I would like to offer a brief response to the recent Waltonian article regarding mandatory voting. The author argued that a “true democracy” requires the input of citizens, and that voting is a moral obligation of every citizen. Therefore, the low voter turnout of recent elections indicates the necessity of mandatory voting legislation.
However, I would argue that a moral duty is not necessarily a legal duty, and true liberty is much more essential to the American people than a “true democracy.”
First of all, I will gladly agree with the author that voting is a moral obligation. Men and women have a responsibility to take every opportunity available to protect the liberties and rights of individuals through regular elections. In many ways, voting is the strongest check against government overreach and undesirable legislation.
However, there is a vast difference between a moral and a legal duty. A moral duty is an obligation of humanity in accordance with the Divine Will. For instance, in Matthew 22:37, Jesus gives us the moral duty to love God. But surely no one would say that this moral duty should be translated into a legal duty.
The law should reflect only the moral duties that protect individual liberty and justice. Therefore, I believe that the moral duty to vote should not be legislated into a binding legal mandate.
If a government requires you to vote, it is making a claim on your time and labor. The government is effectively saying, “You must take an hour out of your time to vote. You do not have the right to that specified amount of time.” Sure, that may be a bit melodramatic, but I think it illustrates the point.
Liberty is nothing more than one’s right to exercise free will through one’s time, labor and property.
Therefore, mandatory voting is necessarily an infringement on liberty by removing the right to one’s own time and labor. Should we sacrifice individual liberty to preserve a “true democracy?”
Of course, there are some who point to the government-mandated institutions of jury duty, education and taxation, which, like mandatory voting, require a person to give up his or her time, energy or property. While some would argue that the existence of such practices means that government has a right, if not a duty, to enact mandatory voting, I would like to turn that argument on its head.
If mandatory voting is an impermissible infringement on one’s liberty, then maybe you should take another look at these mandatory institutions that we take for granted, such as taxation, public education and jury duty. Then ask yourself: Despite the apparent benefits of these practices, do they also represent a violation of our individual liberty?