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Public affairs commentator rejects compulsory voting idea as undemocratic and draconian

Published:Wednesday | January 15, 2014 | 5:30 PM

Jovan Johnson, Gleaner Writer



KINGSTON, Jamaica:

Public affairs commentator, Martin Henry, has rejected the idea of compulsory voting in national elections, saying it is an undemocratic, draconian measure that is simply geared at getting high polling numbers.




At a Jamaica Labour Party meeting on Sunday, South West St Catherine MP Everald Warmington controversially declared that people who do not vote, do not count and should not ask for government benefits.



While it has earned the wrath of many, the comment has opened a debate on the matter of compulsory voting practised by several countries including Australia, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.



Henry admits that recent trends of low voter turnout could result in the legitimacy of future elections being questioned but he argues that voting is a civic duty and citizens should be free to abstain.



Regarding arguments that low voter turnout results in a waste of resources on elections, Henry asserts that the cost of governance must be met by the State cheerfully as one of the responsibilities of government.



According to Henry, even with mandatory voting citizens could deliberately spoil their ballots in protest.



Meanwhile, attorney-at-law Dr Lloyd Barnett has also dismissed the idea of compulsory voting.



He says it would be unconstitutional to compel citizens to vote for persons they may not support.



According to him, this would remove their choice of abstaining.



And he says politicians can improve their behaviour to make politics more attractive and increase participation of citizens in elections.



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