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Compulsory voting.

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Major Issues


Part 1

History of Compulsory Voting in Australia

The Introduction of Compulsory Voting

for Commonwealth Elections

Part 2

Compulsory Voting in practice

Effect on Turnout and Informal Votes

Compliance and Encouragement

Part 3

Arguments in Favour of Compulsory Voting

Compatibility of Compulsion with Individual Liberty

Compulsory Voting ensures influence of pressure group

or extremists is in proportion to their support

Elections focus on issues, not extent of Turnout

Part 4

Arguments against Compulsory Voting


Significant Opposition

Australian Difference

Political Health

Excessive Penalties


Part 5

The Consequences of Abolition

Part 6


New Zealand


United States of America



Concluding Remarks


Attachment A - Turnout and informal voting statistics for each

Commonwealth and State election in Australia

from 1903 to 1993.

Attachment B - Turnout in New Zealand from 1938 to 1990.

Attachment C - Turnout in Canadian Elections from 1980 to 1993.

Attachment D - Turnout in United States Presidential Election.

Attachment E - Turnout in United Kingdom

Elections 1950 to 1987.

Attachment F - Turnout in Switzerland 1919 to 1991.

Major Issues

Compulsory voting was first introduced in Queensland in 1914 by an Anti- Labor Government and became part of Commonwealth electoral law in 1924. The remaining States and Territories have followed Queensland and Commonwealth practice and compulsory voting now applies to all elections and referenda.

Whilst apparently enjoying widespread community acceptance, compulsory voting often gives rise to strong feelings over matters of principle, ie the rights and responsibilities of the citizen. Information recently provided by the Australian Electoral Commission to South Australian Senator Nick Minchin shows that a not inconsiderable number of Australians have been prepared to go to gaol rather than be compelled to vote - over 40 following the 1993 Federal Election.

Apart from matters of principle, the choice between compulsory or voluntary voting is also influenced by partisan concerns.

General impetus to a nascent or renewed debate on compulsory voting has come in recent years with the Liberal Party's 1988 Federal Council decision to support voluntary voting.

The paper outlines the history of compulsory voting, examines the position in other democracies, discusses the arguments for and against its retention and looks at how it has operated in Australia.

The main arguments in favour of compulsory voting are:

it is the civic responsibility of citizens in a democratic society;

social and political cohesion are promoted and alienation from the political process by the disadvantaged is diminished;

citizens develop a sense of ownership of the political and decision- making process;

elections focus on the issues and choices before the voters rather than concentrating on getting out the vote;

the influence of interest groups is reduced;

the cost of elections is minimised;

abolition would have detrimental consequences for social, political and legal processes.

The case against compulsory voting rests on six main arguments:

compulsory to voting is an infringement of freedoms of the citizen;

compulsory voting is opposed by a not insignificant number of Australians who have strongly held views on the matter, whereas those supporting its retention are motivated either by narrow partisan concerns or a tacit unwillingness to disturb the status quo;

few comparable polities employ compulsory voting and therefore Australia should not;

the nature of political parties and participation would change for the better if voting were voluntary;

the potential sanctions imposed on those failing to vote (which may ultimately involve gaol sentences) are excessive;

costs associated with maintaining compliance with the compulsory enrolment and the compulsory voting provisions of the Act are not justified.

The effect of abolishing compulsory voting on the two major parties is difficult to predict with any degree of certainty. The effects on the National Party, the Australian Democrats, the Greens and smaller political parties and independents are also hard to gauge.

The conventional wisdom is that compulsory voting benefits the ALP. This view appears to be reflected in the positions adopted by the parties. However, in many instances, local and regional factors are likely to be of considerable importance.


Compulsory voting is a distinctive feature of the Australian political system. Periodically it becomes a matter of controversy and discussion. It persists as a matter of interest as it raises issues of political principle and has a practical impact on the electoral system and on political and campaign practices. Australia is unusual in having had compulsory voting for most of its political history as a nation. This is frequently commented upon negatively by opponents of compulsory voting. However, compulsory voting has seemingly had general acceptance by the community. The issue arouses strong debate, as some members of the Liberal Party in particular, present strenuous arguments against its retention. In recent years a concerted effort has been made to abolish compulsory voting. Since 1988 voluntary voting has been part of the Liberal Party's Federal Council's policy and in 1994 the Liberal Government in South Australia tried unsuccessfully to abolish compulsory voting.

This paper examines the history of compulsory voting and its operation in Australia and discusses a number of the arguments for and against. The paper also considers political participation in some countries where voting is voluntary.

Part one outlines the history of compulsory voting in Australia and places it in the context of Australia's electoral system with particular regard to compulsory registration and other provisions of electoral law facilitating the right to vote. Such provisions include postal and absentee voting, enrolment of itinerant voters and in more recent times the criteria for formality.

Compulsory voting was first introduced in Queensland in 1914 by a conservative government and became part of Commonwealth electoral law in 1924.The remaining states and territories in due course followed Queensland and Commonwealth practice. It now applies to all elections and referenda.

Part two examines how compulsory voting has worked in Australia.

Part three considers the arguments in favour of compulsory voting and against its abolition. These arguments are considered in the context of the desired characteristics and functions of an electoral system. Normative questions about democracy, fairness, equity and the degree of access and participation necessarily arise in this context. The proponents of compulsory voting seek to counter the view that compulsion is incompatible with individual democratic freedoms. They assert the democratic significance of voting and the duties incumbent upon the citizenry to participate in democratic processes. The benefits of a high level of electoral participation are manifold. High turnout under compulsory voting enhances social cohesion and inclusiveness in the political debate, ensures that the influence of pressure groups, money and extremism are constrained. Compulsion also contributes to ensuring that election campaigning remains focused on issues rather than on trying to persuade people to vote. Thus the character of political campaigning can remain less subject to the alleged banners, bunting and balloons syndrome of United States politics.

Part four presents the arguments against compulsory voting and the arguments in favour of its abolition. The major argument is the incompatibility of compulsion with individual freedoms in a democratic society. Other arguments are that Australian practice differs from that of most of the rest of the world, that it contributes to a general political laziness in the community, especially for political parties and that ensuring compliance with the requirements of compulsory voting is an unnecessary expense. A further argument, not always stated explicitly because of its elitist nature, is that the lazy and indifferent members of society cannot make informed electoral choices and thus ought not be compelled to vote.

Part five considers whether there are particular benefits to any group resulting from compulsory voting and assesses who might benefit if compulsory voting were abolished. This part also includes some analysis of the long term as well as the short term consequences of abolition and considers the effect on the body politic as well as on the active practitioners.

Part six analyses election turnout in New Zealand, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. The paper discusses the significance and some of the causes of voter turnout in these countries.

The paper includes the following Attachments:

Attachment A - Turnout and informal voting statistics for each Commonwealth and State election in Australia from 1903 to 1993.

Attachment B - Turnout in New Zealand from 1938 to 1990.

Attachment C - Turnout in Canadian elections from 1980 to 1993.

Attachment D - Turnout in United States Presidential elections.

Attachment E - Turnout in United Kingdom elections 1950 to 1987.

Attachment F - Turnout in Switzerland 1919 to 1991.

The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives is in this case.

Thomas Paine.

Dissertation on first principles of government. 1795

Part 1

History of Compulsory Voting in Australia


Compulsory voting should be seen in the context of the achievement of political rights and democratic government in Australia and as an element of the history of Australian electoral law. Part of the heritage of English Chartism in Australia, as historian Robin Gollan pointed out, was the campaign for universal suffrage. This was accompanied by the determination that Australia should not be re- created as a replica of the Old World and should instead avoid such conditions and inequities in pursuit of a new social vision. 1 The newly emergent ALP, arising from the failure of the big strikes of the 1880s and 1890s, saw political power as the means whereby social and economic improvements could be made. The extension of the franchise, the abolition of property qualifications and of plural voting were a fundamental part of popular reformist programs. Plural voting was an electoral arrangement whereby some people could vote more than once in more than one electorate and it was usually associated with a property franchise. The principle was that those who held property in an electorate were enabled to vote in that electorate. The more real property an individual held the more votes he could cast.

Both those with institutional political power and those seeking access to it recognised how essential was the right to vote. The political arguments of the emergent working class rested heavily on the importance of the establishment of fair and open electoral machinery.

Audrey Oldfield, author of a recent book on women and the right to vote, in writing of the battle for female franchise described something of the intellectual context of the Australian debate:

Settled in the aftermath of the French Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, Australian colonies gained self- determination at a time of Liberal ascendancy in the Western world. Australian Liberals were, on the whole, enthusiastic about the Chartist concept of manhood suffrage, but fearful of how it might work out in practice. Like John Stuart Mill, they believed that in government 'though everyone ought to have a voice, that everyone should have an equal voice is a totally different proposition.'

The philosophical concern with brakes on democracy was reflected in colonial Constitutions. All had bicameral legislatures with Upper Houses either appointed or elected on a high property franchise (with higher property qualifications for candidates).' 2

The battle to extend the franchise was essential to the movement by the Australian colonies towards self- government. With the movement for extension of the franchise went the campaign for the secret ballot. In 1856 male suffrage was introduced in South Australia for the House of Assembly. It was achieved in Victoria in 1857, NSW in 1858, and Queensland in 1872. In Western Australia manhood suffrage with limiting residential qualifications was given in 1893. In Tasmania property qualifications were not completely removed until 1900. Women gained the vote in South Australia in 1894, and in Western Australia in 1899.

Upper houses were elected on a more restricted franchise, and plural voting was also permitted. Plural voting was debated at the Constitutional Conventions held to draft the Constitution for the Commonwealth. It was agreed at the Australasian Federal Convention in Adelaide in 1897 and confirmed in Sydney in 1897 that plural voting should be prohibited. Accordingly, sections 8 and 30 of the Constitution prohibit plural voting in elections for both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Section 7 of the Australian Constitution provides that Senators for each State will be chosen directly by the people of the State, and section 24 provides that the members of the House of Representatives are to be directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth. Section 9 provides that the electoral law for choosing Senators must be uniform for all States.

It was left to the Commonwealth to determine its franchise, within the parameters set by section 41:

No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.

The electoral laws of the Australian colonies varied widely and it was under State electoral laws that the first election was held in 1901 for the new Commonwealth of Australia.

The first Parliament devoted an extensive debate to its first electoral legislation, which resulted in the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 and the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902

The Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 established a uniform universal franchise for those who had attained 21 years of age, irrespective of sex or marital status, who were resident in Australia for six months continuously and who were naturalised or natural born subjects of the British monarch. Those disqualified or excluded from the franchise were those "of unsound mind, attainted of treason, under sentence of imprisonment for one year or more, or were aboriginal natives of Australasia, Asia, Africa or the Pacific Islands (except New Zealand)". 3

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902 provided for single member electorates, a first past the post electoral system, voluntary enrolment and voluntary voting. The machinery for the administration of the electoral system was also created. This included the function of creating and maintaining electoral rolls for the Commonwealth. Enrolment was then made compulsory by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1911. This was as a result of recommendations by the Chief Electoral Officer and was intended to ensure the accuracy of the electoral rolls.

First past the post voting remained in force for the House of Representatives until the introduction of preferential voting by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. Preferential voting for Senate elections was introduced by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1919 and this system remained until the adoption of proportional representation by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1948.

Between 1911 and 1924 those eligible to vote were compelled to enrol for federal elections, but voting itself remained voluntary. The Labor government of Andrew Fisher accepted the argument that all who were eligible to vote should be compulsorily enrolled. Legislation was passed accordingly. Compulsory enrolment, it was argued, would enhance the administrative efficiency of the electoral process and have the added benefit of inspiring citizens to take an active interest in the affairs of the nation and to ensure proper representation. Furthermore the time consuming task of persuading people to enrol, even if not to vote, would be minimised.

From 1902 until the introduction of compulsory voting by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1924, a total of 24 Acts and 12 unsuccessful Bills concerning the electoral system were considered by the Parliament. Their number and contents are evidence of a continuing preoccupation with the electoral system, its fairness, possible and partisan advantages, the need for freedom from malpractice and the need for accessibility. Apart from establishing the basic principles of the electoral system, Parliament devoted considerable attention to such details as enrolment procedures, postal voting, absentee voting and residential requirements. The Australian Labor Party was concerned to ensure that itinerant workers, such as shearers, were not prevented from exercising the vote as a result of arduous enrolment provisions. Compulsory voting became part of ALP policy in 1915. Compulsory voting was recommended as a natural corollary to compulsory enrolment by a Royal Commission into Commonwealth Electoral Law and Administration in 1915. 4 The Royal Commission also advocated preferential voting and proportional representation for the Senate.

The first attempt to introduce compulsory voting for Commonwealth elections came to nothing. The Compulsory Voting Act 1915 provided for compulsory voting at the referenda for which writs had been issued. However, the referenda were cancelled and the writs withdrawn. This Act became the basis for the 1924 legislation.

The Queensland Liberal government led by Premier Denham introduced changes to Queensland electoral law in 1914. 5 The changes were made partly to bring the law into line with the Commonwealth and to introduce compulsory registration of electors. Compulsory voting was an additional measure adopted. The Labor Party initially opposed compulsory voting but changed its attitude during the debate to support the measure. 6

The Introduction of Compulsory Voting for Commonwealth Elections

In the last federal election prior to the introduction of compulsory voting turnout in Australia was 57.9%. This quite naturally increased dramatically with the introduction of compulsory voting.

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1924 was introduced into the Senate as a Private Member's Bill by Senator Herbert Payne (Nationalist, Tasmania) on 16 July 1924. 7 The Bill was introduced on 17 July 1924 passed by the Senate on the same day.

Senator Payne saw the legislation as providing the best results from the system of compulsory enrolment. He said:

We should, I think, recognize that the natural corollary to compulsory enrolment is compulsory voting. Claiming to be a democratic community we naturally expect the people of Australia to be sufficiently interested in the constitution of the national Parliament to see that it is thoroughly representative of political thought in the electoral divisions. Unfortunately this claim cannot be substantiated. All our effort to retain interest in electoral matters have failed lamentably during the last few years. At the last Commonwealth elections in 1922 we were in the most unenviable position that only 57.95 per cent of the people entitled to vote exercised the franchise. 8

After giving more details of the low turnout, he continued:

Parliament is supposed to be a reflex of the mind of the people. If the people exhibit no interest in the selection of their representatives, it must necessarily follow, in the course of time, that there must be considerable deterioration in the nature of the laws governing the social and economic development of this country. We claim, with a certain amount of pride, that our national legislature of Australia is based on democracy. The presumption is that our laws are enacted by a majority of the electors represented by a majority of the members in this Parliament. 9

Senator Gardiner (ALP, NSW, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate), while prepared to vote for the bill, believed it to be a further trespass on the liberty of the people even though compulsory voting was part of the platform of the Australian Labor Party. 10 This remark is a good indication of the need to appreciate the general historical context in order to understand the particular issues under discussion. In this case some Labor members were reluctant to support any measures which were comparable with conscription. The ALP was still suffering the aftermath of the 1917 split over conscription and any social or political measures which involved compelling the citizenry were met with suspicion. In the wake of the split, the reflex action of the ALP was to advance arguments about the freedom of the individual from the compulsions of the State.

Senator Lynch (Nationalist WA) could only agree with Senator Gardiner, although curiously he had been one of the Hughes faction which split from the ALP:

I am sorry to find that there are so many conscriptionists on the opposite benches who have become seised [sic] of the necessity of almost taking decent citizens by the scruff of the neck and compelling them to vote. I do not believe in conscription! I hate it at any time if there is any possible alternative. I was sorry to hear Senator Findley speak so pronouncedly in favour of the conscription of the citizens! What is the world coming to? I stand for freedom. 11

Senator Findley (ALP, Victoria) commented that elections had become very costly, with large numbers expecting to be conveyed to polling booths. 12 Otherwise no substantial contributions were made and the bill passed the Senate with only five contributors to the debate.

The Nationalist Member for Perth, Mr Edward Mann (1922- 1929) introduced the Bill into the House of Representatives on 23 July 1924, and gave the Second Reading speech on 24 July. Only three members spoke in the debate.

Mann's parliamentary career was marked by two notable events: his advocacy of compulsory voting and his later criticism of the Bruce- Page Government in 1929 over its failure to prosecute coal mine owner John Brown. This action led to his exclusion from the party room and with W M Hughes and three others he helped bring down the Government when it attempted to abolish the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. 13 He stood as an Independent candidate at the resulting election, but lost his seat.

Mann argued that democracy was a form of government in which the ruling power of the state is vested in the members of the community as a whole. This meant that the right to rule belonged to a majority of those qualified to vote. 14 He argued that the generally low turnout in federal elections vitiated the reality of democratic principles. He challenged those who opposed compulsory voting to suggest alternative means to increase turnout:

The people should be jealous of their democratic privileges: and we have the right to ask of them that they should regard those privileges, not only as something they ought to prize, but as involving a duty which they should perform, and the performance of which the state has a right to demand of them. As a rule those who are least zealous in exercising the franchise are most ready to criticise the acts of Parliament. People need to be taught that they will be good democrats, not by being arm- chair or street- corner critics, but by becoming in reality responsible for public acts. 15

He noted that compulsory voting had been introduced by the Queensland government in 1915 and the turnout increased. He argued that many Queensland voters did not distinguish between State and Commonwealth elections and thus Queensland turnout for Commonwealth elections had been high. Thus compelling people to vote would arouse an intelligent interest in politics and deepen the political knowledge of the people.

Mann addressed the main argument against compulsory voting that it was an interference with the liberty of the subject. Against this he quoted Lord Bryce who wrote in Modern Democracies that:

As individual liberty consists in exemption from legal control, so political liberty consists in participation in legal control. 16

and further:

Individual liberty is less likely to be invaded when the legal control is that exercised by a real majority of the people. 17

The infringement of liberty aside, the other argument, said Mann, was that compulsory voting would increase the power of the press, but he dismissed that as a possible danger.

Mr Duncan-Hughes (Liberal, Boothby, SA) wondered whether the government may have ulterior motives for introducing compulsory voting concerned with keeping complete records of the citizens and questioned the logic of the procedure:

For various reasons it may suit a government to have a statistical record of persons who are qualified to vote. To compel the electors to register their names, so that there may be a record of the number of electors, is undoubtedly the prerogative of government but to say that the elector shall vote, whether he wishes or not, does not seem to me to follow logically from that procedure. 18

He added that:

another thing that would increase that would increase the number of voters would be for this Parliament to increase in stature and favour with the people. 19

Duncan-Hughes and others who spoke against the Bill or at best spoke in qualified support were raising matters concerned with the freedom of the individual and by implication the surveillance capacity of government. The electoral roll, in 1924, was considered one potential method of conducting surveillance over citizens. By contemporary standards of government and corporate intelligence the efficiency of electoral rolls as a data base seems quaint.

So in both Houses the Bill was passed without a division and received Royal Assent on 31 July 1924. The Act inserted a new section 128A into the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. Section 128A(1) provided that:

It shall be the duty of every elector to record his vote at each election.

Section 128A also established Electoral Office procedure for recording compliance, failure to vote and for penalties for failure to vote.

Since the introduction of compulsory voting there has been some discussion of the principles and particularities of the situation in Australia, but the major political parties have tacitly supported its retention until recently. In 1988 the Liberal Party Federal Council adopted a policy to introduce voluntary voting for federal parliamentary elections. 20 Since that time there has been a debate on the benefits of compulsory voting, stimulated by members of the Liberal Party. An attempt was made to abolish compulsory voting in South Australia in 1994 when the Liberal government introduced a Bill which passed the House of Assembly but was defeated in the Legislative Council.

The most succinct statements recently made in favour of voluntary voting were delivered in the course of that debate and in the published proceedings of the fiftieth anniversary conference of the founding of the Liberal party. Senator Nick Minchin's paper Right's Responsibilities and the Electoral System is one of the discussion papers in the collection The Heart of Liberalism: the Albury Papers. 21

Part 2

Compulsory Voting in practice

Section 101 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 makes electoral enrolment compulsory for all eligible citizens aged 18 years and over and subsection 245(1) of that Act states:

It shall be the duty of every elector to vote at each election.

However, what compulsory voting actually entails is attendance by the elector at a polling booth, having the elector's name crossed off the electoral roll, and being given a ballot paper. The elector may fail to put the ballot paper in the ballot box, may fail to mark the ballot paper or may deliberately cast an informal vote. The polling booth staff do nothing to ensure the vote is actually cast. With the secret ballot it is impossible to ensure electors actually mark the ballot paper.

This arrangement is deemed a reasonable compromise between the general duty of voting and the dilemma of those choosing not to vote because of objecting either to the exercise of the vote or the compulsion, or for a specific reason for a particular event. With this practice there is no actual distinction drawn between the compulsion to attend a polling place and the option to vote; once the voter is at the polling place they may as well vote.

Compulsory voting, once introduced for Commonwealth elections, was also adopted by State Governments: Victoria in 1926, New South Wales and Tasmania in 1928, Western Australia in 1936 and South Australia in 1942.

There have been occasional attempts to abolish compulsory voting. In 1956 Senator McCallum (Liberal, NSW) introduced a Private Member's Bill to abolish compulsory voting. The Bill lapsed at prorogation. As the Menzies Liberal government was in power the Bill evidently lacked government support.

The most concerted attempt to abolish compulsory voting since its introduction was made in 1994 when the South Australian Liberal Government introduced a Bill for abolition. 22 The Electoral (Abolition of Compulsory Voting) Bill was defeated by one vote in the Legislative Council on 14 May 1994, with the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democrats combining to defeat the legislation.

On introducing the Bill the Premier, Dean Brown, said in his Second Reading Speech that compulsory voting had removed the need for parties to persuade people to vote and this resulted in political parties in Australia having small memberships. Voluntary voting would enhance the political system and add some vigour to the electoral process. Brown noted that South Australia already had voluntary enrolment. (It may be noted, however, that this is because South Australia has had a joint electoral roll agreement with the Commonwealth since 1920. Accordingly, South Australia's voluntary enrolment system has little effect on the numbers enrolled. 23 )

The arguments presented in the South Australian Parliament were of two main themes: the freedom of the individual not to vote and the deleterious effects of compulsion on the system as a whole. Yet in assessing the value of compulsory voting Colin Hughes, Professor of Political Science at the University of Queensland and a former Electoral Commissioner, has argued that the practical advantages or disadvantages of compulsory voting ought to be the criteria by which it should be judged. According to Hughes a series of questions need to be posed about the effects on the political system. Has compulsory voting inflated the informal vote? Has it increased the total vote? Has it been widely regarded as oppressive? Has it promoted political education? What effect has it had on political participation generally? 24 These questions are addressed in the following sections under the subheadings of turnout and compliance. To those questions could be added the following: What might be the effects of abolition of compulsory voting? Who would benefit or be disadvantaged by its abolition?

Effect on Turnout and Informal Votes

In Australia, compulsory voting resulted in an immediate improvement in turnout, which has since remained consistently high. Attachment A shows the levels of turnout and the rates of informal voting for Commonwealth and State elections since Federation. Turnout largely is related to registration procedures and Australia has a very effective system of compulsory enrolment with continuous maintenance of the rolls by a statutory body, the Australian Electoral Commission.

High rates of informal voting are also related to factors other than compulsory voting, including the complexity of the voting system, the stringency of the formality criteria, the number of candidates contesting the election, and the number of electors from non- English speaking backgrounds. Hughes discusses the possible correlation of the informal voting rate with compulsory voting and concludes:

The rate of informal voting is consistently highest for those elections demanding elaborate selections in multi- member constituencies: Tasmania since 1909, New South Wales briefly, and the Senate. The contribution of compulsory voting to informal voting appears to be slight, and never greater than 1 per cent. 25

When the elections statistics to 1993 are considered, it is clear that the reason for the substantial decrease in informal voting was the very high use of group- ticket voting for Senate elections, which was first used at the 1984 election. While the informal vote for the Senate decreased from 9.9% at the 1983 election to 4.7%, the informal vote for the House of Representatives rose to 6.8% at that election, but has since decreased at each election. In 1993 the overall informal rate for Australia was 3% for the House of Representatives and 2.6% for the Senate. The Australian Electoral Commission has expanded its informational and educational role considerably since 1983 (e.g. providing information in languages other than English) to assist in reducing the informal vote.

Different methods of marking a preference on the ballot paper can also contribute to the level of informal voting. For example, changes to New South Wales electoral law in 1990 resulted in an overall informal vote for the 1991 election of 9.3%, compared with 3.3% in 1988 and 2.4% in 1984. The highest informal vote in 1991 was 23.5% in Bankstown. The changes introduced in 1990 altered the criteria of what constituted a formal vote for the Assembly so that only numbers (1,2,3 ...) were acceptable, whereas for the Legislative Council ticks, crosses or numbers were acceptable. A referendum requires a tick only. 26 Mixing the types of mark on the ballot paper for the two houses clearly creates confusion for voters.

The first election for the Australian Capital Territory - held on 4 March 1989 - following the introduction of self- government, provides another illustration of how the voting system can affect the informal voting rate. The electoral system employed was a modified d'Hondt 27 system of proportional representation, using a Droop quota 28 of 5.56% of the vote. There were 117 candidates contesting 17 seats. Many of these contested the election as a protest against either the fact or the form of self- government. Many other candidates stood because it was clear that the electoral system would result in no one party gaining a majority of seats. There was a very large ballot paper over a metre in length and the scrutiny was perplexing as, with the exclusion of those candidates whose primary vote was below the quota, voters could not then be sure to whom their intended preferences would actually go.

The result was not declared until 8 May 1989, two months after the election. The informal vote rate was 5.69%, and the turnout for the election was 88.75%. This compared with 94.5% for the 1987 House of Representatives election and may indicate some refusal to vote. A refusal to vote is the more likely explanation because of opposition to self- government rather than an opposition to compulsory voting. People may oppose compulsory voting in a particular case, but not necessarily as a general principle. At the 1992 election, also conducted under the modified D'Hondt system, the informality rate was higher than in 1989 at 6.47% and turnout increased to 90.27% whereas in the February 1995 poll the informality rate fell to 6.2% and the turnout was 89.7% of those enrolled.

Compliance and Encouragement

Compliance with compulsory voting is high on two measures: first, when taken as a percentage of those entitled to vote and second, in terms of the actual numbers of people investigated by the Australian Electoral Commission for failure to vote. 29

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 provides that every person who is entitled to be enrolled as an elector is obliged to apply for enrolment within 21 days of becoming so entitled. There is a statutory penalty for failing to apply for enrolment of $50.00 [section 101].

Section 245 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 specifies a number of offences in relation to the failure to vote. The current penalty for failing to vote is a $20.00 although the making of a false response in relation to penalty notice carries a fine of $50.00 [subsection 245(15)]. On receipt of a penalty notice issued under section 245 an elector who failed to vote may seek to have the penalty waived by providing the relevant Australian Electoral Commission District Returning Officer "a valid and sufficient reason for the failure [to vote]" [subsection 245(5)]. 30

Failure to pay the penalty may, however, lead to court proceedings and a fine of up to $50.00. 31 Where an elector chooses not to pay the court imposed fine, further remedial action may be taken including the option of a term of imprisonment.

Figures provided by the Australian Electoral Commission show that for the 1993 election, outlays, which included costs of production, postage, issuing of summons, and other staff costs, amounted to $1,143,000. Revenue totalled $409,248, of which $55,587 was collected from fines and $353,661 from penalties imposed in magistrates' courts. 32

It is a moot point, however, as to whether the available evidence shows strong resistance to compulsory voting. Compliance with compulsory voting, when investigated attitudinally, does not seem to draw strong resistance. In its 1992- 93 Annual Report, the Australian Electoral Commission summarised the results of a national opinion survey conducted for the Commission in June 1992. The survey found 68% were in favour of compulsory voting, while 76% believed that people only vote because they have to. Compliance with compulsory voting is not apparently regarded as onerous and compulsory voting has been consistently supported by a majority of people surveyed. 33

On the other hand, it appears from information collected by a leading opponent of compulsory voting, South Australian Liberal Senator Nick Minchin, that a not insignificant number of electors are strongly opposed to it. Incomplete data supplied by the Australian Electoral Commission shows that at least 40 persons have been gaoled for refusing to pay fines arising out of a failure to vote at the 1993 Federal Election and that further prosecutions are contemplated. 34

While compulsion can be maintained through the threat of prosecution, citizens are also encouraged to vote through the publicity and education role undertaken by the Australian Electoral Commission. Section 7 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 vests the AEC with responsibility for promoting awareness of electoral and parliamentary matters by education and information campaigns and to promote and conduct research on these matters. The AEC has thus produced a body of information about elections and the electoral system readily available to citizens and has designed and implemented educational programs about elections and electoral systems. However, knowledge of the political system, effective education and participation in the system are not singularly affected by compulsory voting. A sound understanding by the citizenry of the political process, the institutions of government and the methods of representation is elemental to democratic legitimacy. Thus the arguments about compulsory voting turn on the question of whether knowledge of the system and the legitimacy of the state are enhanced or diminished by the discipline to vote.

Part 3

Arguments in Favour of Compulsory Voting

The profound symbolism and significance of voting is crucial to the consideration of compulsion. The government of democratic societies is made legitimate through the act of voting. Paul Kleppner wrote:

Voting is an important contributor to the development or maintenance of citizens' allegiance to the political system, to the existing set of constitutional arrangements. The act of casting ballots is an affirmation, a profession of faith in the meaningful character of the electoral process. At the same time, engaging in the act inculcates or strengthens citizens' feelings of subjective competence, the sense of their own potential significance in the governing process. That reinforces their predisposition to accept voluntarily the results of the particular election. More importantly, it reinforces emotional commitment to the process as such and to the legal- institutional arrangements in which it is embedded. In other words, voting is an important source of diffuse support for the political system. 35

Kleppner also notes that voting is the participatory act most accessible to the largest number of citizens and the political act in which more citizens engage than in any other. Voting remains the mechanism that most believe to be the only one available to them for influencing what the government does. 36

Though Hughes cites approvingly Robson's views that it is a mistake to argue this issue on the level of abstraction, it is important to consider the philosophical justifications of the issue. 37 These are used in the public debate by opponents and proponents, and are questions to which people relate.

The main arguments in favour of compulsory voting are:

it is the civic responsibility of citizens in a democratic society;

social and political cohesion are promoted and alienation from the political process by the disadvantaged is diminished;

citizens develop a sense of ownership of the political and decision- making process;

elections focus on the issues and choices before the voters rather than concentrating on getting out the vote;

the influence of interest groups is reduced;

the cost of elections is minimised;

abolition would have detrimental consequences for social, political and legal processes.

These points are grouped under three subheadings; voting and individual liberty, voting and the role of pressure groups and the issues of elections.

Compatibility of Compulsion with Individual Liberty

The main principle at issue is whether the use of compulsion is justifiable in a democracy. The argument against compulsion on this basis is addressed in Part 4. The basic argument in favour of compulsion is that voting is a positive obligation owed by the citizen to the polity, because the vote is not only a specific electoral choice, but has a profound political and social significance. That argument was put by those speaking in the parliamentary debate in 1924. It continues to be a major argument in support of compulsory voting. While opponents of compulsion believe that individual liberty is contravened in compelling the exercise of the vote, proponents see the necessity for balancing rights and duties. Chris Sumner, former Attorney General, argued in the recent debate in the South Australian Parliament that: 'Rights and duties in our society co- exist':

A society that marginalises or alienates some of its citizens can hardly claim to be democratic in the fullest sense of the word. Both individual rights and social duties are essential prerequisites for a free, stable and equitable society. Surely, it is better that our Parliaments are representative of the poor, the disadvantaged and minority groups as well as the rich, the powerful and the middle classes. 38

Stephen Mills, author of The New Machine Men and The Hawke Years, argued that it is not undemocratic to make voting compulsory. For Mills:

But what is undemocratic about compulsion? Citizenship carries obligations as well as right.(sic) Australians are required to perform jury duty, pay tax, attend school - because the legal and taxation and education systems are enhanced by the widest possible participation. The involvement of ordinary men and women provides protection against domination against cliques and elites. And surely this applies with the greatest force in the case of the nation's electoral system.

The history of democracy is the history of the struggle to enlarge the franchise. Barriers of race, gender and wealth have been systematically bulldozed, privilege has been overturned, gerrymanders have been gradually eliminated, fairness and equality have been gradually entrenched. The result: one person, one vote of equal value.

Australia's decision in 1924 to require citizens to participate in elections stands four- square in that tradition. It ensures the franchise is universal in fact, not just in name. 39

In addition to the specific enforced duties mentioned by Mills there is an extensive system of laws and regulations governing people, which may be considered far more restrictive of individual liberty, onerous and irksome than the duty to vote.

Ian Henderson, formerly Assistant National Secretary of the ALP, has argued that voting is an obligation, rather than an option, and that:

its exercise provides the necessary collective sense of "ownership" of the result.

If a large number of citizens had no role in the election process, even the minimal participation associated with voting, they would be even less inclined to treat seriously the issues for which government is responsible than is the case at present. 40

Furthermore, at times when public policy decisions are frequently unavoidably unpleasant, citizens would most likely simply avoid any involvement in the public policy process - with a consequent loss of social cohesion, and an increase in alienation from the political process. 41

Compulsory voting ensures influence of pressure groups or extremists is in proportion to their support

Former Liberal Senator for New South Wales, Chris Puplick, argued that compulsory voting reduces the impact of well- financed interest groups, and of political extremists.

Pressure groups succeed in corrupting the political process only when they are able to exercise pressure which is out of proportion to their actual numbers, strength or level of support in the community. This is generally a factor associated with their access to money. 42

Pointing to the power exerted by well- financed pressure groups, he said:

In a compulsory voting situation this does not occur because the influence of sectional groups is watered down within the whole community which votes. Only when special interest groups command very wide community support....are they in a position to really force the political parties to respond to their specific and limited demands. Otherwise the parties concentrate on trying to persuade the vast majority of the population to give them electoral support, and in this way it is that the broader, more genuinely representative, "public" interest which dominates the political campaigns and debates. In turn this also has the beneficial effect of preventing political campaigns seeking to pander to the interests of extremist political elements who are well- organised, thereby creating social tensions and divisions in the electorate. 43

Elections focus on issues, not extent of Turnout

Compulsory voting also has the effect of focussing the election campaign and the attention of the voters on issues rather than on getting the vote out, or by increasing the personality cults of politics in the campaign and focussing on looks, personality, campaign gimmicks and negative advertising.

The task of candidates under a compulsory voting system is to persuade voters to support them and the party they represent. Under voluntary voting the task is to get the party's supporters to turn out and vote. It is more effective for parties to endeavour to convert existing voters than to increase turnout. Pragmatic considerations could lead political parties to focus less on the task of persuasion and more on harnessing supporters. Low turnout for supporters of rival parties would be seen as eminently satisfactory. So while the argument against compulsory voting is largely concentrated on the principles of libertarianism, the pragmatic demands of party self- interest may be confined to private rather than public debate.

The introduction of public funding for election campaigns is also of significance. The financial returns to candidates are determined by the number of votes cast for them and the incentives is therefore to maximise the total vote. The need to get the vote out would perhaps become more important to campaign coffers should voting be voluntary. The financial security of parties which overspend on campaigns and attract a small vote could be imperilled. While this consideration is not an advantage of compulsory voting it is a factor in assessing abolition.

It has been argued that compulsory voting has allowed parties to shirk the task of mobilising support. The decline of membership of political parties is a complex one related to multiple factors and to ascribe the decline of party membership to compulsory voting is simplistic. Extensive social change since the end of the Second World War including greater general affluence and mobility, the increasing role of the media and substantial changes in the patterns of social interaction have all contributed to the decreased importance of institutions such as churches, political parties and trade unions. The growing corporatisation of the state which accompanies a broad extension of the welfare state arguably contributes to a popular alienation from the institutions of government and administration. Political commitments of citizens to a particular party may become weaker as the differences between party policies are less discernible. Against this social background the argument that the abolition of compulsory voting would cause a substantial increase in party membership seems implausible. Intuitively, it is just as likely that any further decline in turnout for elections will spread party resources more thinly and, in time, reduce political commitment even further. As Colin Hughes observed, political parties in countries with voluntary voting are experiencing the same problems. He, in part, ascribed this critical change to the advent of television. 44

The consequences of the abolition of compulsory voting are not necessarily predictable. Political tactics determined by voluntary voting may have the opposite effect to the intended outcome. The constant urging of people by mail, personal solicitation, newspaper and television advertising, could deter rather than encourage participation. There is the possibility that parties or groups would design campaigns to minimise the turnout of their opponents in key electoral divisions. This possibility allows scope for devices of political persuasion and manipulation to be used. The focus on issues could consequently be lost. Strategies to persuade people to stay home, to punish a candidate for defects or deficiencies, could be possible. Negative campaigning and advertising could become a greater feature of elections. While legislation could limit the excesses of these practices, such regulation is arguably contrary to the justifying libertarian principle which abolishes compulsion.

Part 4

Arguments against Compulsory Voting

The case against compulsory voting rests on six main arguments:

compulsory to voting is an infringement of freedoms of the citizen

compulsory voting is opposed by a not insignificant number of Australians who have strongly held views on the matter, whereas those supporting its retention are motivated either by narrow partisan concerns or a tacit unwillingness to disturb the status quo

few comparable polities employ compulsory voting and therefore Australia should not

the nature of political parties and participation would change for the better if voting were voluntary

the potential sanctions imposed on those failing to vote (which may ultimately involve gaol sentences) are excessive

costs associated with maintaining compliance with the compulsory enrolment and the compulsory voting provisions of the Act are not justified.


Opposition to compulsory voting based on arguments about freedom rests on the proposition that while voting is a treasured right the act of voting should be voluntary. Individuals should not be forced to vote as voting should be a matter of conscience, not enforcement. The philosophical bases of this argument are not well developed in the literature supporting the case for the abolition of compulsory voting.

The argument is of unspecified infringement of the freedoms of the individual. It rests on the proposition that the citizen should not be compelled to undertake specific activities without active consent. In liberal theory voting is itself always considered the main form of granting consent and legitimacy to the state. Liberal theory posits that society and the state are formed and legitimated through the will of individuals who come together in a common cause, or contract, to order society.

Through consenting to government individuals authorise state activity on their behalf for a supposed common good. Liberal democratic constitutions are theoretically based on the continuing consent of the citizens expressed principally through the ballot box. The right to vote is thus the basic justification of state power and the legitimation of state sponsored violence like the prosecution of war. Violations of power and legitimacy occur when the individual is obliged to participate in activities at the insistence of the state which are contrary to their conscience or personal safety.

Thus the two principal early theorists of liberal contract theory, Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan and John Locke in Two treatises upon government both allowed the possibility of the individual withdrawing from the social contract under extreme circumstances. Similarly a strain of American liberal thinking, exemplified in Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience and later in the civil rights campaigns personified by Martin Luther King (inspired by Mahatma Gandhi) dwelt upon the right of individuals to reject and deny bad laws. The anti-war movement of the 1960s and 1970s which took the form of draft-dodging and conscientious objection took this objection further. The environment movement and the peace movement conducted campaigns of civil disobedience during the 1970s and 1980s drawing on this tradition.

These instances are justified on the basis that the individual reserves the right to object to the state enforcing compulsion on the citizenry, or to act on a matter of conscience against the state. The objection to the compulsion to vote, so it is suggested, is akin to these cases. The difference of scale would, however, seem important. Objection to compulsory military service wherein the citizen may be obliged to kill another person and risk the possibility of being killed is not seen to be on the same scale as the compulsion to vote. The foundations of the argument, while not explicitly drawn by the proponents of voluntary voting, are nonetheless based on the same set of liberal propositions about the individual in government and society. Such an explicit argument would be difficult to maintain, as the state compels citizens to pay tax, and to obey other laws which are inconvenient or subjectively an infringement of personal preferences. The philosophical reasons against compulsion, while identifiable in general, cannot therefore be strongly drawn.

As the Premier of South Australia, Dean Brown, said in his introductory remarks on the Electoral (Abolition of Compulsory Voting) Amendment Bill 1994:

While some argue that people should be compelled to exercise that right as the price of being part of a democracy, that is a blatant contradiction in terms. A democracy allows freedom of choice, but in this instance the State is denying that choice. 45

This argument was formulated in various ways by those who spoke in favour of the Bill in the South Australian Parliament in 1994. Freedom of conscience - to vote or not to vote - and the undemocratic nature of coercion were recurring themes from speakers on the government side of the chamber. The essence of a liberal-democracy is choice, so citizens should be free to choose not to vote. In addressing this question, government members noted the technicality that citizens are only actually obliged to appear at a polling place and have their attendance recorded by a polling clerk in order to satisfy the Act. Voting itself is not, in this narrow sense, compulsory. Members speaking to the bill uniformly agreed that the difference was irrelevant to the general argument about voluntary voting.

Minchin's premise that voting should be voluntary is based in the Liberal belief, as he espouses it, that individuals should have the right to vote but the option not to vote. He writes of the:

Liberal commitment to individual freedom [which] stands in marked contrast to (sic) Labor's centralist ideology pursuant to which government exerts an increasing influence over the lives of Australians. 46

If voting is a "right" then it is arguable that citizens must be free to choose whether to exercise it, without fear of breaching the law. That is, the right to vote logically entails the right not to vote. Hence a rationale for compulsory voting based on the notion of rights requires further thought. 47

Significant Opposition

Opponents of compulsory voting argue that anecdotal and limited survey evidence notwithstanding, the community has mixed views about compulsory voting. They argue that there is significant opposition to the use of compulsion witnessed by the very survey evidence cited by supporters of compulsory voting and by the willingness of some citizens to incur fines and even go to gaol in support of their views (see above).

It is further argued that in any free society, the majority does not enjoy carte blanche to impose its will on minorities - certain basic rights are inviolable. The right not to vote, having been claimed or supported by a significant portion of the populace, should therefore not be easily dismissed on a dubious weight of numbers (opinion poll/survey) argument.

Australian Difference

The second argument against compulsory voting is that comparable polities largely employ voluntary voting and therefore Australia is out of step. Long established democracies and newly founded states have not adopted compulsory voting. As the Premier of South Australia, Dean Brown, said:

In many large democracies such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Canada, and in smaller democracies such as New Zealand, the right to vote has been accompanied by the right to choose.

He added that India, the Philippines and the states of Eastern Europe have also opted for voluntary voting.

The corollary of this argument is that a collective opinion in democratic states favours voluntary voting as part of the fabric of democratic polity. If few other comparable states have compulsory voting, then Australia's practice is perhaps questionable. Indeed, Minchin writes that:

No other English speaking democracy except Australia compels its citizens to vote'. Only Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg and Venezuela make it an offence to not vote. 48

Other countries which have some form of compulsory voting include Costa Rica, Singapore and Uruguay. While voting is a civic duty, Minchin argues, it ought to be exercised voluntarily. Furthermore it is inconsistent with the essence of free and democratic society to compel voting. In supportive evidence he identifies Holland as one country which abolished compulsory voting in 1970 on these grounds. More speculatively, Minchin proposes that compulsory voting may be a breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He cites Article 25 (b) which provides that:

Every citizen shall have the right and opportunity to vote at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors. 49

Political Health

Senator Warwick Parer prepared a paper in 1990 in which a number of the arguments in favour of compulsory voting were addressed. Parer argued that political life in general suffers if citizens are compelled to vote as citizens and some MPs can become lazy, as do the political parties. The organisations of parties becomes less responsive to the membership and disaffection grows amongst party members who feel remote from decision making authority. According to Parer:

Perhaps the most undesirable aspect of compulsory voting is its effect upon the quality of participation is political life. As the late Professor Crisp noted, it is "almost certainly helped to make parties lazy between elections in trying to convert and attach voters to their particular philosophies and programmes". Political party organisations are shrinking in size and are seen as increasingly centralised and unrepresentative; although public funding of election campaigns may have contributed to this trend. This is reflected in the general disaffection with mainstream political parties, which shows no signs of abating. 50

Parer also advances arguments in favour of apathy as a political good. If apathy is a feature of political culture then that may be an indication of a level of satisfaction with the government. If the citizenry is docile and accepting that may be an indication of general well being rather than alienation. The difficulty with this proposition is that the distinction between satisfaction and alienation may be lost in determining non-voting.

Dean Brown, in arguing for the Electoral (Abolition of Compulsory Voting) Amendment Bill 1994 said that voting should not be a:

dull boring and onerous responsibility under pain of penalty for not attending at the polling booth and marking one's name off the list. Voluntary voting will add some vigour to the electoral process. 51

He continued:

There are complacent voters supporting both sides of the political spectrum, but voluntary voting would give them a choice -- to show they care or to remain complacent. At the very least, voluntary voting will make blue ribbon seats less blue ribbon and require candidates and members of Parliament to work for their electorates and woo the electors with policies as they have never done before. 52

Excessive Penalties

As it stands, the Commonwealth electoral law provides for compulsory enrolment and compulsory attendance at polling booths on polling day. As defenders of compulsory voting frequently claim, the law does not make it unlawful to fail to register a formal vote, it is not unlawful for a voter to spoil their ballot paper. As already noted, those opposed to either compulsory enrolment or compulsory attendance at the polls can (and sometimes are) imprisoned on matters of principle.

It is clearly arguable that in any free society incarceration is an extreme remedy which many would say is only justifiable where the offender is a continuing danger to society. To leave open the possibility that citizens may be deprived of their liberty for either a failure to enrol or a unwillingness to attend a polling booth on an appointed day raises serious questions as to the proportionality between the alleged offences and the relevant sanction.


As Australia relies on a system of compulsory enrolment and compulsory voting, the relevant cost of maintaining the present regime of sanctions is not confined to the net cost of collecting fines from non voters. Some portion of the cost of maintaining the electoral rolls also should be imputed into relevant calculations.

Although the supporting evidence to this stage is both incomplete and largely anecdotal, according to critics of compulsory voting, the costs of maintaining the present compliance regime are not inconsiderable and understated by the official figures showing only the costs of prosecutions for breaches of the Act. For instance, the gist of Premier Brown's argument to the South Australian Parliament was that the burden of compliance was onerous. The need to contact non-voters and perhaps prosecute placed an administrative load on the South Australian Electoral Department, on courts and on the electors themselves. However, the argument presented in the second reading speech did not distinguish between costs on the state and costs to the elector in the final calculation.

According to Premier Brown:

Following the 1989 State election 34,262 people were sent 'please explain' notices for failing to vote; 9,228 expiration (sic) notices were posted; and 4,828 summonses were posted to those who failed to provide an acceptable excuse or failed to pay the expiation notice. The cost to the state electoral department was $121,614 - an amount we could save ourselves by adopting this measure. Why not put that money into education or some of the essential government services that need to be built up in this State after eleven years of Labor? The sum of $30,450 was received by way or expiation payments and further moneys were received by general revenue by way of fines imposed by the courts. If we put all of these sums together we are looking at well over $150,000 that had to be paid because of compulsory voting here in South Australia. 53

As already suggested, however, the full financial and administrative costs of the change to voluntary voting are unclear. There would be savings on the costs of compliance and prosecution while other costs may emerge. The expenditures of the Australian Electoral Commission would change but might not necessarily be diminished. The perceived need to advertise to encourage people to vote might, for example, could create greater expense than the current education and media campaigns run by the Australian Electoral Commission which are directed toward popular understanding of the voting system so as to minimise the level of informal voting.

Another concern is whether either "cemetery" 54 or "phantom" voting may increase unless compulsory voting is retained. The level of "cemetery voting" may not diminish and "phantom voting" might take place instead.

Proponents of voluntary voting would argue that the extent of this problem under either compulsory or voting systems is easily overstated. This view has some official support with the Joint Committee on Electoral Matters concluding that it was '. . . satisfied that cemetery voting is not a problem in contemporary Australian elections'. 55

Nonetheless if voluntary voting were introduced there is a possibility of 'phantom voting' (voter impersonation) emerging as a problem. If compulsory voting is abandoned, the percentage of electors who vote will drop, leaving a wider margin for impersonation. Again, however, critics of compulsory voting may argue that the extent of the potential problem is unclear and that the Australian Electoral Commission could develop strategies for countering this possibility.

Part 5

The Consequences of Abolition

In 1986 McAllister found that the there are some party advantages in compulsory voting. He drew an analysis from the 1976 Census figures, the 1977 election results and individual level data from the 1979 Australian National Political Attitudes Survey. He concluded,

there are distinct party advantages to be gained from differential levels of turnout in Australia, whether the system that is used is compulsory or voluntary. Under the compulsory system Labor gains where there is high turnout, and the Liberals lose. 56

There would also be a greater drop in the Labor vote than in the Liberal vote if turnout dropped from 90% to 80%. 57 This accords with the conventional wisdom that compulsory voting is of greater benefit to Labor. Other political scientists have come to the same conclusion. The argument put by Malcolm Mackerras in favour of the retention of compulsory voting is based on the elegantly phrased general rule of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". He pointed to the fact that opinion polls on the subject show general support, and that there is a very high degree of compliance, an absence of administrative problems and lack of public demand for its abolition, with almost no boycotting of elections. In his view, Liberal Party strategists believe that the abolition of compulsory voting will assist them electorally. 58 The effects on the National Party, the Democrats, the Greens and smaller political parties are uncertain.

No group or party can be sure of how it would be affected by the abolition of compulsory voting. Furthermore such an issue arguably ought not to be decided on the basis of immediate political advantage even if that was the reason for its introduction. Effects on turnout are unlikely to be uniform, especially if anti- voting campaigns were adopted. Abolition would have both short and long term consequences. The obvious prediction is that there would be a decline in turnout, in particular of the young, less educated and the more disadvantaged. Some people would cease to vote and others would fail to begin to vote.

The consequences of abolition could be complex and varied, affecting the nature of politics in Australia. Alienation from the political process may gain increased significance as an issue for analysis. One scenario of the abandonment of compulsory voting could be a wide- scale withdrawal from even a nominal involvement in politics by the immigrant, racial or religious groups. Arguably this could more easily allow fragmentation into more closed communities with perhaps higher levels of mutual hostility and suspicion. On this argument, by engaging different sectors of the community in conventional electoral politics, the development of a tolerant and diverse society is enhanced. Furthermore, if the poorest ten percent of the electorate fail to vote, then high unemployment, the social and economic costs of structural adjustment and concerns about poverty may diminish as politically salient issues. The argument here is that a change to the electoral system is not merely a mechanical alteration but has consequences for the character of the whole polity.

It is arguable that the cost of holding elections would probably increase, for parties, candidates and the administration of elections. With compulsory voting the main educational and informational focus of the Australian Electoral Commission is defrayed in enrolment procedures and correct voting procedures - that is, instructing electors on how to cast a formal vote and informing them about informal voting. With voluntary voting the AEC would need to undertake a variety of measures to persuade the electorate to vote. Fraud prevention and detection may require greater resources, because as the turnout fell it would be more difficult to monitor phantom voting, that is one person voting many times under different names although the introduction of a voter registration document may ameliorate this administrative problem. The financial costs of introducing such a system are unknown. As shown above the cost of enforcing compliance with the current arrangements is not significant. Outlays of monies for the public funding of parties would be affected. With a drop in the turnout a corresponding drop in the recompense to parties may occur. In order to recover the short fall, if public funding were continued, then an increase in the dollar value per vote may follow by government decision. The financial consequences of abolition of compulsory voting is largely unknown.

Other aspects of the electoral law may also need to be re- written, with great attention given to the matter of electoral offences, especially in relation to inducements to vote, canvassing and soliciting and perhaps in the regulation of the contents of election advertising. As noted above a more comprehensive system of voter registration and identification may need to be maintained.

Part 6


This section of the paper looks at the turnout at elections in Canada, Great Britain, the United States, Switzerland and New Zealand, the last of which has a voting turnout closest to Australia's. While the comparison of compulsory and voluntary voting is instructive conclusions about elections in other countries need to be made with caution, due to the great variances in social and political conditions, electoral systems and political cultures. That said, Australia is the only country in this group with a system of compulsory voting.

Turnout is one indicator of political participation and is seen to be closely related to the commitment of citizens to the political process. The argument is not easily maintained that the major reason for non- voting is a conscious decision determined by philosophical objections. The reasons are likely to be indifference or inconvenience with strong correlations with age, socio- economic status and education. There are also strong correlations with the openness of electoral machinery and the ease or difficulty of registration on the electoral rolls. The work of Piven and Cloward demonstrates how concerted efforts to impede ease of registration in the Southern States of the United States of America adversely affected turnout, and over time produced a political culture in which non- voting was the norm for certain groups. 59

The Research Study of the Canadian Royal Commission 60 found that factors such as age, education, income and geographic location do correlate with voting or non- voting. This is discussed more fully in the section dealing with turnout in Canada. The Research Study also estimated that if administrative arrangements were easier in Canada, turnout might improve by up to 7%. In Great Britain registration is not automatic and this has resulted in a less effective system which appears to inhibit voting.

New Zealand

Voting is not compulsory in New Zealand but turnout historically has been very high. It is now declining. At the 1990 election turnout was 85.2% of people registered on the electoral roll. The lowest turnout in recent history was 82.1% at the 1975 election. Attachment B gives further details. At the 1993 election turnout was 85.21%. Vowles and Aimer maintain that the official statistics minimise the decline, because although it is compulsory to register on the electoral roll, compliance is not effectively enforced. 61 By 1990, 24% of New Zealanders aged 18 or over either were not registered (8%) or had failed to vote (16%). Vowles and Aimer state the non- participant rate as a percentage was the largest group after the Labour Party, which received 27% of the vote. Non- participants far outstripped the visible third parties. They discussed whether non- voting results from alienation from formal political processes, as is argued by the participatory school of political theorists, or from low expectations of government and dissatisfaction with the outcome, as is argued by revisionist or elite theorists. They found that the low expectation/satisfaction theory was not supported by a study of political participation published by Jackman in 1987, nor is it borne out by New Zealand experience. They wrote:

By international standards, New Zealand turnout rates have been considered high (Blais & Carty 1990) and New Zealand has an enviable record of political peace and stability. In the 1960s Austin Mitchell noted this point and also gave an account of New Zealand as a society of high social integration....But by the late 1980s New Zealanders had apparently become a very different people. While they were still heavy joiners, the New Zealand Values Survey conducted in 1989 showed that interpersonal trust in New Zealand had dropped to levels normally found in societies experiencing or having experienced severe social disruption (Gold & Webster 1990,55). Trust in key government institutions had also declined steadily during the 1980s, with Parliament always one of the least trusted of all (Heylan Research Centre 1989). 62

They found that non- voters were more likely to distrust both major parties, more likely to be unsure about both, and less likely to be polarised (trusting one major party, but distrusting the other). They commented that rejection of Labour was the major contributor to non- voting in 1990. 63 In their survey they found that 41% of all non- voters had deliberately chosen not to vote and considered that the failure of the Labour Party to live up to its supporters' expectations had contributed not only to alienation from the Party but also from the political process. 64

New Zealand has experienced considerably increased electoral volatility in the last twenty years and third parties have attracted a substantial minority of the vote in the last three elections. New Zealand has adopted proportional representation and the next election will be conducted on that system.


The Canadian Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Funding commissioned a series of Research Studies. Volume 15 is entitled Voter turnout in Canada. It contains three separate surveys on turnout.

The findings are that there are regional variations in turnout, such as seasonal variations due to climatic conditions. Other reasons for voter apathy may be the short period since the previous election, or the belief that a particular party had a very big lead. Turnout has been lower for by- elections. Residential stability is important; as is aboriginality; turnout is lower in ridings with greater numbers of aboriginal Canadians. The presence of immigrant communities has not had an adverse effect on turnout. Eagles concludes:

Generally speaking, the most important determinants of turnout are spatial (the regional dummy variable) and socio- economic (particularly residential stability and economic affluence). The effects of politicians, the strategic electoral context and political mobilization on the decision to vote, while detectable, are clearly of secondary importance. 65

Pammett found that about 5% of eligible voters would not vote under any circumstances but the other 20% might under different circumstances. These non- voters are categorised as not voting because they were away, sick, busy, uninterested or unenumerated 66 . He regards those who were away, sick or unenumerated are administratively disenfranchised non- voters. (Those who were not interested or busy are classified as disinterested (sic) non- voters.) 67

Black examined turnout in other democracies and concluded that Canadian turnout rate is well below average when compared internationally. The previous favourable interpretation was due to the comparison with the United States, where turnout is very low, (with only Switzerland having a lower turnout). He notes that a chief factor is the United States voter registration system, which in most American states places the onus on the individual to register. He sees the real relevance of the turnout data as,

a disturbingly large number of Canadians are not involved in the performance of an act that lies so clearly at the heart of democratic theory and practice'. 68

At the time that the Research Studies were being written, Canada did not have continuous registration of electors. Instead election officials undertook to compile a list of eligible voters between the thirty- eighth and thirty- second days prior to election day. The Royal Commission recommended that Elections Canada, the Canadian electoral administrative authority, find ways of reducing duplicated effort among election officials, especially in the compilation of voters lists. Elections Canada is now working towards a continuous register of eligible voters.

A new electoral act, C- 114, was passed in mid- 1993, amending the Canada Elections Act. It increased the number of opportunities for people to register and vote. The enumeration process has been standardised for urban and rural areas. Registration may be done on polling day, on proof of identity, and, in rural areas only, by being vouched for by another registered elector of the same division. The final voters list for an election is to be used as the preliminary list for the following election.

Black noted that although the electoral system and compulsory voting more powerfully condition the degree of participation, the focus of the Royal Commission would be more on the specific legal and administrative context of voting - the smaller scale institutional factors. He thought that the introduction of compulsory voting was profoundly improbable in Canada given the dominance of liberal principles. He said:

While it is highly unlikely that these attributes of the voting system figure as prominently in encouraging voter turnout, relative to other, more macro- level institutional forces, they still deserve careful consideration to ascertain what contribution they can make to increasing turnout levels. 69

He qualifies this by pointing out that the gap between voting by the haves as versus the have- nots is not trivial. He says:

the hard- nosed truth in politics is that those voices that are not heard are not heeded. Voting is supposed to be the mechanism that provides those who are less well- off with the opportunity to bring their large numbers to bear, and thus to compensate for their otherwise fewer resources and the more limited participation opportunities in other domains that result. To the extent that turnout is especially low among the people that arguably most need to vote, some special recognition must be given to this facet of the problem.....some of the reforms are likely to facilitate voting among the more educated and those generally better able to cope with special administrative procedures, in other words individuals who already have a higher a priori probability of voting.Indeed the present thrust of reform....could very well end up exacerbating the participation differential that currently exists. 70

Attachment C shows turnout statistics in Canadian elections. Table 3 on Canadian Voter Turnout shows the population, the number on the lists, the valid and rejected ballots, and the percentage of voter participation, for the provinces and the total for Canada. The next, Table 4, gives comparative turnout for Canadian elections in 1980, 1984, 1988 and 1993. Summarising these figures, turnout has varied from 69.3 in 1980, 75.3 in 1984 and 1988 and 69.6 in 1993.

United States of America

Electoral turnout in the United States of America presents a paradox, given a celebrated constitutional history, the hallowed Bill of Rights and an expressed commitment to democratic government both domestically and internationally during the twentieth century. How can a nation with such democratic claims have such low electoral participation? What produces the apparent contradiction?

As is the case when studying the institutions, practices and processes of any country, the particular circumstances must be considered. The constitutional structure of the United States with the separation of powers and the division of executive and legislative functions differs profoundly from Westminster system countries. Participation in political parties is a strong tradition, but the philosophical differences between the parties are slight. The adversarial politics so predominant in Westminster systems takes a different form in the United States. Party discipline is weak and the passage of legislation a lengthy, complicated and unpredictable process subject to extensive committee hearings and considerable negotiations between members of Congress and various interest groups and lobbyists. Relations between the President and Congress are often complicated and unpredictable. Elections are characterised by great expense, use of sophisticated campaign techniques with candidates professionally groomed and marketed, and extensive use of negative advertising. To Australian observers, there appears to be much less focus on programs and issues.

The second half of the nineteenth century was a period of high partisanship and electoral mobilisation in the USA, but a decline began from the turn of the century in the indicators of participation. In addition, Teixeira finds that there has been a substantial and serious decline in voter turnout since 1960, and that this is not simply a matter of fewer people registering, as even those registered show a lesser propensity to vote. Furthermore voting should be easier as reforms to registration procedures have made the procedure less stringent since 1960. He finds that the root cause of declining turnout has been a reduction in the perceived benefits of voting. 71 Although socio- economic upgrading, education in particular, pushed turnout up, a decline in social cohesion and a generalised withdrawal from the political world counteracted this effect and resulted in a reduced turnout level. Teixeira finds that decline has been across the board although the decline has been more rapid amongst those groups least likely to vote in the first place. Previously existing demographic skews in voting have been aggravated. 72

Kleppner distinguishes between core voters, who generally vote, marginal voters, who sometimes vote and sometimes do not according to the stimulus, and non- voters, who are impervious to the lure of the polling booth. 73 Studies of turnout correlate with age, education and socio- economic status. Generally turnout is low in disadvantaged groups, and their input into the political system is also low. Young voters have lower turnout rates and turnout is higher amongst college graduates. Race has been a significant factor in turnout, although the gap has lessened. The Voting Rights Act 1965 and relaxation of registration procedures improved turnout by African Americans from their previous very low levels. Very restrictive criteria and procedures for registration were adopted by many states in the late nineteenth century as a successful means of restricting the exercise of the franchise to whites. Piven and Cloward describe these:

The southern solution to the problems posed by the black franchise was to attach conditions to the right to vote that did not mention blacks, and so ostensibly would not violate the Fifteenth Amendment, but which blacks would not fulfil. 74

The barriers included payment of poll taxes, literacy tests, complex balloting arrangements, and complex registration procedures.

Writing in 1978, Walter Burnham linked the declining turnout with political change, which he saw as obviously and tightly linked to the decay of political parties, and these changes had clearly worked to the political disadvantage of the lower classes. 75 He saw the decline as a pervasive and deepening crisis of political integration. 76

Teixeira finds that non- voting does not make much difference to election outcomes, and notes that 'it is a great deal easier to change an election outcome by switching the preferences of existing voters than by adding new voters' 77 because:

The basic idea is that every existing voter who switched, for example, from the Democrats to the Republicans, provides the Democrats with two net votes (that is, the Democrats have one more vote and the Republicans have one less vote). In contrast, every additional mobilized non- voter provides the Democrats with only a fractional net vote equal to the support differential between the two parties among nonvoters. For example, if the Democrats are supported by 60% of nonvoters and the Republicans by 40% of nonvoters....every additional mobilized nonvoter provides the Democrats with, on average, only 60% minus 40% of a vote, or just 0.2 net votes. Thus even under a relatively favourable scenario, it still takes ten nonvoters to generate as many net votes as one vote switcher. 78

President Clinton recently signed the National Voter Registration Reform Act of 1993 (PL 105- 31), generally referred to as the "Motor- Voter" bill, which was vetoed by President Bush in 1992. This legislation requires states to provide all eligible citizens with the opportunity to register to vote when they applied for or renewed a driver's license, required states to provide for mailed registrations, and to provide registration forms at certain public assistance agencies. The changes are to take effect in 1995. Teixeira considered that this reform, which facilitates registration and also prevents cleansing of the roll for non- voting, would improve turnout. 79 Calvert and Gilchrist, however, argued:

achieving higher levels of electoral participation are (sic) possible, but this particular reform bill is not the likely vehicle...making it very easy to register and vote may not have an obvious partisan tilt in favour of the Democrats. And...may not significantly increase turnout among the current non- voters, who are disproportionately low income, blue collar and service workers, the unemployed, minority group members, and the young. 80

They point to election day registration as a means of increasing turnout, and instance the high turnout in two states which permit this, Minnesota and Maine.

Despite the low turnout, interest groups in the United States of America are very numerous and diverse, with a high level of participation. This may represent a substitute form of political participation by many, although it cannot provide a complete explanation, especially for those groups with very low turnout. The weak party discipline facilitates opportunities for interest groups to affect the outcomes of the political process, but policy programs and legislation are subject to substantial change as they pass through the legislative process.

Turnout for the 1994 mid- term Congressional elections, which is generally lower than for Presidential elections, was 38.7%.

Attachment D shows the turnout at Presidential elections since 1964. At the 1992 election the resident voting age population was 189,044,000, the number of registrations 133,802,521, the total valid votes numbered 104,425,014. 70.8% of voting age were registered, and 78% of registered voters voted. The percentage of voting age who voted was 55.2%, an increase despite considerable popular discontentment with the political process.


Turnout at the 1992 British election was 77.7%, and for the 1987 election was 75.3%. This was the highest turnout since February 1974. It was suggested in the British Elections and Parties Yearbook 1992 that the increase was due to a younger and more efficiently compiled register, and to the registration of poll- tax evaders. There was also greater regional variation in turnout,with higher turnouts in London, the Midlands and the south east, and with the largest falls in the four northern cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Dundee. 81 Turnout rose least in Northern England, Scotland and Wales, and rose more in conservative seats than in Labour seats.

David Butler argued in 1989 that the accuracy of the register had declined. He estimated that a third of the decline in turnout since 1950, when it was 84%, had to be attributed to the lowered quality of the register, which is compiled according to place of residence in October each year. 82

Turnout in by- elections held in 1994 ranged from 70.2% for Monklands East, 58.9% for Eastleigh, 44% for Bradford South, 38.% for Barking, 37.2% for Dagenham and 34.5% for Newham Northeast. 83 Even allowing for lower turnout at by- elections these figures are low.

Minchin claims that an effect of the 'relatively primitive' registration procedures in Great Britain is that the turnout is stated to be less that the actual turnout, and says leading academics think the turnout was more like 80% than the stated 76.7% average since 1945. He also quotes Crew(e) Fox and Alt (full reference not given) as finding that the majority of social background variables do not have any bearing on the propensity to vote regularly. The study he cites examines non- voting in Great Britain between 1966 to 1974. More recent findings would be of interest here as it is arguable that the Thatcher years may have affected the situation. Most reasons given for non- voting were that it was inconvenient for one reason or another. Minchin argues that canvassing to get out the vote is a British phenomenon. He discusses the effect low turnout could have in Great Britain on supposedly safe seats, and argues that campaigns concentrate less exclusively on marginal seats and that campaigning focuses more widely. 84

The first- past- the post electoral system also probably would contribute to low voter turnout if it was believed that in a three- cornered contest the dominant party could not be beaten. The combined vote of anti- Tory or anti- Labour votes might well exceed the dominant party vote in a safe seat and render it marginal under an optional preferential system. For example, in an imaginary seat the vote is Tories 45% Labour 35% and Liberals 20%. This result would give the Tories a safe seat under first- past- the- post, but a loss under an optional preferential system with a tight flow of preferences from Liberal to Labour. Why then would Labour voters bother to turnout on a cold wet day?


To proponents of citizen initiated referenda, Switzerland is a shining example of democratic virtue. Paradoxically its participation rates in elections and in citizen initiated referenda are very low. Attachment F shows the average voter turnout at referenda by decade from the 1880s to the present, and participation levels in federal elections and referenda during election years from 1919 to 1991. The relatively late (1971) enfranchisement of women in Swiss elections has not improved turnout. Kobach ascribes this to the fact that disenfranchised groups become depoliticised. 85 The explanation for the low turnout at referenda is more problematical. Kobach suggests that the completion of consociational democracy with the formula of 1959, minimised dissatisfaction with legislation. The 1959 formula was an arrangement by which the four major parties, who gained 85% of the vote between them in 1959, were represented on the Federal Council in a 2:2:2:1 ratio. 86 However low participation in referenda decreases the legitimacy of direct democracy, which is supposed to be the expression of the will of the majority. It seems however that consociational democracy 87 is breaking down somewhat. 88 The rather cosy arrangements appear to have diminished the significance and effectiveness of voting.

Swiss turnout has generally been low because of purposeful demobilisation among the political parties. Since the late 1930s, the four major parties, each linked to a cleavage group, have guarantied themselves roughly equal place in the shared collective national executive, which has a rotating chairmanship. Unless a new party should suddenly break into the big four, the electoral outcomes at the national level are virtually meaningless...Moreover, most important policy decisions are made at the Cantonal level. (Powell, 1980,20). 89

Concluding Remarks

Although compulsory voting has been for many years a distinguishing feature of Australian democracy universal acceptance has never been achieved and its future is by no means assured.

Notwithstanding the "popular wisdom", it is by no means clear that any political grouping could expect to benefit from the retention or abolition of compulsory voting. It is not, however, difficult to account for the heat that is generated by what has been a sporadic but ongoing debate over the ethical basis of compelling citizens in a free society to exercise their rights/fulfil their responsibilities. It is entirely possible that such questions are incapable of "final resolution".

Much of what is said about the effects of compulsory voting is highly speculative and it is easy to overstate the likely consequences of a change to current practice.

While there are lessons to be learned from studying turnout, caution should be exercised in extrapolating from comparable countries, especially from the United States to Australia. International comparisons are instructive, but not simply transferable to the Australian situation. Different social structures and different national histories influence electoral behaviour and the enforcement of voting is just one factor. In appreciating the place of compulsory voting within the Australian political system a range of factors need to be understood. Compulsion is difficult to isolate as a separate variable.

The abolition of compulsory voting may alter Australian politics and the character of Australian political culture, but then it may not alter it much.

In relation to the issue of rights versus responsibilities, whilst there may be an argument for compulsion, that argument is not advanced by allowing the legal system to operate to make actual prisoners of conscience of those citizens who refuse to comply with compulsory enrolment and voting laws - laws which it is argued are designed to promote the workings of a free society.

1 Gollan, Robin.

Radical and working class politics: a study of Eastern Australia

. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1960:15.

2 Oldfield, Audrey. Women suffrage in Australia: a gift or a struggle? Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1992: 17.

3 The history of the Commonwealth franchise, from discussions at the Constitutional conventions, the enactment of the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 and subsequent developments is discussed fully in: Brooks, Adrian. "A paragon of democratic virtues? The development of the Commonwealth franchise." University of Tasmania Law Review, vol. 12, No.2, 1993:208- 248.

4 Australia. Royal Commission upon the Commonwealth electoral law and administration. Report. Royal Commissioners: H. Sinclair, Chairman, R. Patten, R W Foster, W Maloney W H Laird- Smith. pp.180/1914/14/16/17 Vol.II:435.

5 The Election Acts Amendment Act 1914 (5 Geo. V No.29 (Qld).

6 See Smith, Lindsay. Compulsory voting in Australia. in The pieces of politics. Edited by Richard Lucy. South Melbourne: Macmillan. 1983:235- 256. This gives a comprehensive account of the introduction of compulsory voting in Queensland and the Commonwealth, and discusses the arguments for and against, and the consequences.

7 Senator Payne had formerly been a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly, Treasurer and Minister for Agriculture and Railways in the Solomon Liberal Government from 1912 to 1914. He was a Senator for Tasmania from 1920 to 1938, initially as a Nationalist and later as a member of the United Australia Party.

8 Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates. Senate. 17 July 1924:2180.

9 ibid.

10 ibid.:2182.

11 ibid.:2185.

12 ibid.:2184.

13 In March 1929 John Brown had dismissed some 12,000 miners on the northern New South Wales minefields for their refusal to accept wage reductions. It had been the intention of the government to prosecute Brown for this lock- out, but the prosecution was withdrawn in a vain attempt to secure industrial peace in the coal industry. See Souter, Gavin. Acts of Parliament: a narrative history of the Senate and the House of Representatives Commonwealth of Australia. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1988:247.

14 Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates. House of Representatives 24 July 1924:2446.

15 Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates. House of Representatives. 24 July 1924:2447.

16 ibid.:2448.

17 ibid. Bryce, James. Modern Democracies. London : Macmillan and Co Ltd, 1921. James Bryce Viscount Bryce of Dechmont, 1838- 1922, was an eminent English parliamentarian, a famous Victorian and profoundly important influence on the framers of the Australian Constitution. For an account of Bryce's role in the drafting of the Australian Constitution see James Warden, 'Federalism and the Framing of the Australian Constitution' Australian Journal of Political Science, special issue on federalism 1992.

18 ibid.:2451.

19 ibid.:2452.

20 Parer, W. Voluntary v Compulsory Voting: Should it be a person's civic responsibility to vote or a legal requirement 1990:1.

21 The Heart of Liberalism: The Albury Papers. Edited by Ken Aldred, Kevin Andrews and Paul Filing Mitcham; Vic : The editors, 1994.

22 The Electoral (Abolition of Compulsory Voting) Amendment Bill 1994.

23 There were 1,006,035 enrolled for the State election in December 1993, while the Commonwealth enrolment for South Australia in November 1993 was 1,005,980.

24 Hughes, Colin A. "Compulsory voting", Politics, Vol. 1. November 1966:85.

25 ibid:87 This article is reprinted in Readings in Australian government. Edited by Colin A Hughes. St Lucia , Queensland: University of Queensland Press, 1968: 225- 239.

26 Green, Antony. NSW elections 1984 to 1991: a comparative analysis. New South Wales Parliamentary Library. Current issues background paper 1994/2. March 1994:36- 42.

27 The d'Hondt method is a formula used in party list systems of proportional representation to allocate seats to parties. After the votes cast for each party list have been ascertained, the totals are divided by the numbers 1, 2, 3 etc to ascertain the numbers of candidates elected from each grouping on the ballot paper.

28 As described in the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Science, 1992: 181, a "Droop quota" is the minimum number of votes which a candidate needs to secure election under the single transferable vote systems of proportional representation.

29 Turnout is generally lower for by- elections than for general elections.

30 Subsection 245(14) provides an automatic exemption from compulsory voting for those with bona fide religious objections to voting.

31 Subsection 245(15).

32 Australia. Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee, Examination of Additional Estimates 1994- 95, Additional Information Received, Volume 3. 1995: 606- 607.

33 See Smith, Lindsay, op.cit. 242 and 254 (note 24) which quotes findings by Don Aitkin and a 1973 public opinion poll.

34 Canberra Times. 23 March 1995:1. Senator Nick Minchin, Media Release, 22 March 1995. See also Australia. Senate. Estimates Committee Hansard, 2 December 1994: 83 and 3 February 1995: 17.

35 Kleppner, Paul. Who voted? The dynamics of electoral turnout, 1870- 1980. New York: Praeger, 1982:4.

36 ibid.:5.

37 Hughes, Colin A. op av:85.

38 South Australia. Legislative Council.

Parliamentary Debates

, 23 March 1994:284.

39 Mills, Stephen. "A compelling argument for voting laws." The Australian Financial Review, 16 December 1991.

40 Henderson, Ian. "The case for compulsory voting." The Australian Financial Review, 30 December 1991.

41 ibid.

42 Puplick, Chris. Should voting be compulsory? For: in For and against: public issues in Australia. Edited by Richard Giles. Second edition. Milton, Qld: Brooks Waterloo, 1993:74.

43 ibid.

44 Hughes, Colin A. "Compulsory voting." Letter to the Editor, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 December 1994.

45 South Australia. House of Assembly. Parliamentary Debates, 23 February 1994:208

46 Minchin, Nick. Rights, responsibilities and the electoral system in The Heart of Liberalism 1994: 83.

47 ibid.:85.

48 ibid.

49 ibid.:86.

50 Parer, Warwick. Voluntary v Compulsory Voting: Should it be a person's civic responsibility to vote or a legal requirement 1990:4.

51 South Australia. House of Assembly. Parliamentary Debates, 23 February 1994:208- 9.

52 South Australia. House of Assembly.

Parliamentary Debates

, 23 February 1994: 208- 209.

53 South Australia. House of Assembly, Parliamentary Debates, 23 February 1994:209.

54 "Cemetery voting" is fraudulent voting in the name of those who will are unable to due to death, foreign travel or absence.

55 Australia. Parliament. Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. Report. The 1993 Federal election: report of the inquiry into the conduct of the 1993 federal election and matters related thereto. Canberra: November 1994: 33.

56 McAllister, Ian. "Compulsory voting, turnout and party advantage in Australia". Politics, Vol. 21, No.1, May 1986:93.

57 ibid.

58 Mackerras, Malcolm. "As ye vote so shall ye weep". The Australian, 20 November 1991.

59 Piven, Frances Fox, and Cloward, Richard A. Why Americans don't vote. New York: Pantheon Books, 1988.The debate about the reasons for failure to vote is extensive, and it is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss the issue in any detail. It is beyond dispute that US turnout declined from the turn of the century, and that restrictive registration procedures were a cause.

60 The Canadian Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing published its Final Report in 1991.

61 Vowles, Jack and Aimer, Peter. Voters' vengeance: the 1990 election in New Zealand and the fate of the fourth Labour Government. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1993:42.

62 ibid.:45.

63 ibid.:46.

64 ibid.:46- 7.

65 Eagles, Munroe. Voting and non- voting in Canadian federal elections: an ecological analysis. in Voter turnout in Canada. Edited by Herman Bakvis. Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing. Research Studies, No.15. Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing and Canada Communication Group - Publishing, Supply and Services Canada. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1991:25.

66 Persons who would otherwise be eligible to vote but who have not been registered to do so - predominantly the homeless, "new" Canadians and voters whose occupations require frequent absences from their residences.

67 Pammett, Jon H. Voting turnout in Canada. in Voter turnout in Canada. Edited by Herman Bakvis, op. cit.: 52.

68 Black, Jerome. Reforming the context of the voting process in Canada: lessons from other democracies. in Voter turnout in Canada. Research studies, Vol. 15. Edited by Herman Bakvis. op. cit.:61.

69 ibid.:64.

70 ibid.:65.

71 Teixeira, Ruy A. The disappearing American voter. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1992:57.

72 ibid.:104.

73 Kleppner, op. cit.:21.

74 Piven, Frances Fox, and Cloward, Richard A. Why Americans don't vote. New York: Pantheon Books, 1998:80.

75 Burnham, Walter Dean. The appearance and disappearance of the American voter. In The current crisis in American politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982:123.

76 ibid.:158.

77 Teixeira, op. cit.:87.

78 ibid.

79 Teixeira, op. cit.:126- 143

80 Calvert, Jerry W and Gilchrist, Jack. "Suppose they held and election and almost everybody came!" PS: Political science and politics, Vol.XXVI, No. 4, December 1993:696.

81 Crewe, Ivor, Norris, Pippa, and Waller, Robert. The 1992 general election. In British elections and parties yearbook 1992. Edited by Pippa Norris, Ivor Crewe, David Denver and David Broughton. Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992:xxi.

82 Butler, David. British general elections since 1945. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989:55- 56.

83 "Election Report: a gloomy June for the Tories". Politics review, Vol.4, No.2, November 1994:19.

84 Minchin, Nick. Voluntary voting: a study of the British experience. c.1992.

85 Kobach, Kris W. The referendum: direct democracy in Switzerland. Aldershot, Hants.: Dartmouth Publishing Company, 1993:83- 4.

86 ibid.:36.

87 The principal alternative to majoritarian democracy. "Consociational democracy" involves executive power sharing and delegation of decision- making to separate governmental segments. This system puts greater emphasis on the protection of minority rights and may include provision for minority veto.

88 ibid.:83- 86. See also Kobach, Kris W. "Recent developments in Swiss direct democracy". Electoral studies, Vol. 12, No. 4, December 1993:347- 49.

89 Black, Jerome H. Reforming the context of the voting process in Canada: lessons from other democracies. In Voter turnout in Canada. op. cit. Note 11:168.