Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Go Vote!

Have you voted yet? No? OK. Then what are you doing here talking with me?!? GO VOTE RIGHT NOW!! I mean it. It's important. All sorts of things get decided about YOUR life by the elected officials in your town, state and country. Go elect some right now.

You don't have to vote, if you don't want to. Some people are so bewildered, beleaguered, and bereft about the state of our democracy that they don't bother any more. Ever. Yeah, but I don't care. I understand that you're hurt, but go vote any way.

If you were in Australia you'd have to vote, right Australians? It's mandatory. There are quite a few countries where voting is compulsory.


Which countries practice compulsory voting?

Laws, Sanctions & Enforcement

Below is a table containing all the countries that have a law that provides for compulsory voting. The first column lists the name of the country, the second column the type of sanctions that the relevant country imposes against non-voters and the third column contains the information on to what extent the compulsory voting laws are enforced in practice.

The numbers listed in the column for Type of Sanction stands for different types of sanctions. These are as follows:

1. Explanation. The non-voter has to provide a legitimate reason for his/her abstention to avoid further sanctions, if any exist.

2. Fine. The non-voter faces a fine sanction. The amount varies between the countries, for example 3 Swiss Francs in Switzerland, between 300 and 3 000 ATS in Austria, 200 Cyprus Pounds in Cyprus, 10-20 Argentinean Pesos in Argentina, 20 Soles in Peru etc.

3. Possible imprisonment. The non-voter may face imprisonment as a sanction, however, we do not know of any documented cases. This can also happen in countries such as Australia where a fine sanction is common. In cases where the non-voter does not pay the fines after being reminded or after refusing several times, the courts may impose a prison sentence. This is usually classified as imprisonment for failure to pay the fine, not imprisonment for failure to vote.

4. Infringements of civil rights or disenfranchisement. It is for example possible that the non-voter, after not voting in at least four elections within 15 years will be disenfranchised in Belgium. In Peru the voter has to carry a stamped voting card for a number of months after the election as a proof of having voted. This stamp is required in order to obtain some services and goods from some public offices. In Singapore the voter is removed from the voter register until he/she reapplies to be included and submits a legitimate reason for not having voted. In Bolivia the voter is given a card when he/she has voted so that he/she can proof the participation. The voter would not be able to receive his/her salary from the bank if he/she can not show the proof of voting during three months after the election.

5. Other. For example in Belgium it might be difficult getting a job within the public sector if you are non-voter, or difficulties obtaining a new passport or driver's licence in Greece. There are no formal sanctions Mexico or Italy but possible arbitrary or social sanctions. This is called the "innocuous sanction" in Italy, where it might for example be difficult to get a daycare place for your child or similar but this is not formalised in any way at all.

CountryType of SanctionLevel of EnforcementYear IntroducedComments
Argentina1, 2, 4Weak enforcement1912-
Australia1, 2Strict enforcement1924-
Austria (Tyrol)1, 2Weak enforcementN/AThe region of Tyrol.
Austria (Vorarlberg)2, 3Weak enforcementN/AThe region of Vorarlberg.
Belgium1, 2, 4, 5Strict enforcement1919 (men)Women in 1949.
Brazil2Weak enforcementN/AVoluntary for illiterates and those over 70.
Chile1, 2, 3Weak enforcement1925(?)-
Costa RicaNoneNot enforcedN/A-
Cyprus1, 2Strict enforcement1960-
Dominican RepublicNoneNot enforcedN/A-
Ecuador2Weak enforcement1936Voluntary for illiterates and those over 65.
Egypt1, 2, 3N/A1956This is the year from which we have found the earliest law.
Fiji1, 2, 3Strict enforcementN/A*Presumably strict prior to the coup d'├ętat
France (Senate only)2N/A1950's or 60's-
Greece1, 5Weak enforcementN/A-
GuatemalaNoneNot enforcedN/A-
HondurasNoneNot enforcedN/A-
Italy5Weak/Not enforcedN/A-
Liechtenstein1, 2Weak enforcementN/A-
Luxembourg1, 2Strict enforcementN/AVoluntary for those over 70.
MexicoNone / 5Weak enforcementN/A-
Nauru1, 2Strict enforcement1965-
Netherlands-Not enforcedPractised 1917 to 1967-
Peru2, 4Weak1933-
PhilippinesNoneNot enforcedattempt to practice 1972-1986 under martial law.-
Singapore4Strict enforcementN/AThe non-voter is removed from the voter register until he/she reapplies and provides a reason.

Switzerland (Schaffhausen)

2Strict enforcement1904Practised in only one canton. Abolished in other in 1974
ThailandNoneNot enforcedN/A-
Turkey1, 2WeakN/A-
Uruguay2, 4Strict enforcement1934Law not in practice until 1970.

Maria Gratschew, April 2001

For any further information or questions please contact:

The Voter Turnout Project at International IDEA

Maria Gratschew
Phone: +46 8 698 37 62 ,
Fax: +46 8 20 24 22
E-mail: m.gratschew@idea.int


The Information Division at International IDEA:


So, if you're in Nauru, you had better vote when your election comes up...they've had strict enforcement of voting there since 1965. Go vote Nauruians...Nauruites...Nauruos. What do you guys call yourselves and where are you??

Any way, fellow US citizens go vote if you haven't and we can all look at results later as they come in. I'm on pins and needles!!

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