Margaret Kent writes:


Since when did Australians not
have the right to “not vote”? What a furphy. Australians who are
eligible to vote are legally obliged to attend a polling booth, have
their names crossed off the electoral roll and return the ballot papers
which they may choose to mark accurately or which they may choose not
to mark at all, in other words, not vote. Get it straight Senator
Minchin.

Simon Rolfe writes:
Must be getting
close to the silly season if this old chestnut is rearing its ugly head
again. We DO NOT have compulsory voting in Australia. We have
compulsory attendance at a polling station. It is not compulsory to
fill in the voting form, it is not compulsory to put the vote in the
ballot box.

Les Heimann writes:
Re the latest
Liberal power grab – non compulsory voting – why not also propose that
Victoria, NSW etc secede? That’s as realistic as removing the last
democracy prop – probably would happen too – just to ensure the one
party state had no constituency!

Suzanne Harrison writes:
An
argument often raised in support of optional voting is that election
results would better reflect the opinions of citizens who are
interested and informed, unskewed by the votes of the ignorant. The
problem with this argument is that those who are most interested are
often the least informed: the bigots whose enthusiasm for their cause
is matched only by their lack of understanding of their opponents’
points of view and who will vote no matter what the inconvenience. It
is the citizen of moderate views who is most likely to be deterred from
voting by everyday problems. Optional voting would therefore
disproportionately empower those with the most extreme views, hardly a
desirable outcome.

An anonymous subscriber writes:
If
ever there was a reason to force people to vote it was the recent
suffering of the poor and disadvantaged in New Orleans. If those folk
had cast votes I don’t believe they would have been so abandoned by
their governments. There is nothing like the fear of loss of office to
get pollies off their a*ses.

Robert Bruinewoud writes:

Provide
me with proof that voluntary voting will produced better results for
ALL Australia, and not just for certain sections of it, and I may be
persuaded. True, I’m against voluntary voting because of what I see
happening in the USA, but to call it “dislike” is too mild – “sh*t
scared” might be a better description. And while Charles’s examples of
functioning democracies that do have voluntary voting is heartening,
can we be sure that there are no communities in these countries who
have lost their voice due voluntary voting? And can we be sure that,
despite their current success, that these countries won’t one day go
the same way as the USA?

I believe voting is a precious right
AND a duty. The tax analogy may not be warm and fuzzy, but it’s close
to the truth – spending a few minutes every few years voting is the
part of the price we pay to live in a democracy. And so, while
“treating the vote as a duty” may, in some people’s eyes, “makes us
less likely to see it for the precious right that it is,” so does
blowing it off for a hairdressing appointment or getting to the pub a
few minutes earlier.

Ben Aveling writes:
Voting
is not mandatory in Australia. You are required to attend a polling
booth and to have your name checked off. You are not then required to
vote. Of course, most people do go on to vote because almost nobody
actually objects to voting and such people can get exemptions easily
enough. The current fines are token. But the current system sends a
message that says ‘you are expected to vote.’ Changing the rules would
send the message ‘you are not expected to vote’ and that is exactly
what Howard wants.

CRIKEY: Yesterday, author and journalist
Christine Wallace argued that voluntary voting will favour the Liberals
in Australia, just as it favours Republicans in the US. To see that
article – and the reader response to it, click here.

Peter Fray

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