Rock Enrol

never mind the ballots

Having to decide between Tweedledum and Tweedledee – that’s not a choice – that’s a threat…We can’t keep jumping from election to election, voting for one moron because we’re terrified that there’s something worse
The Edible Ballot Society

In Australia, it’s compulsory to vote. You get fined if you don’t. My brother told me that if you’re fined, you can provide pretty much any excuse and the fine will be waived. He told me this after I paid a fine, so I’m not sure how true that is.

I don’t believe voting should be compulsory and since I stupidly enrolled to vote when I was 17 and hadn’t formed my views on the world, I’ve refused to take part in a system where the participants change from year to year, but the ideology never does. When an election was held I would go along to get my name crossed off, then put the empty ballot papers in the box – I was exercising my right not to vote. In doing this I discovered it’s not compulsory to vote. It’s compulsory to be on the electoral roll and on the day of an election, get your name crossed off.

Recently I received a flyer in my letterbox from Senator Rachel Siewert of the Greens Party. I do have a sticker on my letterbox saying no junk mail, but Rachel must feel she’s not junk. Surprisingly I read the flyer and not so surprisingly I agreed with her. She’s a member of the Upper House of Federal Parliament. It used to be that Greens Senators sometimes had a deciding vote on legislation, but currently the Liberal* government has a majority in the Senate and the Lower House. This enables them to do whatever they want. I’d like this to change, but Australia’s governing party will always be Liberal (conservative) or Labor (union supported) which are both pretty much the same. This is part of the reason I dislike government and thus voting so much. What’s the point, when nothing’s going to change?

rock enrol Now I may have found a point to voting. In voting for the Senate you can choose only one party and you’re not giving part of your vote to any other party through preferences (which happens with votes in the Lower House). My brother did kind of ruin things for me when he told me Senate votes have preferences allocated. I’m still thinking of voting for the Greens in the Senate and disregarding my Lower House ballot paper (or eating it).

A federal election is coming up in November. It used to be that after an election was called you had a week to make sure your enrolment was correct so you would be able to vote. The Howard government changed that and now the roll closes on the day the election is called. The AEC doesn’t have my current address so I have to tell them before the election is called. I’ve filled in the form, now I just have to send it off.


*Note: when the word Liberal (with a capital L) is used in Australia it means the Liberal Party (they are not liberal, except if you’ve donated a large sum of money to them)

5 thoughts on “Rock Enrol

  1. Hi Clare,

    There’s too much as stake to disengage from voting. In blogging your particpating in a political process (true grassroots politics perhaps).

    Cast a vote. You’ll feel better for it.

    By the way you can choose to give preferences or not, both in the Senate and the House of Reps.

    If you don’t want to give preferences just put a “1” above the line on the Senate party of choice.

    On the House of Reps, again you can just put a “1” on the candidate of choice and no other numbers.

    Give it a go. Be the change you want to see in the world.

  2. If you don’t want to give preferences just put a “1” above the line on the Senate party of choice.

    I was talking to my brother about this and I told him this was what I was going to do, but he told me preferences are still allocated by the party. I believe anything he tells me, because he usually knows what he’s talking about, but maybe he got it wrong. Hopefully he did, coz this was what I was going to do.

  3. Hi Clare,

    Did some reading. Seems your brother is right. In the Senate, you can either decide to allocate all of your own preferences (below the line) or alternatively just put a “1” above the line and preferences are distributed according to the party’s wishes.

    In the House of reps you have to number all the box in order ie. you’re forced to give preferences (I got a little confused earlier because in NSW state elections you can just put a “1” on the lower house ticket and not give preferences – and the party can’t give preferences without your indication).

    So in a way we are forced to decide who the “least worst” of the major party choices is/are. This is probably a good thing – because you can have 2 bights at the cherry.

    For example you can say.. “well, I want Gretel Green to win but if she is knocked out then I guess I’d rather Robert Red than Bertha Blue.”

    If you don’t trust your choice of Senate party to distribute the votes as you’d wish – do what I often do – fill out the entire Senate form below the line.

    Have I convinced you yet????

  4. I believe that compulsory voting reduces the influence of special interest lobby groups. Most people don’t put that much thought into it, but do turn up on the day and choose someone. That means everyone has an interest in who won or lost. If voting wasn’t compulsory, rather than non-voters being like yourself – ie making a conscious choice based on thinking the issue through, non-voting would be the apathetic non-choice. In a strange way, having compulsory voting is what maintains our democracy as truly representing the will of the people.

  5. I told the AEC my current address, so seeing as I have to go along on election day, I may as well fill in a box or two.
    Grumble, grumble, grumble. :)

    But I’m never going to fill in every box on the senate ballot, I’ll be there all afternoon!

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