BRIT POLITICS:Advanced 16 - 18 Years:Elections and Voting Explained:Compulsory Voting in Australia

Compulsory Voting – An Australian Case Study

The recent European Union Referendum saw a turnout of 72%, this was considered high. However it can be a very different picture. The Police and Crime Commissioners and some by-elections for Westminster do not even reach a 20% turnout.

Many countries, including the UK, are trying to increase voluntary turnout, Australia, on the other hand, has had compulsory voting for over a hundred years.

History of compulsory voting in Australia

Arguments used in favour of compulsory voting:

Arguments used against compulsory voting:

The Law

The 1911 Electoral Act requires Australian citizens aged 18 years and over to enrol.

Subsection 245(1) of the Electoral Act provides that: ‘it shall be the duty of every elector to vote at each election’. Similarly subsection 45(1) of the Referendum Act provides that: ‘it is the duty of every elector to vote at a referendum’.

What if you don’t vote?

If you did not vote you may receive a notice in the mail seeking an explanation of your apparent failure to vote.

Electors who fail to vote at a State election and do not provide a valid and sufficient reason for such failure, will be fined.

The penalty for first time offenders is $20, and this increases to $50 if you have previously paid a penalty or been convicted of this offence. If you do not have a valid excuse, you can pay the penalty and that will end the matter.

Electors who do not respond to notices or do not pay the prescribed penalty may have the matter referred to the Fines Enforcement Registry and could lose their driver's licence.

Local government elections

Voting in local government elections is not compulsory, but all electors are strongly encouraged to participate in voting for their local government representatives.