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How Australia votes—quite unusual

The following explanation is reprinted and adapted with kind permission from Professor Dean Jaensch from his The Australian politics guide (South Melbourne, Macmillan Education Australia, 1996) held in the Bray and Mortlock libraries of the State Library.

"Australian electoral laws have been among the most progressive, even radical, in the world. The franchise, (the right to vote in elections) was granted to adult males from the beginning of responsible government in the 1850s. South Australia was the most progressive with adult male suffrage and one person, one vote. Australia was also in the forefront of the process towards full adult suffrage; women were granted the vote in South Australia in 1894, in the federal arena in 1902, and in Victoria in 1908, the last State to amend its law. Ironically, South Australia was the last state to introduce full adult suffrage, in 1975, for elections for the Legislative council (Upper House of Parliament). The franchise in Australian elections is available to any person of at least 18 years old, who is an Australian citizen, with some residential requirements, and with some exclusions.

Australia is one of only a few countries in the world, and the only English-speaking country to adopt compulsory enrolment of voters and compulsory voting. Voting in Australia is not just a civic duty but an obligation backed by sanction. Enrolment on the national electoral roll has been compulsory since 1911, and voters have been compelled to attend polling booths for national elections since 1925. Similar compulsion applies to all State elections. South Australia was the last State to introduce compulsory voting in 1944. 'Compulsory' voting is actually a misnomer: it is really compulsory attendance. The Australian Electoral Acts make it compulsory for all enrolled citizens to attend a polling place, to receive the ballot paper/s and to place the papers in the ballot box. However, no person can be compelled to vote by marking the ballot paper. A monetary fine applies to people who do not have their names marked off the electoral roll without approved exemption."


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This page last updated on Friday 11 April, 2014 14:46



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