Compulsory Voting

Compulsory Voting to enhance our democracy is an oxymoron. In a democracy, people should have the freedom to choose what they do, subject to their actions causing no harm to their fellow citizens.

True democracies have a free electoral system. Australia does not.

In Australia, we fine people for not voting.

Must we jail people who won’t pay for the same freedom to abstain that the vast majority of the world’s democratic people take for granted?


"A form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them under a free electoral system”
Macquarie Dictionary

Compelling people to vote is like forcing people to get married. If they want to get married they don’t need the compulsion, and if they don’t want to get married they don’t want to be forced.

What’s wrong with Compulsory Voting?

Compulsory Voting forces the political parties to focus on the swinging voters at the centre. In doing so, both major parties end up looking the same. This is very confusing for the electorate, and in their confusion, we force them to the polling booth to make a choice. They don’t trust either side, because they see through the spin required to woo the swinging voters.

If 45% vote left, 45% vote right and 10% vote for self-interest, the country is effectively ruled by the lowest common denominator. The pork barrel rules!

Governments forcing people to vote is unethical because there is a conflict of interest. It is the place of political parties, not governments, to encourage voting. It is up to the Australian people to decide if, when, and who they vote for - not the government.

Those who choose not to engage with the political system will choose not to enrol. Around 10% of the population already exercise this choice. With around 6% voting informally, and another 20% using pre-poll systems (perhaps) to avoid polling day, voting is somewhat optional anyway.

Yet we cling to the undemocratic idea of forcing people to vote. Only 13 countries now enforce compulsory voting, several western countries having abolished it. Australia should abolish compulsory voting too.

Voluntary voting means the politicians have to engage with voters, and we would have a more realistic outcome.

At the local government level, candidates would spend more time meeting with residents, rather than using media and advertising to influence the voters.

Local government voter turnout can be increased through engagement with the community, by encouraging more ‘local heroes’ to stand, and by providing the structures where these people can become involved, and therefore known in their community.

I will support efforts in those directions, but will not be a part of jailing my neighbours for exercising free choice.