Australian Electoral Commission
Updated: 18 May 2011
History of compulsory voting in Australia
- Compulsory enrolment for federal elections was introduced in 1912
- Compulsory voting for state elections was introduced in Queensland in 1915
- Compulsory voting at federal elections was introduced in 1924.
Arguments used in favour of compulsory voting
- Voting is a civic duty comparable to other duties citizens perform e.g. taxation, compulsory education, jury duty
- Teaches the benefits of political participation
- Parliament reflects more accurately the "will of the electorate"
- Governments must consider the total electorate in policy formulation and management
- Candidates can concentrate their campaigning energies on issues rather than encouraging voters to attend the poll
- The voter isn't actually compelled to vote for anyone because voting is by secret ballot.
Arguments used against compulsory voting:
- It is undemocratic to force people to vote – an infringement of liberty
- The ill informed and those with little interest in politics are forced to the polls
- It may increase the number of "donkey votes"
- It may increase the number of informal votes
- It increases the number of safe, single-member electorates – political parties then concentrate on the more marginal electorates
- Resources must be allocated to determine whether those who failed to vote have "valid and sufficient" reasons.