Rethinking Compulsory Voting

December 8, 2018
Département de science politique et relations internationales, Université de Genève


This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

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  • Society for Applied Philosophy


Monash University
SciencesPo, Paris
Uppsala University


Université de Genève

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Compulsory voting (CV) is a topic that has elicited much attention in contemporary democratic theory over the past few years. Defenders of CV have appealed to a variety of arguments, including the view that CV contributes to greater representativeness; that it helps to overcome the lack of coordination between political allies; that it prevents non-voters from free riding on voters’ active contribution to good governance; or that it contributes to democratic moderation. These arguments have been met with various kinds of criticisms. However, the literature on CV has mostly neglected two key elements of the institutional framework within which CV is expected to contribute to the realization of the aforementioned goals: political parties and electoral design. Similarly, the emerging literatures on the normative dimensions of partisanship and electoral design have failed to engage with the empirical and normative analysis of CV. This workshop will therefore aim to foster a rethinking of the existing arguments for and against CV in view of a deeper reflection on the complex connections between CV, partisanship and electoral design. 

The workshop will address, from the perspective of democratic theory and political philosophy, a number of questions related to CV, such as:

Are the normative goals of CV and ethical partisanship related and, if so, how?Is intra-party democracy relevant to normative debates on CV?

Is parties’ contribution to public justification relevant to normative debates on CV?

Can CV contribute to the realization of the normative values of partisanship?

Does the electoral system affect the realization of the normative goals of CV?

How do the values and ideals that underlie direct democracy (e.g. referenda) intersect with those that motivate support for CV?

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