Voting in Canada: A Civic Right or a Legal Duty?

voting in canada

Since the birth of democracy, it has been the ideal form of government throughout the world. According to the 2012 Democracy Index, it is being practiced in seventy-eight different countries.

The implementation of democracy was to give freedom to the people, and the power to dictate who is running the government, in the form of voting. Democratic voting was founded in Athens, Greece in 508 B.C.E. by Cleisthenes, the ruling leader of Athens. Cleisthenes reorganized the administrative units of government into ten tribes known as phylai. All citizens of Athens were then placed into one of the ten tribes based off of geographical locations, similar to that of modern-day parliamentary ridings in Canada.

flag-stock-photo.jpg.size.xxlarge.promoIn the modern world, democracy has continued to hold on to its ancient roots by allowing citizens the ability to vote. In developed nations such as America as well as Canada, the right to vote is codified under the United States Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This codification grants citizens the absolute right to vote, and no such discrimination is to impede on an individual’s voting rights for their elected government. There has been a debate in the past few years on whether or not the act of voting should be a compulsory, legal duty or whether the decision to participate in the voting or not is in the hands of the individual. Democratic countries such as Australia have implemented mandatory voting which has been in use since 1924. The Australian Electoral Commission believes this legitimizes their election results with exceedingly high voting turnout numbers. Other democracies such as the United States and Canada do not currently have any legislation enforcing mandatory voting.

A democracy is a system of government in which citizens elect their public representatives as they have the right to do so. The right to vote also allows citizens the right not to vote, making voting a civic right and not a legal duty. Voting should not be compulsory because voting turnout quantity does not legitimize the quality of the election and it also limits political competition. Mandatory voting causes a greater expansion of government to enforce a democratic right, and government coercion undermines individual integrity and infringes on fundamental rights and freedoms that are protected by a nation’s bill of rights. While voting for an election is strongly encouraged, it is more so a moral obligation and should not be a legal duty.

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Saber Lambert