means that 67% of people do not even clearly know what the party has to offer. So how can someone tell that they do not support anyone, which is why they do not go to vote when they do not even know what the party promised to do if it is elected? This is can only be seen as an excuse so people do not go to vote.
Compulsory voting takes a lot of time from the citizens away. “Suppose we force all 207 million eligible American citizens to vote…. Now suppose voting takes each citizen on average one hour, including time spent driving or walking back and forth to the polling station. Compulsory voting would thus cost 207 million hours of our time. This equivalent to 300 full average American lifetimes spent voting,… What other valuable things could Americans do in this time?” (Brennan and Hill 38). It is true that it takes more time and is more expensive, but this time spent on voting is very valuable, because you vote for your future and the future of your country, so this one hour is worth to spend on voting.
Because of the decline in turnout internationally, where there is no compulsory voting, we the people must start being more serious about voting. Voting must be taken seriously and not like “I don’t care who is going to win everyone is corrupt anyway.” “Low voter turnout is clearly a problem,” says Matthew Flinders is Founding Director of the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics at the University of Sheffield and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Governance and Public Policy at Murdoch University, Western Australia (Flinders). In conclusion, voting should be legally required, because it will strengthen the countries and build strong legitimate governments that the majority of people support.