Now that the Election Commission has sent a reference to the Law Ministry with new proposals including compulsory voting, following Supreme Court’s order that steps be taken to legally bind all eligible voters in the country to exercise their right of franchise as early as possible and ensure that the winning candidate bags a true majority vote, time is certainly ripe to have a glance at the 31 countries with compulsory voting systems in place. Countries that have compulsory voting systems are Austria, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Fiji, France (senate only), Gabon, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, Nauru, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Switzerland (province of Schaffhausen), Thailand, Turkey and Uruguay. A study of the World Fact Book of the American Central Investigation Agency (CIA) and the July 4, 2005 edition of the prestigious British daily “The Guardian” reveals that of the 31 countries with compulsory voting system, around a dozen nations (and Schaffhausen, a province/canton of Switzerland) actually enforce it.
If an eligible voter does not attend polling in many of these countries, he or she may be subject to punitive measures by law.But again, people are only penalised practically in countries like Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Congo, Ecuador, Peru, Luxembourg, Singapore, Uruguay and the world’s smallest republic of Nauru. For those who don’t know, the Republic of Nauru is a rock island situated in the South Pacific that was annexed and claimed as a colony by the German Empire in the late 19th century. It is the world’s smallest Republic.
History tells that in 1777, 10 years before the American Constitution of 1787, the US state of Georgia had made it compulsory for every citizen to vote or pay a penalty of five pounds (not dollars). A reasonable excuse, however, was admissible.
Countries with compulsory voting generally hold elections on a Saturday or Sunday to ensure that working people can fulfill their duty to cast their vote, besides providing postal and pre-poll voting is provided to people who cannot vote on polling day.Moreover, mobile voting booths are also installed at old age homes and hospitals to cater for immobilized citizens in these nations.