A Further Defence of the Right Not to Vote

Res Publica 24 (1):93-108 (2018)
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Opponents of compulsory voting often allege that it violates a ‘right not to vote’. This paper seeks to clarify and defend such a right against its critics. First, I propose that this right must be understood as a Hohfeldian claim against being compelled to vote, rather than as a mere privilege to abstain. So construed, the right not to vote is compatible with a duty to vote, so arguments for a duty to vote do not refute the existence of such a right. The right against compulsion is most easily defended within a liberal framework, hence its critics often appeal instead to a republican conception of freedom. In the latter part of the paper, I argue that even these republican arguments are inconclusive. Even non-dominating interference still conditions freedom, which may require justification. Further, citizens can live up to republican ideals, so long as they are vigilant; they need not actually vote. Thus, republican arguments fail to refute a right not to vote.



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Ben Saunders
University of Southampton

References found in this work

Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - New York: Basic Books.
Taking rights seriously.Ronald Dworkin (ed.) - 1977 - London: Duckworth.
Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - Philosophy 52 (199):102-105.
Republicanism: a theory of freedom and government.Philip Pettit (ed.) - 1997 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Are there any natural rights?H. L. A. Hart - 1955 - Philosophical Review 64 (2):175-191.

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