Liberalism, Democracy and the Ethics of Voting



This article summarises objections to compulsory voting developed in my previous work. It shows that compulsory turnout is harder to justify than compulsory voting and that considerations of democratic legitimacy do not usually justify it either. When abstention is morally wrong, it is unlikely to be because it is unfair to those who voted. So concerns for fairness will not justify compulsory voting. The article shows that democracy is a competitive as well as a co-operative business, and this means that political ethics are more complex than proponents of compulsory voting suppose.