Should voting be rewarded with a prize? Should it be compulsory?

Person places their vote in a ballot box at a polling station.

In recent decades, voters have been less and less likely to turn out and cast their ballot - not just in the UK, but abroad as well.

Here, voter turnout now tends to be around two-thirds, way down on the 84% in the general election of 1950, for example. The figure was around the same for the recent French presidential elections, and in the US it was only around half.

In Australia, though, the figure is pretty much 100%, as under federal law it's compulsory to vote in all federal elections, by-elections and referendums. And the same is true of several other countries, including Argentina, Luxembourg and Singapore.

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There are powerful arguments against compulsory voting in terms of human rights and freedom of speech, and a YouGov survey two years ago showed that only around half the British public support the idea.

"Most people (53%) say it is an individual's responsibility to decide whether to vote, rather than saying the government should work more to get people to vote (39%)," the researchers conclude.

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However, some organisations think they may have another solution - dishing out cash prizes to a few random voters to give them more of an incentive to turn out.

Today, for example, South Korea goes to the polls - and three lucky voters will walk away with a cash lump sum as a result. Funded by donations, the top prize is expected to be around £3,400.

Several US cities have tried the same thing, with prizes of $10,000 or more.

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A similar idea, aimed at increasing voter registration, has already been tested in one London borough. And, the Behavioural Insights Team found, offering a £1,000 prize boosted voter registration from 44.7% to 46.2%; a £5,000 prize boosted that to 46.7%.

And, says political scientist Ray La Raja of the University of Massachusetts, voter lotteries can help make elections more representative. They encourage people who are poorer or less politically engaged to vote, he tells the BBC.

"If you go to a system in which you rely heavily on individual resources such as education, money, proximity to voting booth, you're going to get systematic bias in who turns out," he says.

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Biggest UK lottery winners
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Biggest UK lottery winners

Colin and Chris Weir, from Largs in Ayrshire scooped 161 million in the EuroMillions draw after several rollovers in 2011. They are the biggest British lottery winners in history.

Adrian Bayford, who won an astonishing £148m on the Euromillions with his wife Gillian, had to shut up the music shop he owns, because people targeted it with requests for money.
One British ticket won  £113,019,926 in October 2010 but decided not to go public.
Car mechanic and racing driver Neil Trotter scooped a staggering £107.9 million jackpot on the Euromillions lottery in March 2014.
Dave and Angela Dawes won £101 million on the EuroMillions in 2011. It was only the third time the couple, from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, had played the lottery. The couple are said to have since split up.
The sum was won in May 2010 but the winner kept their identity a secret.
One lucky British ticket-holder picked up a £81million EuroMillions rollover but remained anonymous.

Nigel Page and Justine Laycock from Cirencester bagged a £56 million jackpot back in February 2011. On winning the jackpot, Page said: 'I'd already checked my National Lottery account and had seen I'd won £55 on Lotto when I decided to buy two Lucky Dips for the big EuroMillions jackpot on Friday.'

One lucky winner won shy of 50 million but chose to remain anonymous.

Les and Sam Scadding from Newport, South Wales, and a syndicate of seven Liverpudlian call-centre workers shared a staggering £91 million in November 2009. Les, an unemployed mechanic, was £68 overdrawn on the day he bought his ticket, while the Liverpool syndicate only started playing EuroMillions together four months before their win.

Carrington, 22, from Stapleford in Nottingham, banked £45 million after matching all five numbers and two Lucky Stars in a EuroMillions draw in February 2012. The Iceland supervisor said she planned to marry painter fiancee Matt Topham, 22, following the Lucky Dip win.

Husband and wife Gareth and Catherine Bull have fairly modest spending plans despite their £40.6 million jackpot win in January. Speaking about what she planned to do now that she was rich, Catherine explained that she intended to use part of their winnings to replace the carpet on her upstairs landing...

Angela Kelly became one of the biggest lottery winners in UK history back in 2007, after scooping a £35 million EuroMillions jackpot. This is estimated to earn £5,000 a day in interest alone, meaning she's unlikely to ever be short of cash.

In June 2009, 74-year-old Brian Caswell got the surprise of his life when he took his lottery ticket to his local newsagent and discovered he'd won almost £25 million.

Belfast housewife Iris Jeffrey, 58, was the lucky holder of the record 20.1 million rollover lottery winning ticket back in 2004.

Jeffrey, 58, a cancer sufferer, only realised three weeks after the draw took place that she had won the  jackpot after organisers Camelot pleaded for the person holding the prize ticket to come forward and claim the prize.

Stephen Smith and his wife Ida from Hemel Hempstead, Herts, won nearly 19 million in the National Lottery. Mr Smith said he would give up his winnings if he could have his health and the chance to live a longer life with his wife.
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