Resolved: In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory

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Resolved: In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory

And so begins another debate season, and what better way to kick it off than with a terrible topic that students will inevitably turn into a definition debate. The NFL continues to produce in great form. Nevertheless, let’s slog forward through this mush.

Definitions and Parts of Speech

Democracy (noun) – This is a tricky term to define. The spirit of the resolution really means that it should be debated in the context of a democratic government. This means that people are represented either through elected officials or through direct voting on issues. Democratic governments are committed to human rights and fundamental equality. That being said, it’s still possible to define this as an absolute democracy where everyone votes on everything. The evaluation of the resolution may very well change depending upon the definition. In this case, I’m OK with students defining it either way, but you should only define it as an absolute democracy if that’s what your arguments revolve around. If you’re doing it just to be abusive or limit scope to gain an advantage, then don’t.

Voting (noun) – Voting here is a noun. The act of voting is a thing that should or should not be required. We all know what voting is, so there’s no reason to quibble over this. You indicate a formal preference for one option or another regarding a political matter. Voting could be construed to mean voting for anything (like which movie to see with your friends), and someone will inevitably try to do that. Again, don’t.

Ought to be (verb) – Simply defined, this means that something should be. This is the crux of your case, and it will be outlined in your value structure. Since the government is the agent of action which will make voting compulsory, you must determine how we decide what the government should or should not do.

Compulsory (adjective) – Compulsory means that there is a negative consequence for not doing something, and that consequence will be enforced by the government (in this case). Do not let anyone try to tell you that compulsory voting will not necessarily come with a consequence. Just like taxes are compulsory, so should voting; that’s what you’re debating.

Alright, let’s get some case positions out there.


1. Democracy must have everyone vote to be legitimate – The whole principle behind a democracy is that it should be run by the will of the people, not just by the will of the people who choose to vote. Unless we get everyone to the ballot box, it’s impossible to actually get an accurate representation of what the people want, and because of that uncertainty, the democracy will remain illegitimate.

2. Mathematically speaking, compulsory voting is required to have a statistically accurate vote – In past U.S. elections, the margin of error has been greater than the difference in the vote. This means that those elections were not actually mathematically accurate as a result of the number of people who chose not to vote. Technically speaking,w e still don’t actually know who should’ve won those elections. To eliminate this problem, voting needs to be compulsory.

3. Rights come with obligations – Every right comes with a corresponding obligation, and at the point where one fails to fulfill that obligation, one loses the claim to that right. If I fail my obligation not to kill, I sacrifice my right to life. Similarly, if I fail my obligation to vote, then I should lose the corresponding right.


1. We have a right not to use freedom of speech – Requiring voting violates an individual’s right not to exercise his/her rights. After all, silence is also a form of speech, and requiring someone to use their speech is technically a violation of the freedom of speech altogether.

2. It will artificially inflate the vote – If somebody doesn’t want to vote, then they probably shouldn’t be voting. They will not be well informed on the issues, and their ballot will essentially be random and meaningless. This may actually result in a negative outcome for the population. 

3. The government does not have the right to require voting – In a democratic government, a vote should decide whether or not a vote is compulsory. Ergo, the government itself does not have the authority to make voting compulsory. And because the vote requiring compulsory voting cannot be compulsory, it will never achieve an accurate result to begin with.

I hope that helps get you started. Good luck!


18 responses to “Resolved: In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory

  1. On the Aff side of things, how would you go about setting a criterion to measure government legitimacy? I’m having trouble avoiding vague terms like “Promoting democratic ideals.”

    • That depends on what you’re defining governmental legitimacy as. If it’s the government’s right to rule over its people, then you need to ask yourself, “What does the government need to do to be able to have the right to rule over its people?” The answer to that question will give you your value criterion.

  2. Ace, or Sultan, I do not recall if you remember me from last year, however I talked to you a little last year and heavily considered buying a brief, and tried to raise the money for you to come to my school. I apologize I’ve not been able to get back to you sooner, however I do hope you e-mail me as soon as possible, its time to get back into debate, and I would like to know how much your thoughts are worth on this topic. Thank you very much

    • Hi Kyle,

      I actually won’t be publishing a brief until the next topic when most of the debaters will start debating. I apologize for the inconvenience, but feel free to post on here, and I will respond.

      • Its definitely not an inconvenience, however could we discuss this topic a little bit? I understand if you would not want to, but if you are open to a discussion I would be more than happy to hear your terms. Thank you very much

      • Hi Kyle,

        I’m happy to discuss the topic, but if you’d like to get personal advice outside of the forum, you will need to sign up for my personal coaching services through the academy. I will give you unlimited feedback on here, but it would be unfair if I discussed the topic with you privately.

  3. I’m having trouble writing my aff. on this one, not sure what to do. So-far I have Utilitarianism for my value and societal welfare for my Criterion… Any Ideas, I’m thinking about going in the direction of liberty… as in if we give people too much liberty then democracy no longer exist…neither does the government for that matter…

    • Hi Ty,

      You need to take a step backward. Think first about your overall case position. Why should voting be compulsory or not? After that, decide what’s the most important thing to your case position. Is it the well being of society? Is it human rights? Is it morality? That will lead you to your value. Then ask yourself how you’re getting there, and that will tell you what your criterion should be.

  4. I’m having trouble coming up with a criterion and my aff and neg values are both “governmental legitimacy” because I feel like I could hold it up. My question is if the the following criterion are good?

    For aff, if I was to argue societal welfare

    For neg, if if I was to argue “upholding a democracy”

    Anything you have to say is really appreciated. Thank you.

    • Hi PG,

      A value criterion is designed to either get you to your value or to measure your value. So ask yourself this. Does societal welfare get us to governmental legitimacy? Or does societal welfare tell us how legitimate a government is? The same questions need to be asked for the negative.

      In my opinion, the answer to all these questions is “no.” So, you need to ask yourself how you achieve governmental legitimacy or what a government needs to do be legitimate. That will tell you what your VC should be.

  5. Will you read my cases for me and give some critique? I just ran them at a national TOC bid and went 3-3 and want to prepare them because I will run them 4-5 more times. Thanks!

    • Hi Damon,

      I’m sorry but I do not do case critiques for debaters who are not my direct students. That would be unfair to the students who sign up for my private coaching services. I am happy to provide feedback on anything you post here on the blog, however. So, if you post your ideas or points, I will definitely critique them for you 🙂 As far as pricing for my coaching services, you can check out my debate academy website at for all that information. If you still have questions or concerns, feel free to email me, and I’d be happy to discuss them. Thanks!

  6. Also, I’d like a pricing on your coaching. I have a new coach this year and would like to go to nationals and need someone to help me get there. We can talk about that when I email you cases though.

  7. Hi,

    I’m having troubles with my aff case. For instance, I want to argue social contract. But neg might point out, “where is that social contract? where is it said in the declaration of independence…” and so forth. How might I argue for the social contract theory and under that we have the obligation to vote?


    • Well, the social contract isn’t actually a document. If they ask you where it’s written down, the answer is that it isn’t. Social Contract theory is a political philosophy which explains where the government’s rights and obligations come from, and you can use that philosophy to support your position.

  8. I know this page is about the LD topic for Sept/Oct, but recently my debate coach has starting requiring everyone on the team to do an individual event. I have decided to do prose or poetry, but I can’t find a selection. I thought that since you know a lot about Speech/Debate, that you could help me. The requirement for the selection is that it has to represent heroism, and it’s not very hard to find a selection about that, but I don’t want to have a common piece. Thank you!

    • Hi Maria,

      I have to confess that I’m not familiar with the rules of prose/poetry, but I can give you some suggestions. Do you actually have to pick a poem or a passage? Or are you looking for a complete piece?

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