[This is my last blog post of 2011. Every other year I visit the excellent fireworks in Melbourne on the banks of the Yarra but I did that last year, so not this year. In eight minutes the new year will be ushered in, in Melbourne.
I wish all my readers a very happy (i.e.HEALTHY - for that's what that really matters) and prosperous new year, 2012!).
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India's elections usually achieve between 40 to 60 per cent voter turnout, which is excellent from a statistical sampling perspective (assuming the sample was representative). But is in reality, this otherwise excellent sample is questionable because it is skewed towards rural polling booths (urban booths, as a rule, display a poor turnout).
Being thus skewed would not matter (in terms of selecting a representative) if urban and rural voters vote alike. But this assumption (which is valid on the surface) has not been empirically confirmed (or at least I'm not aware of such research). That means the urban voter should be encouraged to vote. Accordingly a number of programs have been launched (e.g. Jago) to make the educated Indian aware of his responsibilities.
But the urban voter still free-rides and refuses to vote. This has led people to argue for compulsory voting in India.
A poll has been launched on this subject on Facebook. The question it asked is this: "The compulsory voting is a practical way of Electoral voting in india?" (sic)
My response: NO.
My comment (lightly edited)
The theoretical problem with compulsory voting is it violates the principle of freedom. Every citizen should vote – but without compulsion. Compulsion destroys the voluntary social contract.
The practical problem with compulsory voting is the administration of fines for those who don't vote. It can be very costly to identify non-voters, then fine them (or confirm that they had genuine reasons to not vote). All said and done, it is not a good idea.
What we need, instead, is good citizenship. Citizenship is similar to the sense of responsibility that children develop (or ought to develop) for their parents. Without these bonds, there is no nation (or family), only a "hotel". The educated Indian needs SELF-driven, FREE expression of citizenship. If we force Indians to vote, they will become further alienated from the democratic system, and will seek ways to avoid the fine/punishments imposed. That will lead to more corruption and more frustration for everyone.
Let us encourage, instead, the educated class of India to become citizens, not spectators (or sheep).
And if the broad pattern of voting of the rural voter is found to be similar to that of the urban voter, then the sample size is already large enough to correctly select a representative.