Voting and the franchise

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Voting and the franchise

#1  Postby don't get me started » Nov 18, 2019 8:18 am

I was having a discussion with some mates about our various situations regarding voting and voting rights.
I’m a British citizen, but I have been resident in Japan for over 20 years so I have now lost my right to vote in any UK elections.

An American at the table has been resident in Japan for about the same duration as me. He keeps his right to vote, but he pointed out, he has to submit a tax return every year, even though he earns all of his income in Japan and pays no US taxes. He also pointed out that there is a fairly concerted effort to suppress votes in some parts of the US with restricted opening hours of polling stations, stringent ID requirements and convicted felons being denied voting rights even after they have served their sentence.

In Australia it is mandatory to vote. In France, French citizens who live overseas are entitled to vote for ex-pat representatives (11 constituencies out of the 577 are filled by representatives for these overseas citizens.) Apparently, Japan, Venezuela and Russia provide voting rights to overseas citizens. To think that Putin’s Russia has, in one sense, a wider franchise than the UK is a bit of an eye opener. (One mate wryly suggested that perhaps the Iraqis could invade the UK to install a functioning democracy…)
So, what are your voting rights? Who should be given the vote and who denied?

The discussion we had (and there was beer involved) touched on the rights of convicted persons serving a custodial sentence, minors and persons who are not deemed capable of exercising proper judgment and autonomy, such as persons with dementia and the like, although this was seen as a tricky area. Should voting be compulsory, like in Australia? How proactive should administrations be in providing the easiest route possible for citizens to participate, or should the onus be on the citizen to get organized, even in the face of official discouragement?

My own feeling is that any government claiming to be a democracy should dot the i’s and cross the t’s and make an effort to include people and make the voting process relatively easy and effortless. Suppression is, to my mind, a bigger danger than fraud in places like the US. Once governments get the taste for restricting the franchise, they may get used to it.

How do other people feel about the state of democracy where they are (or indeed, are not) ?
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Re: Voting and the franchise

#2  Postby mattthomas » Nov 18, 2019 12:25 pm

I favour the idea of compulsory voting.
I think convicts should be able to vote upon completion of their sentence
I think anyone with a legal residence in a country should be able to vote in that country as well their country of birth
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Re: Voting and the franchise

#3  Postby aban57 » Nov 18, 2019 5:52 pm

mattthomas wrote:I favour the idea of compulsory voting.
I think convicts should be able to vote upon completion of their sentence
I think anyone with a legal residence in a country should be able to vote in that country as well their country of birth


I don't like the idea of compulsory voting. I don't want to be forced to vote for the least worse candidate.
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Re: Voting and the franchise

#4  Postby OlivierK » Nov 18, 2019 7:44 pm

Where I live voting is compulsory at all levels of government, and I don't share that concern.

Firstly, casting a vote can never be truly compulsory in a secret ballot. What's compulsory is attending a voting place and being issued with voting papers. You can put them in the ballot box unmarked if you choose, and some do. In Australia, some campaign to make a "None of the above" option explicit, while retaining compulsory attendance.

Secondly, the main concern with the process here seems not to be on the ability of mediocre candidates to get votes from those who might otherwise be uninspired to vote, but with the ability of populists to garner votes from ultra-low-information voters who might otherwise not be bothered voting, and don't bother scrutinising platforms for truth or internal consistency, but just reach for a shiny object.
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Re: Voting and the franchise

#5  Postby Spearthrower » Nov 18, 2019 8:03 pm

don't get me started wrote:
I’m a British citizen, but I have been resident in Japan for over 20 years so I have now lost my right to vote in any UK elections.



Unfortunately, I'm in the same boat, as I was with Brexit too.


aban57 wrote:I don't like the idea of compulsory voting. I don't want to be forced to vote for the least worse candidate.


You're still allowed to spoil your vote, vote for a comical protest party (UK's Monster Raving Loony Party, for example), or leave your vote blank. Basically, you can make a protest vote even when compelled to vote.
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Re: Voting and the franchise

#6  Postby aban57 » Nov 18, 2019 8:15 pm

Then what's the point ?
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Re: Voting and the franchise

#7  Postby Spearthrower » Nov 18, 2019 8:22 pm

aban57 wrote:Then what's the point ?


I don't want to be forced to vote for the least worse candidate.


To show that you find the available candidates unsatisfactory.
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Re: Voting and the franchise

#8  Postby OlivierK » Nov 18, 2019 8:35 pm

The point of of compulsory voting is to hold politicians accountable to the entire electorate. Spoiled ballots usually run to less than 5% here usually, and many of those are not deliberate. It has it's downsides, but compelling high turnout seems to work well enough, although as our recent national government record shows, it's no silver bullet for delivering better government.
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Re: Voting and the franchise

#9  Postby aban57 » Nov 18, 2019 8:39 pm

Spearthrower wrote:
aban57 wrote:Then what's the point ?


I don't want to be forced to vote for the least worse candidate.


To show that you find the available candidates unsatisfactory.


The problem is that blank ballots are usually not counted. And they have no impact whatsoever, like for example cancelling a vote if not enough people voted for the available candidates (in second turns). At least not in France, or Belgium. How is it there ?
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Re: Voting and the franchise

#10  Postby Spearthrower » Nov 18, 2019 8:48 pm

aban57 wrote:The problem is that blank ballots are usually not counted.


No doubt depends where you are, but you could simply scrawl over the top of the entire page that you find the candidates unsatisfactory.

aban57 wrote:And they have no impact whatsoever, like for example cancelling a vote if not enough people voted for the available candidates (in second turns).


The same argument could be made about any single vote. It's not the one occurrence where it has any impact, but in aggregate.

There's no other way to show that you find the candidates unsatisfactory because not voting could be dismissed as voting apathy, but not so when you turn up specifically to state your point.


I've lived outside of the UK most of my life, and between being traveling and unable to vote, and having been outside the country too long to be registered, I've only once had the ability ever to vote. I find that quite frustrating. I don't think intentional self-disenfranchisement really makes sense from any perspective.
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Re: Voting and the franchise

#11  Postby Svartalf » Nov 19, 2019 9:51 am

Spearthrower wrote:
aban57 wrote:Then what's the point ?


I don't want to be forced to vote for the least worse candidate.


To show that you find the available candidates unsatisfactory.

I dunnow, the voting systems I know of tend to discount blank and null votes, to the point that abstention is usually the most significant way to notify the man that you're dissatisfied with what's being offered.
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Re: Voting and the franchise

#12  Postby Spearthrower » Nov 19, 2019 9:56 am

Svartalf wrote:
Spearthrower wrote:
aban57 wrote:Then what's the point ?


I don't want to be forced to vote for the least worse candidate.


To show that you find the available candidates unsatisfactory.


I dunnow, the voting systems I know of tend to discount blank and null votes, to the point that abstention is usually the most significant way to notify the man that you're dissatisfied with what's being offered.



I can't answer to the former as I don't know how it's treated in every country, only that it is not treated this way in all countries.

For the latter though, there is absolutely no way that the man can distinguish between apathy and dissatisfaction in those who don't bother to attend. The former, however, is an easier out so that dissatisfaction doesn't have to be acknowledged.
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Re: Voting and the franchise

#13  Postby Briton » Nov 19, 2019 10:27 am

Svartalf wrote:
Spearthrower wrote:
aban57 wrote:Then what's the point ?


I don't want to be forced to vote for the least worse candidate.


To show that you find the available candidates unsatisfactory.

I dunnow, the voting systems I know of tend to discount blank and null votes, to the point that abstention is usually the most significant way to notify the man that you're dissatisfied with what's being offered.


Spoiled ballots are counted in the UK. Should be a 'none of the above option' though.
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