I missed voting in our recent Local Council elections. First time in nearly 50 years I haven’t voted in whatever local, state, federal elections (even voted in British election of 1974 when I was living there briefly) were on. My first election where I could vote (after years of waiting impatiently) was the federal election of 1963 where Menzies clawed back much of the ground he had lost in 1961 (where he had scraped in by one seat). And away I went, election after election, triumphs and disappointments, near run things and landslides.
Even went in 1969, through a contact, to the old Tally Room with its huge mechanical boards fed by people counting paper voting slips. Sat there early on, savouring the obvious Whitlam victory, then, in my own miniature “Don’s Party” (David Williamson, who must have watched with the same thoughts I had), watched the signs subtly change and the Whitlam years postponed for another three. Incidentally I think a great pity the old Board is now abandoned, it was concrete democracy in action. Computers not the same at all.
I missed voting this time with a good excuse, I was just being released from hospital, still very sick, after a serious illness, but still felt guilty. I see voting as not just a privilege but a responsibility. So yes, I am totally in favour of what conservatives angrily call “compulsory voting” but in fact is merely “turn up and get your name crossed off on election day” (or, as in my case, phone or write in with a good excuse). Not too onerous eh? No worse than turning up to get your car registered.
In countries that don’t have “compulsory voting”, like the US and the UK, the result of the election is decided by, has a random element added, who can be “got out to vote”. Alternatively, as in the latest Republican strategy in the US, “how many people unlikely to vote for us can we prevent voting by a range of tricks?”. Compulsory voting takes away that random element, and the dirty tricks, and gives everyone a chance to express their preference for the years ahead. With everyone voting – rich and poor, young and old, all ethnic groups – politicians at least have to pay lip service to governing for “all the people” rather than just for the ones who come out to vote.
Anyway, my apologies to all my fellow citizens in this Valley. There was a candidate I wanted to succeed, and at least one I wanted not to, but I can’t, until the next election, complain about the results, not having contributed to them.
I will certainly make sure I am fit by the next federal election in a year’s time. A desperately important one, that everyone has a duty to help decide.
See you at the voting booth!