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Voting - A compulsory civic duty in Australia

BY: JNLakshmi | Category: Politics | Post Date: 2008-10-17

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Australia emerged as an independent country from Great Britain, with six states and 2 union territories. It has a federal government structure as well as state government.

Their parliamentary system is similar to Great Britain's. Australia was the pioneer in introducing modern voting practises. Compulsory voting is an innovation in electoral manipulation of Australia. Records show that, voter turnout has been around 94% to 96% and has never fallen below 90% ever since 1924. Compulsory voting became an effective remedy to the problem of poor voter turnout that was introduced in the year 1924 at the federal level.

In Australia, all citizens over the age of 18 must enrol to vote. It is compulsory by law to enrol and cast their vote at election time. If an eligible voter does not attend a polling place, they may be charged with fines, community service, or eventually imprisonment in some cases. The poll takes place on Saturday to ensure that working people can cast their vote. They have the concept of mobile voting booths that will be taken to old age homes and hospitals to cater for immobilized citizens, and postal voting may be provided for people who are away from their electorate on election day. If a person does not vote and has a legitimate reason for not voting like being in hospital is accepted. They also record the number of person who are not entitled to enrol and vote like the prisoners serving a sentence of five years or more, mentally affected people and the like. There are 19 other countries including Australia that pursue compulsory voting. Singapore, Argentina, Brazil are the few among them.

Voting is a civic duty, just like the other duties of a citizen like taxation, education etc. As the polling is enforced, the candidates can concentrate on their campaign rather than reminding or rather begging to attend the poll. Voting is a duty not a privilege. It shows the benefits of political participation of every citizen. The Governments can consider the total electorate in policy formulation. By compulsory voting, governments do not neglect sections of society that are less active politically.

Like every coin has two sides, a debate has been going on against compulsory voting. Always, compulsion sounds unpleasant. Like the freedom of speech, voting is also their legal right and liberty. It should not be compelled. It is undemocratic to force people. In the case of compulsory voting, people who are not interested in politics or do not know anything about politics, cast their vote to some party, just to get away from the possible annoying enquiries about not voting. some oppose this compulsory voting, just because they do not want to bother to vote. compulsory voting also results in informal voting. Though voting is compulsory, it is a secret ballot. If they are not interested the voter simply numbers the candidates in the order in which they appear on the ballot paper. The candidate listed at the top gains an extra advantage which often amounts to several percent and can make the difference in a close election. It results in "donkey vote". The donkey vote is usually made by an uninterested voter, and is one response to the compulsion involved.

It is the utmost duty of every citizen to cast their vote and elect their candidate. It hardly takes few minutes, that too few years to stand up and be counted. Let us not miss that.

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