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Should Voting Be Mandatory In Britain?

Updated on September 12, 2018
ethel smith profile image

With a keen interest in British politics this writer is never afraid to share her opinion

Voting in Britain

Voting at the ballot box in polling stations but is E Voting the future
Voting at the ballot box in polling stations but is E Voting the future | Source

Lack of Political Engagement and Enthusiasm

Ask British people of voting age their thoughts on British politics and you will receive a very mixed response.

There are some members of the electorate only too proud to almost brag that they never vote, in fact that they have never voted in their lives and intend to keep it that way.

Others vote in national but not local elections and there are even some who voted for the first and allegedly only time in the U.K. in or out E.U. referendum.

For some people here in the United Kingdom it seems almost a badge of honour to proclaim ”I never vote!”

All of this makes, in my opinion, a good case for mandatory voting but first let’s take a look at some of the reasons people give as to why they do not vote.

Too Busy To Vote

I was amazed when a young eligible voter said to me she was too busy to vote. A woman who worked a normal daily 9 to 5 routine.

She went on to try to justify that statement saying how little time she had but this reason is usually just a cop out.

It has never been easier to secure a postal vote.

All you need to do is apply.

If you still prefer to vote at a polling station they are open from 7am until 10pm.

It can be tricky voting at the polling station if you work long shifts however and a postal vote in many cases is a more sensible option.

E. Voting looks set to be an option possibly in the near future.

My Vote Makes No Difference

The first past the post British electoral system can make some voters feel their vote is inconsequential.

If you live in a safe Tory or Labour seat but want to vote for another party why bother?

Well I would say bother because people fought for your vote, especially votes for women.

Never forget overall voting numbers are an indication of many things including political apathy.

Until such time as a ballot paper has an option to vote “No Confidence In Any Of The Above” spoil your ballot paper.

If you do this the number of spoiled ballot papers are counted and you have still used your valuable vote.

I Do Not Understand Politics

This one almost makes me laugh but really it is a pathetic excuse in many cases.

With most people in the U.K. having easy access to the Internet it has never been so easy to research local and national politics.

However by the same token people are often swamped with political news and opinion stories these days and left in a state of confusion.

Family and school chats and debates about politics can help fill in any gaps.

Politics Is Not For Me


Politics affects us all from wages to retail prices to pensions to bank interest rates to conflicts to the environment to housing and beyond.

It is up to you how involved you become.

There is no pressure to campaign and or join political parties as simply registering to vote, reading about the candidates, making your choices and voting is more than enough.

If you want to say post election “well I did not vote for them” non-voting may look appealing but that is a cop out.

How Difficult Is It To Register To Vote In Britain?

If you are eligible to vote in the U.K. you still need to register to vote.

How this is done and renewed changed slightly in 2014.

The changes allegedly streamlined registering to vote and modernized the system.

For some however, especially those with limited literacy, it did not make the process easier.

People now have to include their national insurance number when registering to vote.

You can however register via post or online. Renewing annually is in my opinion now easier than in the past if there are no changes to report.

Any negatives are more likely to affect people who are vulnerable and relatively poor.

How Difficult Is It To Vote In Britain?

As already discussed voting is not difficult. There are ways around timings such as postal voting.

There is also an option to nominate a proxy to vote for you in certain circumstances.

After registering to vote you will receive a voting card ahead of any scheduled election. At time of writing you do not have to take that voting card with you to vote.

The clerk will tick you off the constituency election roll, hand you a ballot paper and direct you to a voting booth.

There is a hard pencil in each booth so voters can mark X against their preferred candidate.

Fold the ballot paper and put it in the correct ballot box.

Make sure you know who the candidates are and how many votes you have. In our May local election we had three votes for three different preferred candidates.


The Conservative government trialled the use of identification to vote in some constituencies in the May elections.

There has been criticism that the I.D. requested unfairly disadvantages voters who may be vulnerable and have poor incomes but this may still be rolled out across the U.K.

The Case For Mandatory Voting

In local elections voter turnout is often very low.

Australia experienced increased voter turn-out when it introduced mandatory voting.

There are many ways to try to engage eligible voters in politics but there is a case for mandatory voting.

There will always be some people who scream mandatory voting is not democratic and these people would maybe risk a fine or worse to make that point if the rules changed.

It may even deter some regular voters from voting if they want to make a point!

However, for me, it seems a better option as long as there is a “No Confidence In Any Of The Candidates” option and those votes are counted, recorded and published.

There should also be provision for those who have a valid reason for not voting in any election.

If you are an eligible voter in the U.K. you will pay British taxes and more so surely you should want to have an input in government?

Additional Information

The Boundary Commission is set to publish recommended changes.

The boundary changes will remove some constituencies and amalgamate others reducing the total number of parliamentary seats.

The projections are contentious and some claim politically biased.

The Tory Party in government is leading the charge to reduce the number of elected Members of Parliament while constantly increasing the number of appointed rather than elected representatives in the House of Lords.

There are regional differences across the countries of the U.K. The voting age is still 18 and over in England but was reduced to 16 and over in Scotland for the Scottish Independence referendum. Wales is currently considering lowering the voting age for local elections.

There are ongoing campaigns to reduce the voting age to 16.

Mandatory Voting

Should voting be voluntary or mandatory?

See results

© 2018 Ethel Smith


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    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      2 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Agreed on all counts Don.

      Brexit is spinning UK politics on its head too and it is nerve wracking these days

    • hard sun profile image

      Don Shepard 

      2 years ago

      Not seems the UK and American politics mirror each other, and these days, all too often on not so productive things for the working class/lower income individuals.

      I sincerely hope Obama can help rally the troops, and our elections will not be tampered with, so that we can dampen the Trump nonsense.

      The effects of, and reasons for disfranchisement, seem to grow exponentially

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      2 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      So many similarities Don

      Here the boundary commission is set to publish proposals that will reduce the number of MPs and guess what? The changes will benefit the Tories

      Little wonder many ordinary folk feel disenfranchised

    • hard sun profile image

      Don Shepard 

      2 years ago

      Ouch, yeah, and it looks like they are using vastly overblown voter fraud to push the idea as they did here. It definitely suppresses vote and then we have the gerrymandered districts that favor Republicans in the majority of the nation now.

      November's US elections are vital, as Obama stated: “Our democracy depends on it.”

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      2 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      That’s bad Don

      The Tory government trialled voter ID here this year. They selected poorer traditional non voting Tory areas. The ID required was a photo driving licence or a passport. Obviously that could exclude many vulnerable people. And now they look set to roll it out

    • hard sun profile image

      Don Shepard 

      2 years ago

      I consider myself independent but am on the left-side of the American political spectrum. If even a decent number of the people in poorer city neighborhoods would vote in the US, Democrats would likely control the House/Senate and the Presidency.

      Part of the problem is voter ID laws and such. Many people don't understand that it can be difficult for say a low income/disabled individual to make sure they have updated IDs. Where I live, the bus line doesn't even run all the way to the BMV, where you get an ID.

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      2 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Hre in the UK and as a so called Lefite I would say Conservatives aka Tories always vote. They run to the polls. Poorer and more vulnerable people must make sure they vote imo

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      2 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks Don. I did look at it online after your comment. Interesing. There have been some problems here with people being turned away as they were in a queue and polling station due to close, ballots not turning up etc etc. But not as a norm

    • hard sun profile image

      Don Shepard 

      2 years ago

      I don't know if it's peculiar to the US, all I know is the Bush/Gore election made it infamous here .Of course, paper ballots not involving hole punching wouldn't have this issue.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      It is interesting to think through this topic. Something people of any country need to remember is that they can be sure immigrants with an agenda will vote and they will do it quietly, en masse. If the country's people want to maintain leadership in their country, they had better vote against those agendas.

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      2 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Yes could be in USA. Hanging Chad peculiar to USA Don?

    • hard sun profile image

      Don Shepard 

      2 years ago

      The "hanging chad" fiasco over the Bush Jr./Gore election is an example of issues with paper ballots that the US experienced. I'm sure there are different circumstances in the UK. I just sincerely think that after the Russian election fiasco the election results would be open to less questioning with paper ballots in the US.

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      2 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks Don

      Paper ballots here have a set of issues. Similarly here forcing people to vote could result in extreme parties winning seats. But overall I think mandatory voting is the way forward. It will then be the norm for new young voters. But only if we have an option to say no confidence in any candidate. That for me is important

    • hard sun profile image

      Don Shepard 

      2 years ago

      Good subject. I have switched thinking on this over the years. My main problem now with mandatory voting is forcing people to vote who really don't know anything about the political system. The anti-intellectual movement in the US is not reassuring for the future of well-educated voters here. It's not always easy for low income individuals to vote in the US either.

      Then again, without going back to paper ballots, I'm not sure how much confidence Americans will have in the voting process moving forward, which may drop voting numbers even further.

      Ultimately, I think paper ballots should come first and then maybe investigate how mandatory voting may work out.


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