Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Compulsory voting? The experience in Australia

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In Chapter 3 of the book, I raise the question of whether voting in elections should be made compulsory (p. 28). I note that this is already the law in Australia.

The up-coming Australian general election has caused a number of commentators to revisit this issue. The BBC News website carried a very interesting piece on just this question. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23810381.

The article makes a number of points worth noting:

  • compulsory voting has been the law for the best part of a century;
  • turnout in elections is very high – around 94%
  • but penalties for non voting are not severe – a small fine;
  • and many people avoid voting by not registering to vote;
  • thus the ‘real’ turnout is not as high as the headline figure suggests;
  • that compulsory voting is the law in 22 other countries but the law is enforced in only 10 of them.

The article quotes arguments for and against the position in Australia.

There is no suggestion that compulsory voting will be introduced in the UK. But I think it is an issue that should at least be raised for public debate. What do you think?

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Written by lwtmp

August 28, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Chapter 3

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