The Chilean Senate is debating a bill whether to make voting in national elections mandatory, a highly controversial issue since lawmakers of the ruling coalition are against the initiative while the opposition insists in approving it to increase the participation percentage.
A few Senators managed to establish their positions but finally the debate was suspended until the next session.
However the bill which already was passed by the Lower House does not contemplate sanctions for those who do not comply with their obligation of voting, but maintains the automatic listing in the Voting Registry of every Chilean citizen in voting age.
The president of the senate, Ximena Rincón argued that the bill as it was received is a voluntary vote, it says it is mandatory, but it's an euphemism, since it has no sanctions. If we want to protect and conserve our Chilean democracy, we must have rights, but also duties and responsibilities.
She added that the Chilean electoral system should keep the automatic registry of voters and make voting compulsory. If someone does not want to participate in a specific election, he should request de-listing
Gabriel Boric presidential candidate for a left wing coalition argued that the most privileged end up as the most over represented when the vote is voluntary.
I think it is reasonable that voting should be mandatory. I don't favor draconian sanctions against those who don't, but I do believe in a moral imperative of participating in political decisions, added the Punta Arenas born candidate.
To the contrary Marco Enriquez-Ominami, member of the constitutional assembly favored the voluntary vote. I believe it is an ethical, moral duty not an obligation. And I want to see the brave members of Congress who are proposing a fine to those who do not vote...I am aware most of the country favors a return to mandatory voting in national elections, but I am against it.
Jose Antonio Kast, an independent lawmaker said he always favored mandatory voting while registry should be voluntary. At some point people must have the liberty to decide if they want to be listed in the Electoral Registry or if he does not want to vote. Kast finally stated that it seems that congress is after automatic registry and mandatory vote. If voting is to be mandatory, registry must be voluntary.
As can be seen it is a controversial issue and the Chilean Senate is working on two parallel initiatives to the mandatory voting, which means fines for those who don't vote and voluntarily drop out from the Electoral registry.
The discussions have been going on for the last eighteen months, with the Lower House passing the bill that was sent to the Senate with the support of 105 votes, 33 against and nine abstentions.
Voting in national elections in Chile was mandatory until 2012 when Congress made it voluntarily. But the political system is much concerned about the very low participation of Chileans voters in national and regional elections.
Chile will be holding presidential and legislative elections next November 21, with a runoff on December 19. The new constitution currently under discussion is to be put a popular referendum sometime next year.