An Egyptian man shows his ink-stained finger after voting in the country’s first free presidential election at a polling station in Cairo. (Khaled Desouki/AFP)
CAIRO - 7 February 2018: “A man without a vote is a man without protection,” said 36th President of the United States Lyndon Baines Johnsen. Casting a vote is not merely practicing a constitutional right, but also a measure used to protect one’s future.
Presidential elections are deemed one of the key constitutional rights granted to all citizens; therefore, laws criminalize calls for election boycotts.
Compulsory voting laws require eligible citizens to vote in national and local elections. In some countries, penalties are imposed on citizens who did not cast their votes without a justified reason. Compulsory voting laws exist in 22 countries worldwide, while 11 countries enforce a compulsory voting law.
In some countries, violating the compulsory voting law may result in fining abstaining voters or depriving them of public sector jobs. Defenders of these laws believe that enforcing citizens to take part in political life by setting penalties for their reluctance to participate will enrich politics and decrease the possibility of rigged elections.
An Egyptian woman holds a ballot card at a polling station ahead of voting in the Egyptian parliamentary elections in the Giza district of the capital Cairo, on Sunday. Photo - AFP
Seventeen countries have a compulsory voting law listed in their penal codes, but they do not enforce it on the voters who fail to cast a vote on election day. Lebanon and Egypt are among these countries which do not enforce the law, despite having it.
All men above the age of 21 must vote in the elections. For women, they are authorized to cast their vote, but they have a legal right not to vote. Lebanese military personnel are ruled out of the voting system.
Under Egyptian law, those who abstain from casting their votes in the presidential election are fined up to LE 500 ($28) and sentenced to prison for up to five years.
Article 43 photo
Meanwhile, 10 countries enforce compulsory voting: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Ecuador, Luxembourg, North Korea, Peru, Singapore and Uruguay. Egypt Today highlights examples of penalties in two of these countries.
The law was introduced in 1894, as citizens from the age of 18 to 70 are required to present themselves in their designated polling station on election day; otherwise, they will face a moderate fine. If they fail to vote in at least four elections without stating a justified reason for their absence, they may be deprived of casting a vote for ten years. They may also face difficulty in obtaining a job in the public sector, according to a July 2005 report from the Guardian.
In 2010, the Tasmanian election had a turnout of 335,353 voters. About 6,000 people were fined with $26, although more than 20,000 Tasmanians did not cast a vote. Most of the absent voters had a valid excuse, according to the local authorities.
South Florida voters’ registrar at an early voting polling centre in Miami. Picture- AFP