Vote early, vote often

15

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!

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15 comments on “Vote early, vote often

  1. Jason says:

    Our voter turnouts are 81%. 10% are not even registered to vote. And that 81% includes a high proportion of donkey votes, invalid votes and blind guesses. But even at this inflated 81% our turnouts are still lower than many nations where voting is voluntary. Compulsory voting at best achieves nothing. It also hides apathy. Wouldn’t it be better if the 81% voted because they are informed and engaged rather than to save $55? Isn’t education better than fascist threats of fines enforceable with violence? Or did you think we have 95% voter turnouts? You’ve been lied to.

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    • David Horton says:

      Welcome to blog Jason, but we shall agree to disagree.

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    • Geoff Andrews says:

      “But even at this inflated 81% our turnouts are still lower than many nations where voting is voluntary”.
      Jason, to which “many nations” are you referring? Check out http://www.aec.gov.au/About_AEC/Publications/voting/index.htm.
      “Compulsory voting at best achieves nothing. It also hides apathy.”
      Surely, compulsory voting, at best, is the most accurate indication of the political opinions of a population. Far from hiding apathy; it measures it. If one IS apathetic but still wants to avoid a fine (or even worse, “violence” by a tasar-totting squad of electoral police) stopping off at the local school for half an hour on the way to do Saturday shopping every three years is a small price to pay to avoid broken ribs.
      Even if one doesn’t vote, the electoral inquisitors are surprisingly gullible: reasonably rational excuses (particularly true ones) are accepted without the loss of too many fingernails.
      At worst? ……Well, it does give a small minority the chance to display their ignorance about the differences between civil liberty, freedom of the individual and social obligation.

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  2. Voter turnout was higher before compulsory voting than after – the two main parties instituted it because each hoped to gain partisan advantage by doing so.
    Compulsory voting + 2-party preferred + public funding based on votes harvested = permantent entrenchment of the current parties.( In 2010, the Greens got 11.76% of Reps votes nationally and only one seat. The NLP got 9.12% and 21 seats)
    Mandatory voting entrenches a system which effectively disenfranches anyone who does not support either Labor or the Tories. It is constipating in intent and effect.

    Unfortunately it has been extended to local government, so I can’t vote in elections I want to without also having to vote in elections I don’t want to. And you have to be on the roll to serve on a jury. Still, it’s not worth signing up to play in a fixed game.

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    • Geoff Andrews says:

      Can you quote any authority for your statement: “Voter turnout was higher before compulsory voting than after”, Shane?
      It does seem counter-intuitive.
      Let’s suppose that an average of 70% turned out before compulsory voting and 65% after compulsory voting. This IS the essence of your assertion?
      Of the 65%, some (say 10%) would have voted only because they were forced to vote by the “fascist threats” (Jason’s colourful phrase) leaving 55% of voters who would have voted whether voting was compulsory or not.
      So, 15% of the original 70% who had been quite happy to vote when it was voluntary, have a little tantrum and deliberately refuse to vote because it’s compulsory?
      The website: http://www.aec.gov.au/About_AEC/Publications/voting/index.htm will provide you with statistics, which relate directly to your assertion.

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    • David Horton says:

      Hi Shane, glad you dropped in. Like Geoff I question your figures. I also question the link between compulsory voting and “entrenching” parties. The death of the Democrats and the rise of The Greens both show the system is malleable. Preferential voting makes sure of that (and it’s worth noting conservatives want to do away with that), although proportional representation, as in Tassie and ACT, would ensure a much fairer link between votes and elected members.

      Finally, whatever was the case, the fact that it is conservatives pushing for voluntary voting now certainly shows they did their sums (as did Howard playing silly buggers with roll closing to reduce the youth vote).

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      • Unfortunately, compulsory voting is one of Australia’s most sacred cows. We brandish it as a demonstation of our moral superiority, yet attempts to disuss it are often met with either blythe dismissal or outright hostility. Are New Zealand, Canada and the Netherlands less democratic than Australia? Are their citizens more or less likely to participate in civic life than Australians?
        l are don’t like conscription, however it comes dressed. Not only am I am compelled to vote, my vote can then be allocated to a party for which I did not vote. As Stalin said – It’s not who votes that matters, it’s how you count the votes. (Voting was compulsory under his government, by the way)

        Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy election day – a veritable fesitval of democracy with sausage sizzles and much community conviviality.

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        • David Horton says:

          Shane you are not “compelled to vote”, you are merely required to turn up for the sausage sizzle. And if you do vote, you allocate the order of preference, not Stalin – if you don’t like someone, put them last. Or, under the “optional preferential” system (which I don’t like) now operating in (some? all?) state elections, just vote for one person.

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  3. Mindy says:

    I hope your preferred candidate got up, mine just scraped in but she is there and I hope she does good. Waiting to see who is Mayor now, that could get interesting.

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  4. When I buy my sausage and a home-made cupcake from the school fundraising stall, I know for a fact that I’m supporting public education – unlike either of the two parties who will inevitably, inexorably and (yes!) exhaustively get to claim my vote.
    Do you remember the Albert Langer case? For pointing out that optional preferential voting in federal elections was not illegal, he was imprisoned and the law was changed to close off the option.
    It’s a sad reflection on the state of the world when a man can’t go out on a Saturday morning and have a sausage and a slice of bread without having to pretend to vote as well.

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    • Mindy says:

      There was a sausage sizzle where you voted? I used to look forward to the sausage sizzle or cake stall every voting day, but these days not one to be seen. The best I could get on the day was some raffle tickets. The Government should do something!

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    • BeeTee-Ess says:

      Shane…
      No-one can “inevitably, inexorably and and…exhaustively get to claim” your vote, if, as is your right, you choose not to record one. This has already been pointed out to you, but you seem determined to ignore it.

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  5. I’d vote for that.

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  6. Jan Dobson says:

    I also support compulsory “turning up on voting day”. I’ve not seen the statistics quoted by those disagreeing, but I feel that it at least it makes everyone think about the election. In lackadaisical Australia, that has to be a good thing

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