My question is: Does a Jew have an obligation to vote in an election?
In countries where one is obligated by law to vote, such as Australian and Belgium, one would be obligated to vote based on the concept "dina d'malchuta dina” - the laws of the land are law. This means that a Jew is obligated to follow the laws of the country in which he lives. (Of course, this only applies when the local Law does not contradict Torah Law.)
In countries where voting is not obligatory by civil law, a Jew nevertheless has a responsibility to actively help in establishing a just society. As our Sages say, "Pray for the peace of the kingdom (government) for if not for the fear of it, people would swallow each other alive." Voting is one way of helping establish a better society, and hence one has a responsibility to do so.
Regarding voting in the State of Israel, some are of the opinion that since a Jewish government ruling over the Land of Israel must do so only according to Torah Law, one is forbidden from voting in the national elections which perpetuates secular, non-Torah rule in Israel. The majority of Torah leaders are of the opinion that this prohibition may be suspended in order to protect and promote Torah observance in Israel, which the secular majority actively seeks to undermine.
Regarding participating in municipal elections in Israel, some who forbid voting on the national level uphold their prohibition for local elections. Others are lenient for local elections based on the distinction that they do not assert national sovereignty over the Land of Israel but rather regulate the communal needs of cities. Therefore, the vast majority of Rabbis permit voting in municipal elections.
- Bava Kama 113b
- Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 369:2
- Ethics of the Fathers 3:2