LETTER: True democracy needs no compulsion to vote

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From Mr Edward Turnbull

Sir: Compulsory voting ("Can we really afford to grow old?", 25 September) would surely be a disreputable resort to coercion by an unpopular or discredited political system. It would also be against the political principles of those who praise the "freedom of the market" and would be entirely unlikely to endear the political "establishment" to disaffected young people.

Moreover, those who ignore any given election process or who deliberately abstain are, in themselves, an important positive factor in the resulting outcome - ie, they are simply not "non-persons" and I believe that a great offence against human rights and individuality would occur if we treated non-voters as such. Any given abstention might certainly express such perfectly legitimate sentiments as a "don't know" or a rejection of the whole system - thus, often, expressing the positive motives of scepticism or reform respectively. Any system which makes its sceptics and reformers into "outsiders" and which then has to force or corral them into participating on its own terms, and not theirs, as having failed in its very first needs which are universality and mutuality, and I do not really believe that any such self-blinkered system deserves to survive.

Yours sincerely,

Edward Turnbull