Chile’s Constitutional Court (TC) approved a new law that would make voter registration automatic and the act of voting itself voluntary on Thursday. The new law will add between 4.5 and 5 million new members to Chile’s voting population, in time for the October municipal elections. “This is a historic event,” Secretary General Cristián Larroulet told local press. “It is an important step in strengthening our democratic system and facilitating citizen participation in political decisions in our country.” Under Chile’s current system, registering to vote is a voluntary act, and once registered, voting is mandatory. Fines up to US$210 are imposed on those who are registered but don’t vote.
Lawmakers recognized the need for the reform in 2004, but this specific voting reform wasn’t brought up until 2009 under the Bachelet administration. The proposed law spent over a year bouncing around the government, with some speculating that certain Chilean political parties were afraid of the masses of new voters. After the Chilean Congress approved measure in December, the TC was the last possible roadblock before the bill could go into law.
Chile currently has 8.1 million registered voters, but more people die every year than register to vote, with only 10 percent of registered voters under the age of 30. The new voters will mostly be young and from adverse economic backgrounds.
Full Article: Constitutional Court approves Chile’s new voting laws.