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Should Voting Be Compulsory in Australia?

Updated on January 29, 2013

What is Compulsory Voting?

Compulsory voting occurs in 23 countries and means that all citizens over a certain age, most commonly 18 or 21, are obligated to vote in elections. Often failure to vote is enforced by fines.

Should Voting Be Compulsory?

Compulsory voting exists in 23 countries. It’s boasted as a way to ensure that democracy prevails and ensures that everyone performs their civic duty, yet no everyone agrees that it is the best model to run our elections on. This articles discusses some of the reasons for and against compulsory voting.


Reasons 'For' Compulsory Voting

Compulsory voting is a great way to avoid low election turn-outs and ensures that all citizens have their voice heard. Arrangements are made to accommodate those in nursing homes and hospitals to make sure that they too can have their say. Compulsory elections are commonly held on weekends to cater for the majority of citizens. Those who cannot make a weekend election can opt for a postal vote.

Democracy is more likely to occur when a political party is elected into government, as that party have been elected becuase they have the support of the majority of the country, not just the small percentage who decided to vote.

Enforced voting encourages people to become more informed and interested in local, state and national elections. It’s not a question about whether or not you will vote, as you have to vote, it becomes more about who you will vote for.


Compulsory Voting

23 countries have compulsory voting. Of those 23 countries, compulsory voting is only enforced in 10 countries.


Democratic Republic of the Congo

Not Enforced

Costa Rica
Dominican Republic

Reasons 'Against' Compulsory Voting

I live in Australia where voting is compulsory from the time you turn 18. Whilst I can see the reasons for compulsory voting, I don’t believe that it’s as effective as it’s supposed to be. When I turned 18 I knew nothing about politics. It wasn’t an issue which I was motivated to learn about. I was finishing high school, worrying about which University I was going to get into it, preoccupied with formal (prom) preparations that in all honesty I couldn’t care less about the election. However, I didn’t want to get a fine for not voting, so I did show up at the election booth. I can’t remember who I voted for, but more than likely I voted for whoever my parents were voting for at the time. That’s the first problem. If voting is compulsory, then most first time voters who are uninformed about the political parties will just vote for whoever their parents are voting for.

It was only when I was in my mid twenties that I started to become interested in elections and wanted to make sure that my vote really reflected on who thought was the best person for the job. I’ll admit that prior to this time, whilst I did show up at enforced elections and was handed a voting form, I never filled them in. Many of my friends had done the same thing. My belief was, and still is, that if you haven’t researched all parties, then you really should not be voting.

On polling day, as you wait in long queues waiting to vote, you are hounded by people handing out promotional political pamphlets. When citizens are forced to vote, if they haven’t researched the candidates prior to election day, there is the real possibility that a decision will be made based on political propaganda handed to them on voting day. That’s not a thoroughly researched vote.

Having said that, I have only ever known compulsory voting, so I have never experienced the benefits or disadvantages of voluntary voting. I am interested in hearing from people in countries that have a voluntary voting model in place. Do you feel it works, or is a compulsory model needed? Please leave your opinions in the comment box below…don’t worry, it’s not compulsory to do so!

Should Voting be Compulsory?

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    • WebsiteConfetti profile image

      Ness 5 years ago from Australia

      Hi Jason,

      Thanks for your comment. It would be interesting if the actual percentage of legitimate votes were released, because as you say, a great amount of invalid votes would occur, as many people just show up to avoid the fine and just donkey their vote. I know becuase I used to be one of those people.

    • profile image

      Jason 5 years ago

      Actually compulsory voting doesn't increase turnouts. Our turnout is lower than many countries where voting is voluntary including Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Malta. Our turnouts are only 81% (of eligible voters) and would be a lot lower if you count the invalid and donkey votes. We could have turnouts under 60% but we'd never even know it because compulsory voting hides the true mood of the electorate. There are many many more reasons why compulsory voting is wrong - see here:

    • WebsiteConfetti profile image

      Ness 5 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for your comment Ackman1465. I'm unfamiliar with the Massachusetts Law for health insurance, but I can image the reactions it would have gotten!

      I can't comment on America, but whilst in theory I like the idea of the entire Australian population (over 18 yrs) showing up on election day to have their say, I think the reality is that enforced voting results in uninformed votes being made.

      Besides many Australians have lost faith in elections since the Rudd/Gillard soap opera... but thats a whole other hub!

    • ackman1465 profile image

      ackman1465 5 years ago from Cape Coral, Florida

      Compulsory voting goes against all that is sacred in this country...... It's a bad idea.....

      P.S. Consider the Massachusetts law that MANDATED purchasing health insurance... and the brouhaha that that triggered.....