Fabian call for compulsory voting

1 Jun 00
Labour think-tank the Fabian Society has called for pilot studies of compulsory voting to be carried out in local elections.

02 June 2000

In a pamphlet, Votes for all, authors Tom Watson and Mark Tami, officers with engineering union AEEU, claim that forcing people to the polling booths could boost turnout by 15–20 percentage points and end the 'democratic disaster' of voter apathy.

On average, only 30% of eligible voters take part in local elections. At the 1997 General Election, the turnout was 71%, lower than in most other European countries.

Votes for all advocates the pilot schemes as a way of establishing the level of opposition and whether punishment of non-voters would be feasible.

'The simple answer is to run pilot studies in individual local elections – to see exactly what the levels of non-compliance would be,' Watson and Tami said.

But critics of compulsory voting quoted in the pamphlet believe it could be a public relations disaster and warn of a 'Poll Tax II'. The Association of Electoral Administrators said mass prosecutions 'would result in the same public reaction as was engendered at the time of the community charge'.

Paul Dutton of the Local Government Association said that councils would be 'very cautious' about any moves to introduce compulsory voting. 'It is not part of the political culture of this country,' he said. 'If you really want to get people interested in local politics you need to restore local power.'


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