Monday, June 07, 2010

Voting is Compulsory in Australia

I've just dug out this reference, since it came up in a seminar today, so I thought that I may as well post it here for future reference.

It's commonly known that Australia is one of several countries where voting is compulsory. It's also commonly said that compulsory voting is a misnomer, since all that's usually required is turnout (i.e. people can come to the polling station and cross their names off without even taking a ballot paper).

Well, I can't speak for other countries, but it seems that in Australia it's actually voting that's required to fill your legal duty, even though (for obvious reasons to do with the secret ballot) no more than turnout is enforced. This position is stated by the Australian Electoral Commission here (page 4):

"The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, under section 245(1), states:
"It shall be the duty of every elector to vote at each election".
• Under the Electoral Act, the actual duty of the elector is to attend a polling place, have their name marked off the certified list, receive a ballot paper and take it to an individual voting booth, mark it, fold the ballot paper and place it in the ballot box.
• It is not the case, as some people have claimed, that it is only compulsory to attend the polling place and have your name marked off, and this has been upheld by a number of legal decisions:
• High Court 1926 – Judd v McKeon (1926) 38 CLR 380
• Supreme Court of Victoria 1970 – Lubcke v Little [1970] VR 807
• High Court 1971 – Faderson v Bridger (1971) 126 CLR 271
• Supreme Court of Queensland 1974 – Krosch v Springbell; ex parte Krosch [1974] QdR 107
• ACT Supreme Court 1981 – O’Brien v Warden (1981) 37 ACTR 13"

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