Why do citizens choose not to vote?

Published 20 May 2017

In a democratic form of government, the citizens have the right to elect the leaders who are to lead them and to hold the reins of the government for the benefit of all. This is the right of suffrage or, plainly speaking, election. In general, election is the embodiment of the popular will, the expression of the sovereign power of the people. Its purpose is to give the voters direct participation in the affairs of their government, either in determining who shall be their public officials or in deciding some questions of public interests, and for this purpose all of the legal voter should be permitted, unhampered and unmolested, to cast their ballots. As stated by one of the courts of law, the purity of elections is one of the most important and fundamental requisites of popular government. To banish the specter of revenge from the minds of the timid or defenseless, to render precarious and uncertain the bartering of votes, and lastly, to secure a fair and honest count of the ballots cast, is the aim of the law.

Yet, despite the fact that a fair and honest election results in a progressive government, some citizens choose not to vote or cast their ballots. This is caused by myriad possible reasons. One apparent reason could be the fact that some voters don’t have faith in the candidates, or they just don’t believe in their platforms of government. The saddest thing that could happen is when all the voters will lose completely their trust in the elections. It is a common conception that elections are tainted with the misdeed of bribery, and the worst is when most of the citizenry just think of this as a normal occurrence during elections.

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Another reason for citizens not to vote could be their belief that an election doesn’t necessarily provide the catalyst for change; hence they just stay in their homes and watch TV, in complete apathy towards the general elections held outdoors. Lack of facilities to facilitate clean elections could be one reason also. Simple reasons such as failure to reach the poll centers or physical limitations on the part of the voters can be cited as reason as well. Lastly, two apparent reasons that deter one to vote are the widespread fraud and irregularities present in an election being committed by the different parties running for a position in the government. One would ask, as a matter of principle, why he would waste his time voting unprincipled candidates in a dirty election. With this perception, the true essence of the right of suffrage is already defeated and results in the lack of interest to exercise it.

As to the question whether this is a serious problem or not, I answer in the affirmative. As the conduct of election being the tool for the citizenry to choose, without undue influence, their government officers to guide them towards a better future, we can surmise that the choosing of the majority of voters not to vote is a serious problem. Choosing not to vote may mean that an individual doesn’t have interest in the affairs of the government and impliedly acquiesces to the election of whoever will be put in government offices, may he be good or bad. This may lead to a situation wherein the whole citizenry will be governed by an elected few, running contrary to the concept that all government authority emanates from the people.

Democracy is termed as a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them as directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held elections. If we are to enact a law on compulsory voting and fine every eligible voter $100 if he or she failed to cast a ballot, this enacted law would run counter to the concept of democracy and will be rendered later on as unconstitutional.
To exercise the right of suffrage should be free from outside pressure, untrammeled by other people’s whims and influence, and done by a voter’s own volition or choice. Hence, to impose a fine of an unreasonable fee of $100 would put pressure on the voter to vote even if he or she doesn’t like to vote for the running candidates. Voting is a personal right; laws to be enacted are fine as long as they do not invade a person’s constitutionality-given rights, unless it is for the national security.

Such system would definitely weaken the democracy of government of a particular country. Enacting such law would put undue influence on the citizens’ collective will. The right to vote is the expression of the sovereign will of the people, it is an attribute of sovereignty which resides in the people. The imposing of the fine would constitute an indirect hampering of this right and would eventually weaken the democratic system of government. In addition, suffrage is a privilege conferred to the citizens by the constitution. A privilege is supposed to be freely exercised; this would cease to be as such if a fine is imposed for not exercising the right of suffrage.

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