The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) are proposing that first time voting should be made compulsory, yet other voting should remain voluntary. See here.
Whatever, the rights and wrongs are for compulsory voting: the IPPR are wrong to propose having a two-tier voting system, with voting being compulsory for some and not for others. All voters should be given the same status.
Labour is supposed to be interested in the IPPR Report, with a view to attaching the notion to their proposal for Votes for 16s. This would make things even worse. How can we treat 16 year olds as adults and give them the vote, then say because they are not really adults they will be forced into using their first vote? Talk about crossed messages.
Let us have votes at 16, with electoral registration taking place via schools for 15 year olds in readiness for them attaining the vote. Then run courses for the 15 year olds at school about voting and democracy.
Schools, Colleges and Universities can then be used as a means of updating registers. For those who have left educational institutions, a pro-active re-registration system can be put in place. This would track and catch up with people as they move, in order to get them to re-register. Advertising could also be used to alert people to the need to re-register. If Wonga can use the media to sell their dangerous services, then the State can do it for a worthy purpose. If the State adopted relevant legislation, they could oblige the media to run their adverts for free. Electoral Returning Officers could also be funded to arrange for door to door canvassing to encourage re-registration. All registration should be compulsory, with the numbers fined starting to match up to the numbers of non-registrations.
But we should treat everyone in the same way. Not forced voting for some, but it not mattering for others.
My own preference is for all voting to be voluntary. It is up to political parties, individual candidates, political activists and the media to start interesting people in politics and to show that it can have real meaning to people's lives. As the Labour Party are now advocating votes at 16, they have a special responsibility on this matter.
A universal franchise is only part of the democratic process. But it is an essential element.