Compulsory Voting Essay

1067 words - 5 pages

Compulsory voting was introduced federally to Australia in 1914 under the Commonwealth Electoral Act and has since remained a fundamental aspect of Australia’s electoral system. The concept of a compulsory voting system is relatively unique, with only 19 countries (7 of which are members of the OECD) enforcing citizens to vote . Despite compulsory voting remaining a largely untouched aspect of the electoral system in Australia, it has faced criticism. In this essay I will be addressing key arguments against compulsory voting in Australia, and countering these with arguments that support keeping compulsory voting enforced.

A common argument used against the compulsory voting system in ...view middle of the document...

The compulsion is to have your name and address ticked off, receive a ballot paper and put the paper in the ballot box” . With features such as the secret ballot and postal voting, it is apparent that not only is ‘compulsory voting’ in Australia the guarantee of our freedom to vote, but the freedom not to have your voice heard on election day. The only compulsory aspect of the electoral system is getting your name ticked off at the roll.

Another key argument made both for and against compulsory voting is the issue of legitimate representation. In modern Australia, the population are becoming increasingly disengaged with political parties and their politicians. Major party membership figures have dropped significantly in the past decades; currently both the ALP and the LP have fewer than 50,000 members , whilst each once had over 100,000 . Whilst there are a number of reasons for such a decline, the result is the many Australian’s are ill informed in party policy. Armchair psephologists will often propose that the ill informed and uneducated (also a result of socioeconomic factors) will threaten the legitimacy of the election result.

The above argument, whilst encapsulating the importance of a highly legitimate electoral system and outcome, fails to recognise two key points. Firstly, in a voluntary voting system, turnouts are in comparison to compulsory systems, very low . A common consequence of low turnouts on Election Day is class bias. This sees those in lower socioeconomic brackets disadvantaged by their lack of representation at the polls as the policies of major parties are unlikely to be targeted at those who naturally are less likely to turn out to vote. As Arend Lipjhart puts it, “unequal participation equals unequal influence” . Secondly, due to Australia’s consistently high turn out for elections (over 91% since 1924 ), the Australian Electoral Commission receives funding allowing it to provide a high standard of service for all Australians no matter how rural or disadvantaged they may be. In an for the political science journal Representation, Political Scientist Lisa Hill explains that because of the AEC’s resources and funding as a result of the compulsory system, Australian’s can trust the system and outcome’s...

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