Essay Assignment

Is there a moral obligation to vote?


The concept of democracy has been associated with citizens right to vote. The participation in national elections is a considered to be civic responsibility by most of the citizen as the casting of vote forms an obligation under compulsory voting in nations like Latin America, Australia, Argentina, Belgium and Greece. The supports of voting believe that in a democratic government every citizen has a responsibility to elect representatives through polls/elections. Many moral philosophers support that citizens sense some kind of moral burden is associated with voting in the modern democracies (Schwitzgebel and Rust, 2010). It is argued that voting is not consistent with the democratic freedom as it enforcement is a violation of citizens freedom to participate in elections (Cardona, 2014). At the same time, it is known that voting rights does not have a legitimate safety in some countries.Hence, in absence of no legal duty to vote, for every eligible voter the choice depends on individual conscious and values that compels voting for the common good. In many democratic countries like the United states, the political system emphasises on the improvising the electoral and stress on civic education to increasing the voting trend and participation through technologies for mass communication.  The notion of civic education is to attach moral imperatives to the voting responsibility. While realising the importance of strengthen the voting in modern democracies seems to be rational, there is always an ongoing argument about deciding whether there exists a moral duty to vote.There is always a confusion about ‘can vote’ and ‘must vote’. This essay attempts to provides the readers an answer to this question whether there is a moral obligation to vote or not.

Moral obligation to voteand key arguments

The moral obligation to vote originates from the fact that in voting each vote has an attached significance to incline the outcome in favour of stated cause/situation. As every vote counts the voting concepts is linked to be a moral duty of the citizens. For instance, instrumental vote indicates individual vote for a potential winning representative. Hence, individual vote in a predicted manner to favour a representative to pursue preferred policies. Individual also vote to support a cause important to mainstream thus, individual find a moral responsibility to vote for the representative that raised the cause or a social issue. The consideration given to every vote count in the election process, these reasons might form an important basis for voting as a moral duty. According to Fiester (2011), in the voting process the way an individual/citizen cast a vote always have some obligations attached in terms of ethical aspects. Before casting vote, the individual develop individual thinking and evaluates on which grounds to cast a vote and which group interests to consider. In addition to this, moral theorist continues to support that voting enhances the power in a democratic nation which lacked in other form of government such as in monarchy rule or dictatorship (Cardona, 2014).On the differing side, the non-advocates of vote such as Jason Brennan, and Geoffrey Brennan and other philosopher such as Loren Lomasky states that it is also not politically correct and rational to make the concept of voting as a moral obligation moral only because voting forms a core component of democracy(Caplan, 2011).According to these philosophers, the voting does not form the only way to encourage the common good of social system. There are different ways to aid the society. It can be said that the civic duty of any citizen is not limited to voting. The acts of charity, teaching, helping sick or poor, work productivity, creation of economic opportunity forms the various ways serve the common good and become a responsible and good citizen through self-conscious. Another argument put forwards is that democracy do not have liberty to invade the right of choice by claiming the society member to vote. Additionally, economists such as Mansur Olson viewed voting is pointless from an ethical perspective as the time taken by an individual to understand the group/individual and the cause of poll offset the person vote advantage for self and others and as a result, leaves no impact on the outcome(Brennan, 2009).The opportunity cost for voting is high in terms of the time factor to collect information and standing in voting lines and other opportunity costs in forming a preference for whom to vote. Thus, there is no obligation for an act that has no identified impact.  Another philosopher Jason Brennan in the book ‘The Ethics of Voting’ has argued on the folk theory of voting ethics(Caplan, 2013). The folk theory underlines that each citizen has obligation to vote in relation to civic duty. It also states that vote in good faith is ethically acceptable as it is better to vote than withdraw from voting. These form the basic moral principle that one should vote. Some theorist view that there is no duty to vote while other point out that we have duty to vote well.

Votingnot as an ethical duty

Voting is formal system under which individual is selected on the basis of for or against the promises and motion. In concern to this, it can be stated clearly that there is no moral obligation to vote because voting system bound every citizen to vote for any one person even though they are not feel satisfied and agreed.  Mostly people worldwide believe that voting is a moral duty or obligation to them. In other words, Braham and Van Hees (2012) stated that every citizen has a ability to vote and it is their right, responsibility and privilege.

While voting, there are some ethical issues which develop challenges and difficulties for an individual party as well as for citizens. The ethical issue found is bad choice at polls is wrong selection of politician candidate by citizens and which results into unjust laws, calamitous economic policies, needless wars, etc. At the same time, Blais and ST‐VINCENT (2011) also added his view point by stating that during election campaign, votes buying, selling and trading takes place at large scale under politician attracts citizen by providing them some benefits.  This buying, selling vote process is inherently wrong and illegal and unfair for society and economy welfare.

Nowadays, voting has become a big responsibility for citizen and government because there is a difference between asking for a vote and buying a vote. In oppose to it, Kochenov (2014) demonstrated in his study that voting is not moral obligation for most of the citizen because every citizen owes a voting right for welfare of other and economy.  But, there are some citizens who don’t feel like voting as their moral obligation and in this case, they stay away from the voting process polls in order to protect the democratic process from irrational, immoral, uninformed voting system.

For example, in rural areas, there are some women’s who don’t know for what they are voting, in this case they are required to feel that they are not under any moral obligation to vote. In the research study of Van der Werff et al., (2013), it is determined that there is nothing which is more integral to democracy than voting. Voting is somewhat which helps the citizens to determine and make difference in their individual vote and rights easily. But, on the other side, Quintelier et al., (2011) also mentioned that voting is a right not a moral obligation for citizen. However, no moral obligation is very helpful for voter as it reduces the chances to make any type of informed decisions for any individual in voting booth.

In addition to it, there are some other factors besides voting for any voter like citizens have choice that they can vote well or not vote. The decisions of voting by citizens are based on morality as well as they generally not bound with any standard obligation to vote. At last, it can be stated that citizen is restricted to vote but it depends on them to vote well or abstain from vote.

The ethical status of voting

The advocates of moral duty of vote specifies that voting form a citizen responsibility as its outcome has an impact on life on each individual in a social system. It affects the quality of government and provide an opportunity to the citizens to improve the society by choosing government that has potential to fulfil social interests. Other virtuous acts such as charity, serving needy does not impact each person living in the society. Thus, the voting is associated as dutiful act as it not always triggered by self-interestbut is required for the welfare of the other persons in a broader sense. This indicates that there are ethical obligations associated with the manner how one votes. The perception of moral voting is based on the individual voter in deciding whom to vote or whether to participate in vote or withdraw from the voting process.  Under the ethical consideration, it points to the independent thinking of the voter that whose interest (self-interest or societal welfare) is considered when casting a vote. It also emphasises on the vote substance such that support to produce just outcomes as per justice philosophy and on the informed knowledge about the representatives and claims in order to form a voting preference in a rational way.

However, in the views of Lakoff (2010), there lies a moral duty to vote and act rightly for the representative for whom the preference is based on individual principle grounds. It can also be added that voters might feel that some of the moral principle are getting compromised in support of other representatives in casting a vote. While other many feel, inclination to vote for candidate who show no probability to succeed through voting but forms political view more sincerely. This highlights the complexity of a moral voter in relation to voting and morality.  Thus, it is viewed that the individuals are bound by some commitment which either make them to vote rightfully for the candidate or avoid voting where it is not enacted by law.

The theory of utilitarianism states that an act is identifies to be morally wrong based on the action consequences for maximum number of individual. This theory debates that decision/action is taken as ethical that promotes welfare to maximum individuals (Broad, 2014). Thus, the logic of unitarian theory can be related to voting as its outcome hold benefits to the overall society welfare. It can be states that though there is less possibility that a person vote can determine the favourable outcome, but a single vote contributes to the overall vote set that is required to achieve majority to success.According to McMurray (2012), a person wrong vote without information of issue and candidate is compensated by another uniformed person vote for different candidate. It is also stated that a person need not to avoid voting if the person is not well-versed with the applicants and problems.  In contrary to this, Hill and Koch (2011)points to the need of voting with knowledge and a sense of justice to achieve good political outcomes. The moral principle guide individual to act in a responsible manner. The obligation to vote exists as it is the duty of the individual to protect self, family, assist others society members and to form a good administration. This is required to serve the society through voting in an effective manner thus, presents a moral duty to vote. Accordingly, it can be understood that individual votes have moral obligation in relation to how an individual vote that collectively impact the results on a larger level. Thus, based on these discussion and standpoints, it can be said that casting a vote is morally significant.

The concept of Justice in voting for the common good

The ethical perspective of voting is well-suited with justice concept.  It is necessary for the individual eligible voters to vote justly towards the common good rather than for self-interest. The common good provide the social conditions that are required to fulfil the basic needs and promote development to take responsibility of one’s life (Etzioni, 2014). Thus, participation of voters to cast a vote presents a moral duty under democratic and non-democratic regime. There is duty, in justice, to cast a vote and moral obligation to vote for a candidate that is worthy as the welfare of society relies on the elected members.


The right to vote hold a moral duty to exercise the vote with fairness to strengthen the political outcome and leadership that is obligatory for the common good. It can be said that involvement of citizens in political aspects of a nation is a moral responsibility.  This involvement can be majorly seen through voting process for the public matters for the common good. It can be added that citizens have commitment towards the border society to make them impartial and who abstain from doing this is leading to injustice. In context of this, it can be understood that individual members in a social system have a moral obligation to vote to avoid injustice by society representatives. The citizens who are refraining from vote are providing the representatives to allow prejudice(Rehfeld, 2009). This implies that individuals have a moral duty to vote to reduce the injustice.  However, it is also argued that this duty to vote is not incumbent for all is misleading as some voters can act wrongly by voting for representatives that cannot enact just policies.The democratic participation accepts the validity of results thus, for some it seems to avoid voting for unjust decisions and support to the citizens who vote rightly with knowledge to promote justice. Some of these citizens might promote justice through protests apart from voting.


Drawing upon the philosophical views and individual understanding, it is seen that the moral duty to vote is believed by many citizens even if there is no outcome preference. This moral duty to vote arises from the role of elections that translates commitments concerning the society as democratic participation. The non-advocates have realised that there is no moral commitment to individual vote as the benefits is offset by the time to collect information, standing in queue to vote and other opportunity costs. It is difficulty to take sides in choosing whether sometimes moral obligation to vote arises or there always exist moral duty to vote. From the views and analysis of advocates and opponents of moral duty, it can be summarised the voting is subjective in nature thus, for which there is no obligation to vote in a democratic reign however, the moral principles and individual beliefs plays a relevant role for citizens in casting a vote. Thus, it was recognised that the moral obligation to vote includes voting in a thoughtful manner that enables the citizen to choose a decent government that act for the common good and lay just policies.  In simpler words, the moral duty lies in voting on informed and well-versed grounds with a sense of justice and responsibility. The concept of voting isseen as an individual activity whereas it requires relevance as a collective effort in contemporary democratic nations.


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