Thursday, January 10, 2019

Getting Young People to Vote in Chile

Chile switched from compulsory voting to voluntary in 2011. Claudio Fuentes writes about the support to switch back again. Previously, the vote was required but only if you registered. Younger people therefore stopped registering in the first place. The electorate therefore got older. Now a poll shows support within Congress to make that switch back. That support does not currently seem to be reflected in the general population.

He argues that the current system is worse. Turnout dropped as soon as the system changed. Therefore major decisions are being made by fewer and fewer.

I wrote about this back in 2011. There was hope that young people would start voting once they were registered automatically, but as Claudio points out, that just didn't happen.

His conclusion?

Pero difícilmente las cosas cambiarán. Como resulta altamente impopular retornar al voto obligatorio, ningún sector político se atreverá a plantear esta reforma. El pragmatismo dominará por sobre las convicciones y, mientras tanto, se seguirá vaciando el sistema democrático. Cada vez un menor número de ciudadanos y ciudadanas activos votarán por una élite que gobernará para los muchos.  El gobierno de los pocos, para los pocos y por los pocos será el resultado sub-óptimo de aquella reforma.
The problem here is that young Chileans really don't want to vote. If there is a penalty for not voting, they won't register. If they are automatically registered and it's voluntary, they won't go to the polls. I suppose if you put those together by making registration automatic and the vote required, then they're more likely to participate. When teaching Intro to Comparative Politics, I would often have discussions about whether forcing people to vote when they don't want to is democratic.

So we have to balance the empirical (you do see turnout increase considerably with compulsory voting) with the philosophical (is forced turnout democratic?). You can argue that voluntary voting is more democratic, but if it leads to dominance by only one group, that is clearly less democratic. Meanwhile, compulsory voting may seem less democratic even though it leads to a more democratic outcome (participation by the many rather than the few).


Sebastián Arana,  12:09 PM  

The philosophical conundrum aside, my question is: WHY don't young people want to vote?

Greg Weeks 11:57 AM  

Same question for many countries. Some combination of feeling politicians don't connect with them, that nothing can change anyway, that figuring it out is too difficult, etc.

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