Compulsory voting

Voting for all levels of government - federal, state and municipal - is compulsory. There has been much debate over making it voluntary, but so far things have not changed.

The Australian Electoral Commission has identified the arguments for and against compulsory voting (https://www.aec.gov.au/voting/compulsory_voting.htm):

  • For:
    • Voting is a civic duty comparable to other duties citizens perform e.g. taxation, compulsory education, jury duty
    • Teaches the benefits of political participation
    • Parliament reflects more accurately the "will of the electorate"
    • Governments must consider the total electorate in policy formulation and management
    • Candidates can concentrate their campaigning energies on issues rather than encouraging voters to attend the poll
    • The voter isn't actually compelled to vote for anyone because voting is by secret ballot.
  • Against:
    • It is undemocratic to force people to vote – an infringement of liberty
    • The ill informed and those with little interest in politics are forced to the polls
    • It may increase the number of "donkey votes"
    • It may increase the number of informal votes
    • It increases the number of safe, single-member electorates – political parties then concentrate on the more marginal electorates
    • Resources must be allocated to determine whether those who failed to vote have "valid and sufficient" reasons.

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