Three out of five in survey say make voting mandatory

Make voting mandatory?

Three out of five Canadians believe voting in federal elections should be mandatory, according to a new survey by Research Co.

When Scotland held a referendum on whether to become independent from the United Kingdom in 2014, a whopping 85 per cent of eligible voters exercised their right to cast a ballot. Two years later, 67 per cent of Scottish voters participated in the referendum on European Union membership.

But, no Canadian federal election this century has reached a participation threshold of 70 per cent. The last one, in 2015, came close at 69 per cent but was still lower than the two elections won by Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives in 1984 and 1988 (75 per cent for each). In 1992, 72 per cent of Canadians cast a ballot in the Charlottetown Accord referendum.

More than 20 countries observe some form of compulsory voting in national elections, including Australia, Brazil, Luxembourg and Peru. 

In Australia, a fine of up to $150 may be levied if a voter cannot provide a plausible explanation for his or her failure to cast a ballot, such as religious reasons or illness. In Brazil, eligible voters aged 18 to 70 require a “voting receipt” to access key government services, including registering for a new passport or identification card.

Canada has not directly contemplated mandatory voting, although some parties have flirted with the idea of allowing residents aged 16 and 17 to vote in some elections. 

The Research Co. poll found Canadians aged 55 and over are more likely to endorse compulsory voting for federal ballots (68 per cent) than those aged 18 to 34 (59 per cent) and those aged 35 to 54 (57 per cent).

Regulations call for Canadian federal elections to take place on the third Monday of October. Many countries, including France, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, hold their ballots on a Sunday. In Israel, Singapore and South Korea, election Day is a national holiday.

Across Canada, 58 per cent of residents would like to see election day declared a holiday, the survey found.

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