Australian Electoral Commission

Compulsory Voting

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.