Last week, there was something of a beat-up over the ol’ compulsory voting debate in Australia when the Supreme Court heard a challenge to its legality.
Some bright spark wrote The Advertiser suggesting that compulsory ballot attendance was akin to a fascist national roll call.
The letter was signed Nick Minchin, though I’m unsure whether it was in fact our esteemed former South Australian senator or some floozy stealing his cred.
In either case, this kind of argument crops up frequently regarding our very functional and surprisingly well-thought electoral system, not just in the matter of voluntary vs. compulsory voting but regarding preferential ballots as well (a subject I’ve no time for right now).
The point is that such arguments are no more than a ridiculously misguided exercise in abstract libertarianism.
I agree that being forced to cast a vote would be undemocratic. But as Minchin said, even if we interpret the electoral law that way, it remains unenforceable. However, (mildly) compelling us (with a very modest fine) to show up at the voting booth is an entirely different and worthwhile proposition. At least this way, there is an increased chance that people casting a donkey or blank vote have done so as a deliberate choice, instead of a lazy, convenient omission because they couldn’t be bothered walking down to the local school or church hall.
(Briefly, the same reasoning applies to calls for an end to preferential ballot papers – there is a case for voluntary preferencing, which avoids people being forced to effectively cast a vote for candidates they don’t want or approve of, but not for its removal altogether).
We must all make the effort to renew our car registration, file tax returns and so on. Surely requiring people to attend polling stations and thus make a considered decision about who does or does not deserve to govern our country, isn’t too much of a Nazi-like imposition?