Throughout most of human history, democracy was not the norm. People were governed and told what to do in systems of focal control by kings, lords, chiefs, dictators or a single political ideology. Individuals had little say and even less choice.
The majority of people who have lived could not vote for anything. They just did what they were told or face stern consequences. Casting a ballot without retribution is a recent gift from democracy.
A cursory glance at history should be motivation enough to get down to the voting booth. Yet here we are, a few hundred years into the experiment of democratic freedom, and Australia, a safe, open, and multicultural nation forces its citizens into the ballot box. For the roughly 15 million registered voters in Australia, voting is compulsory.
At every Federal and State election if citizens fail to cast a vote they get a fine. Australia gives its people the right to vote and then punishes them if they fail to exercise that right.
Not surprisingly, Australia tops the table for voter turnout in national elections at around 95% of registered voters.
Surely this stick of compulsion is not necessary.
A free vote is a privilege not afforded to everyone. Citizens must know how important the right to vote is to their sense of self. They must know that many before them have sacrificed everything to make it so.
I’m curious to know why compulsory voting came in. Was there a run of lowly turnouts? Maybe it was because a forced engagement with the political process would encourage greater attention to it.
Most likely it was a government who figured out that they had a better chance of retaining power if everybody voted because most of the previous no-shows would vote for them. This would be classic Muppetville logic.
If politics was relevant and those elected were in touch with voters if politicians were courageous and led the way, if there was confidence in leadership, then there would be no need for a fine.
In the US where the privilege of democracy is entirely voluntary, voter turnout languishes at less than half of registered voters.
I wonder what the 100 million plus no shows think about their lethargy after 100 days of their ginger topped POTUS.