Is there a Right not to Vote?

Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 24 (2):303-321 (2004)
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When the possibility of instituting compulsory voting arises for consideration by politicians and by the public it is commonly met with the assertion that there is a right not to vote, which would be violated by the introduction of some form of legal obligation to vote. This claim, rather than being regarded as a contribution to the debate, often functions instead to foreclose it, trumping the arguments of those who advocate compulsion with the presentation of a protected right not to participate. For that reason, it demands examination, despite the fact that it is not an argument advanced seriously by those scholars who address the issue of compulsory voting. This article examines the claim of the right not to vote, arguing that it is based on a flawed interpretation of the idea of the right to vote, an interpretation which mistakes the sort of liberty which the right to vote represents and which over-looks the centrality to that right of the value of active electoral participation. There may be convincing arguments against compulsory voting, but the suggestion that there is a right not to vote is not one of them



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