Increasing Electoral Turnout Among the Young: Compulsory Voting or Financial Incentives?

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Thomas Tozer


The low electoral turnout of young people raises serious concerns about intergenerational justice and representative democracy. A powerful method is needed to address this low electoral turnout: if young people can be encouraged to vote in greater numbers then this may lead to a virtuous circle for which politicians take young people’s views and interests more seriously, and more young people vote as a result. I argue that a scheme of financial incentives for young voters between the ages of 18 and 28, paid only once a young person has attended an hour long information session and an hour long discussion session on the election, offers such a method. Section 1 of this paper outlines the extent of the problem of low voter turnout among young people, section 2 establishes that this is a problem for democracy, and section 3 analyses the reasons why young people choose not to vote. In section 4, I consider two prospective solutions to the low electoral turnout of young people, compulsory voting and financial incentives, and argue that while compulsory voting constitutes an unacceptable violation of our liberty, offering financial incentives to vote does not, and, in the form that I propose, such a scheme offers a powerful short-term and long-term solution to the low electoral turnout of young people. Finally, section 5 summarises the key arguments of sections 1-4, and argues that if academics and politicians are genuinely concerned about improving the political representation of young people and reducing the democratic deficit then they must seriously consider my proposed scheme of financial incentives for young voters. 

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Author Biography

Thomas Tozer, University of York

Thomas Tozer is currently studying an MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy at the London School of Economics. He graduated with a first-class BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of York in 2015. His research interests are global justice and the philosophical concerns underpinning public policy.