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"The case for compulsory voting"

by Chris Puplick


* With comments added by David T. Freeman, in sections that look like this.

Australia's electoral system is unique in being probably the fairest and least open to manipulation of any in the world. An independent Electoral Commission, redistributions conducted under judicial scrutiny, a system of preferential voting, the operation of the secret ballot, no age barriers preventing electors from seeking election as candidates, public funding of campaigns, the random listing and identification of party affiliation on ballot papers, and a number of other local practices ensure this. One of those unique local practices which contributes so much to the fairness of Australian elections is compulsory voting.

As I shall argue in due course, the most important benefit of compulsory voting is that it reduces the significance and power of money in determining the outcomes of elections.

Compulsory voting existed in Queensland before federation but was introduced for federal elections only in 1924, although by then compulsory enrolment was in place. Interestingly the Bill which introduced it was a Private Senator's Bill (that is, not one sponsored by either major party) proposed by Tasmanian Senator Herbert Payne. In moving the Bill, Payne stated:

We should... recognise that the material corollary to compulsory enrolment is compulsory voting... The presumption is that our laws are enacted by a majority of electors represented by a majority of the members in this Parliament...

Payne's Bill was passed with little or no debate, indeed in the House of Representatives in less than an hour, and in both Houses it was passed without even a division - no votes were recorded against it.


* How useful, if useful at all, is the single "vote" that you can make in the various "elections" every two to four years? It gives you no control over the "elected party" -- you can't "vote" on things such as the above.

What do you think the results would be in situations such as the above, if every individual was offered a vote on whether or not he or she wishes to be coerced? (No-one has a right to "vote" on whether or not another should be coerced. This issue is covered in detail in a later section of this booklet.)

Some people might think that the issue I raise here is of little consequence... well, for those who think that, consider this quote:

"I place economy among the first and important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our choice between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we can prevent the government from wasting the labours of the people under the pretense of caring for them, they will be happy." - Thomas Jefferson
In practice, the "rulers" provide no mechanism for you to "let", or "not let", them do anything much! So what happens? They "load us with perpetual debt" - the falsely-called "national debt", amongst others. Then what do they do? They "tax" you to pay back this "debt" - which is really their debt, but they're irresponsible and know that they can pass it off to their naive "citizens". If you'd like to research this further, then when you've finished reading all of the The Great Voting Hoax!, one of the books you should read is: How You Are Being Economically Raped: What You Can Do About It, which you'll find in the Reports Area.

"Crime does not pay... as well as politics." - A. E. Newman

Compulsory voting is not unique to Australia. It is used, for example, in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Greece, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Italy, Singapore; in some cantons of Austria and Switzerland; for the French Senate; and in a number of other jurisdictions.

Compulsory voting is something of a misnomer. What the law requires is that an elector turn up at a polling booth and take a ballot paper. They are not compelled to fill in that ballot paper and have an absolute right not to vote by placing a blank or spoiled ballot paper in the ballot box. That is their unqualified right which only a small number choose to exercise.


* Note that at no stage in his entire article does Chris ever really deal with the main issue here. Out of the two words: "compulsory voting", it's not so much the word "voting" that matters. It could be "Compulsory nose blowing in public at 5 o'clock on Thursdays", and Chris could say: "that's a misnomer - they only have to turn up in public and take a tissue". No, it's the repugnance of the "compulsory" part, that is the main issue here.

Opponents of compulsory voting try to make something out of a proposition that compulsion is inherently undemocratic. Yet these same people have no objection to compelling people to pay taxes, or to have health insurance; some of them favour compulsory conscription


* There are two fallacies in the above: Firstly, the issue under discussion is "compulsory voting" - not "compulsory taxes", etc. - therefore, the people who were asked about the subject of "compulsory voting", probably weren't also asked to state their thoughts on "compulsory taxes", etc. It's not feasible that Chris would know what everyone does or doesn't support anyway.

Secondly, a few paragraphs above he refers to other "countries" that use it; then "compulsory taxes", etc. What if a murderer could "justify" murder by saying something like this: "Many people have conquered continents by murdering the natives (Indians, Aborigines, etc.). These same people have later formed what they call 'governments', which they claim to be 'legitimate'. 'Government' bureaucrats of many 'countries' start wars in which they compel their 'citizens' to fight in - where they're murdered, or where they murder others - so the people of at least one of those 'governments' - those who started/planned the war - were the cause of the murders, or at the least, these 'government' bureaucrats encouraged murder. Lots of other people murder people, so I can too." Seriously sick! (But is what he said false?)

How about a robber being able to "justify" his robberies by saying something like this: "Conquerors claim that they own the property they conquer, after robbing it from the people they murder, chase away, or enslave. 'Government' bureaucrats forcibly take property (money) from their 'citizens' in the name of 'tax' (sometimes to pay for 'wars'!). Just because I don't masquerade as 'government', doesn't mean my robberies are any different. For example, like 'government' bureaucrats, it doesn't matter to me if the person who's money I'm taking doesn't actually owe me any money (by never agreeing to pay me anything in the first place). Like 'government' bureaucrats, but unlike conquerors, I usually don't have to murder the people I rob." Also seriously sick! (But is what he said false?)

Such attempted "justifications" are of no validity whatsoever. They never could be. Chris' similar attempted arguments are also of no validity. In both cases, he's only distracting the reader from the real issue at hand.


and all of them accept without qualification the fact that we compel people to sit on juries to judge their fellow citizens.

* This isn't the best arrangement either. A lot is written about Trial By Jury elsewhere.

Supporters of compulsory voting regard this as a minimum requirement of good citizenship - in fact it is about the only thing required in that regard. This idea is anything but new. The great Greek historian Thucydides records the Athenian leader Perides as saying in 431 BC: "We do not say that a man who takes no interest in the business of government is a man who minds his own business; we say he has no business here at all."


* This could be a very powerful brainwashing statement. Similar to this one: "Worship god or you will go to hell!" Which, in the case of "government", could translate to this: "Worship government - vote, pay tax, obey our laws, be a good citizen - or we'll fine you, or lock you up, or both!" This is similar to what is written on page 3 of the "Charge and Summons" which was sent to John:
"You should call the Magistrate ... "Your Worship"..."

Similarly when Lincoln spoke of the government "of the people, by the people and for the people", he meant all the people not just the political activists.

The fact that well over 96 per cent of enrolled people vote at federal elections, to my mind, gives greater legitimacy to the outcome.


* This is incredibly naive. Forcing someone to "vote", with threats of "penalties" if they don't, is in no way "legitimate". Perhaps the opposite applies here: the "election", and it's "outcome", could be up to 100% illegitimate, because possibly all of those "96 per cent of enrolled people" were illegitimately coerced to "vote"!
In the United States a President was elected in 1980 and 1984 with only just 53 per cent of eligible voters participating. In the United Kingdom it is rare to get a 70 per cent participation rate. The people most likely not to vote are those who are least aware of their rights, the most disadvantaged and the ones most likely to be exploited by rich and powerful political and financial interests.

* Whilst there may be a small percentage of people who are as Chris describes (and lets assume as Chris does that they have something to gain from "voting" anyway); it is far more likely that many of the non-"voters" specifically avoid "voting", because they don't wish to encourage bureaucrats and politicians such as Chris, who get a thrill out of seeing masses of people "voting". And many consider that none of the "candidates" offered to them are worth their vote - thus they decline "voting" altogether. Others are self-leaders - under no circumstances would they want an incompetent pretended "government" to mislead them. There are many other reasons, and I could quote others who've commented on the subject, and John's reasons (different again) for not "voting" - but I think the point has been made.
Keeping these people away from the polls is something which corrupt sectional interests always try to do. In 1993 the Democratic Governor of New Jersey (USA), Jim Florio, was defeated in a campaign in which there was strong evidence that his Republican opponents had run a deliberate campaign (including actual allegations of bribery) to keep poor black voters (traditional Democrat Supporters) away from the polls.

There is no reason to believe that Australians would necessarily record high voting turnout if it were not compulsory. In some local government elections where voting is voluntary, turnout has been as low as 30 per cent. In the first federal election (one in which there was great interest but voluntary voting) only 46.86 per cent of eligible voters bothered, and in South Australia only 23.82 per cent of eligible women voted. Given what most people think of politics and politicians in Australia, one can only speculate on likely turnout.


* Perhaps this is one of their biggest fears! Coercing everyone into "voting" - and keeping the numbers artificially high - helps them from having to face reality! They have it too easy at the moment and don't like the idea of any change. The following article was published in the "Sandringham/Brighton Advertiser" of June 30, 1997:

"Voters fail to make mark

BAYSIDE council recorded the second worst voter turnout for any metropolitan council for its inaugural elections, according to a recent Office of Local Government report.
  The report on the 1997 Victorian Local Government Elections revealed only 67 per cent of enrolled voters participated in council elections last March -- the first council elections in the municipality for almost four years.
  The report, which was prepared in May, showed a third of Bayside's 66,263 enrolled voters chose not to vote -- second only to the Mornington Peninsula Shire. The Shire recorded the low participation rate of 62 per cent, and was well below the metropolitan average of 71 per cent.
  However Bayside also recorded the lowest percentage of informal votes, with only 950 people, or two per cent of those enrolled, not filling in their ballots correctly.
  Bayside's voting was conducted by post.
  Those who did not participate face a possible $50 fine."

So even with "compulsory voting", on average, "only" 71 per cent of "enrolled voters" actually "voted". I hope no-one "pays" the "fines" - that's up to $1.1million for "Bayside" alone which they might rob from their "citizens" - and "Bayside" is just one relatively small area out of many!


Compulsory voting keeps down the cost of campaigns. The most expensive part of a campaign where there is no compulsory voting is having to 'turn on the vote'. A Senatorial campaign in the United States costs from $3 million to well over $12 million. The very act of having to raise large sums of money leaves candidates and political parties potentially beholden to their financial backers and thus keeping down the costs of campaigns reduces the potential for political corruption. Provided this can be done without infringing on other rights, such as freedom of speech and communication, then it strengthens our democracy.


* But because they don't really allow their "citizens" full freedom of speech and communication (i.e. as they declared in the Albert Langer cases - more on this later in a later section) - then by Chris' own reasoning, their "democracy" (whatever that is), is weak!

Similarly compulsory voting gives a more accurate picture of the nation's mind.


* Looks to me like you're hallucinating Chris! The so-called "nation" doesn't have a mind. It's only a concept - not a sentient being.
In the United States politics is characterised as 'the struggle of pressure groups versus the public interest'. Powerful lobbies such as the National Rifle Association dominate political life because they can motivate their members to get out and vote in numbers disproportionate to their real strength in the community.

Assume that pressure group X has the support of 5 per cent of the population, then in a compulsory voting situation it is likely to be able to influence 5 per cent of the vote. But if the number of people voting falls to 30 per cent and all the members of pressure group X vote, then their electoral strength is now 16 per cent. I believe pressure groups are proper and legitimate in our democracy but they should have no greater power to determine electoral outcomes than they actually possess in terms of real community support. Compulsory voting ensures this, while voluntary voting increases the disproportionate power of pressure groups.


* Instead of asking us to assume - please give us a real-world example - if you can. You'd need to include every "pressure group" in such an example, as well as each party wanting to be "elected" - since they'd also be a "pressure group" (and you'd also need to include the "AEC" when comparing Australia, because they are intentionally affecting the results with their oppressive "laws"). Don't be surprised if the reality is that it evens out overall - with the only significant end result being that less people turn up (but with a proportional amount of people of each creed). This aspect of "elections" will probably still be trashed as just another distraction from the main issue though.

This again puts a premium on money. The richer and the more powerful can both better organise and better skew the outcome of elections to their sectional advantage than can the poorer, the less articulate and the less educated.


* Indeed, but I have yet to see any sufficient reason why it could make any difference - for the better - when the "voting" is made "compulsory". The issue of money that Chris presents as his "most important benefit of compulsory voting", appears to be little more than a fiction, to distract or confuse the reader. Besides, the costs which the parties wanting to be "elected" don't fund, are foisted upon the "taxpayers"! I'll leave Padraic's article to answer the rest of Chris' "issues" about money.
When opponents of compulsory voting characterise these people as 'apathetic' they reveal only their own class (and often racial) prejudices.

* Padraic certainly didn't characterise anyone as "apathetic" - he only mentioned the effect of "compulsory voting" on the apathetic. Padraic wrote (in the fourth paragraph of his article):
"...it obliges their loyal voters, however apathetic, to turn up to vote the party ticket without the parties having to spend anything on persuading them..."
Exactly who are the "opponents" which Chris keeps referring to anyway? Chris doesn't mention any names. Perhaps Chris is just making up straw-men, in attempts to make his attempted arguments appear convincing.

There are as many 'apathetic' rich people as poor people, but those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap are the ones most likely not to know that it is by their participation in elections that they can best ensure a government that will not feel free to ignore them entirely.

* So they'll still ignore them mostly, anyway?

Similarly the proposition that only the 'educated and informed' should vote is a clear first step on the road to imposing qualifications on electors against which true democrats have always fought, and with good reason. An end to compulsory voting would not give the 'majority' a greater say by ending the current party campaign concentration on the marginal electorates and swinging voters. Instead of attempting to persuade them to vote for one party or another, the effort will now be to persuade them to vote at all. There will be no change of campaign behaviour, only a change of emphasis.


* Nonsense. Parties wouldn't just say "Vote!" -- they'd always be saying "Vote for us!" or "Don't vote for X (the other party)!", etc. Little if anything would change there.

I am very proud of Australia's electoral system and while I favour regular review of all its aspects, I would not destroy any of them currently in place and to my mind functioning well. The demand to end compulsory voting is not universal across the political spectrum;


* Maybe there just aren't enough decent people involved in "politics", and so very few people (if anyone) are heard to say things like: "coercion is evil!", "get rid of compulsory enrolment and compulsory voting!", "and while you're at it, get rid of all the other coercive 'laws'!", etc.
it comes only from one side of politics and cannot be said to be without partisan motivation.

* Chris might also tell us that: "the sun cannot shine when it's night." For bureaucrats like Chris, the following simple reason alone, isn't good enough: Robbing someone, or threatening to rob someone, is bad! It makes no difference if the robbery is done in the name of a "fine", to "uphold" pretended "laws"! Do most bureaucrats suffer from a mental problem? Is it normal for someone to crave the controlling of others? Do bureaucrats lack the ability to perceive reality, because they exist in an artificial world? (i.e. the one they created which they call "government".)

I believe compulsory voting is a major pillar which gives strength to one of the fairest and most democratic electoral systems currently practised.

Chris Puplick is a former Liberal Party Senator.


* In my dictionary printed during 1978, the word "liberal", as it relates to "politics", is defined as:
"Favourable to democratic reform and individual liberty, (moderately) progressive (the Liberal Party). [ME, orig. 'befitting a free man', f. OF f. liberalis (liber free (man))]"
But this isn't what their "Liberal Party" is. They certainly are not favourable to individual liberty; they do very little reforming; and they're regressive, not progressive.

A word related to "liberal" is "liberate", and is defined as: "set at liberty, set free."
Liberate certainly isn't meant to be confused with: exploit, oppress, or make dependent!

If the "Liberal Party" was really liberal in the liberate sense, then why don't they eliminate coercive "laws" such as "compulsory voting"? And more to the point, why is one of their own "Liberal Party" members advocating anti-liberty?

Do most people still carry around the above dictionary definitions for these words in their heads? - in which case all of the bureaucrats in the pretended "Liberal Party" of today, must all be in a state of mass delusion! (and all of the people who "voted" for them might ask themselves that too.) Or do they have the (newspeak?) definitions as they use now (whatever they are)?

The other definitions for "liberal" in this dictionary are:

1. Directed to general broadening of mind, not professional or technical (liberal culture, education, studies); ~ arts, medieval trivium and quadrivium, *arts as dist. from science and technology.
2. Generous, open-handed, not sparing of; ample, abundant; not rigorous or literal; open-minded, candid, unprejudiced.
Ah, the confusion and perversion of language. It appears that the "Liberal Party" found it more convenient to "win elections", by adopting only the "Generous, open-handed, not sparing of; ample, abundant" definition of the word, in the sense of: "vote for us if you want liberal hand-outs! (or to keep all those that the "Labor Party" has already implemented!)"

The so-called "Liberal Party" of today, certainly are not befitting a free man! For the most part, they are quite the opposite of the original "political" and other definitions of liberal, and thus a change of name is long overdue. Any suggestions?

It's ironic that the opposite of liberate is enslave! (is the "Labor Party"?)


I was a little surprised to see the AEC publish an article such as Padraic's in their magazine; but I was also surprised to see that they didn't bother to find any better case for their "compulsory voting" than Chris' above. Perhaps that is the best these bureaucrats can do? Or perhaps this is all they need to do for enough people to agree with them - because most people have been through "compulsory education", and the level of "argument" that Chris provides is adequate to convince them?


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