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Rhetoric and Electoral Reform: Politicising Compulsory Voting

Anthoula Malkopoulou
Lunds Universitet
Anthoula Malkopoulou
Lunds Universitet
Open Panel

Abstract

My paper will discuss the rhetorical link between compulsory voting and a number of democratic principles. Albeit mainly a subject of empirical research, the concern over voter apathy has led many democratic theorists worldwide to take a stand in favour of sanctioning electoral abstention. In particular, republican scholars argue that compulsory voting would maximize equality of political opportunity and ensure political inclusion (Hill 2002, Engelen 2007). Liberal theorists on the other hand respond that it would violate individual liberty and undermine democratic legitimacy, which for them consists of the voluntary and spontaneous nature of civic engagement (Lever 2008, 2009 Rovensky 2008). At the heart of this ongoing debate lie conflicting conceptualizations and different prioritizations of liberty, equality and legitimacy. For example, liberty is understood by opponents in its classical liberal sense, while supporters adopt a republican understanding of liberty as non-domination (Lardy 2004, Lacroix 2007). As a result, the argumentation developed in favour or against this political institution highlights a division that has strong conceptual and political overtones. The rhetorical analysis of the debate allows not only to identify and categorize the main issues of contention, but also to explain the political relevance and intellectual origin of each of the arguments.