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Vote late and vote once

February 7th, 2004

The old Australian tradition ‘vote early and vote often’ is under official attack here in Queensland. The pamphlet distributed by the Electoral Office laid great stress on the fact that we should vote exactly once.* And a fair bit of publicity was given to the fact that polling booths are most crowded between 8am and 10am.

*For non-Australian readers, I should point out that not voting at all is not a legal option here. If you want to abstain, you have to do so actively, by turning up and casting a blank ballot.

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  1. February 7th, 2004 at 10:31 | #1

    Um, what happens to you if you don’t vote? Or don’t I want to know?

  2. Factory
    February 7th, 2004 at 10:42 | #2

    You get a get a A$50 fine. The bit you prolly don’t want to know about is that you can be put in jail for the duration of the election if you try to advocate spoiling of ballots. (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/ahric/hrd/March96/hrd05108.html)

    Actually I got fined once for missing out on some council elections, ’twas a bummer that.

  3. John
    February 7th, 2004 at 10:43 | #3

    Usually nothing. You might get a letter which can usually be dealt with by an excuse. If you don’t give an excuse you’ll probably be fined about $10. If you don’t pay you’ll probably spend a day in jail, and get to talk to the TV cameras afterwards about your heroic stand on principle. This has happened, though not recently.

  4. John
    February 7th, 2004 at 10:44 | #4

    The law against advocating spoiled ballots is indeed a disgrace, and one I should post on some time.

  5. February 7th, 2004 at 11:56 | #5

    JQ is mistaken. I got fined despite not having received a postal voting form for a council election, and despite telling them. I hadn’t even known there was an election.

    This is the sort of thing that makes Pauline Hanson’s accusations against Peter Beattie plausible, and his denials implausible. While it is true that the blows are dealt out by impartial bureaucracies, everyone is bound to be in breach. The politicians are culpbale (a) by creating impossible rules and (b) by selectively dropping the stringency. The Peter Beatties of this world are culpable for not leashing their dogs, not for biting in their own persons.

    And then they have the chutzpah to say that Pauline Hanson was bringing the electoral process into disrepute! If they want the likes of her kept out, they shouldn’t sit on the safety valves. But they do, so JQ would be taking a risk of some form of contempt if he ever writes that article about spoiling ballots.

  6. February 7th, 2004 at 13:08 | #6

    John, I heard on the radio that the first couple of hours of polling were quiet. People might have taken the “vote late” advice…

  7. Dave Ricardo
    February 7th, 2004 at 14:22 | #7

    This is one of the great myths of our time.

    You get fined if you don’t turn up to the polling booth and get your name crossed off the electoral role.

    One you’ve done that, and you’ve been given your ballot paper, you can walk straight out the door without voting without penalty.

  8. derrida derider
    February 7th, 2004 at 15:57 | #8

    It is usually quite easy to get out of voting if you wish – PM Lawrence must have struck a bloody-minded bureaucrat (or one made so by his own bloody-mindedness). The general principle of the law is that it just tries to make it more hassle not to vote than to vote.

    The standard penalty for failure to vote is $A20 (about $US15) – about a third waht a parking ticket costs. See here.

  9. Mark Johnson
    February 7th, 2004 at 17:42 | #9

    I don’t know what the voter registration rules in Australia are, but a large number of people here in Moronland don’t register for fear of being selected for jury duty even though most states use driver’s license registrations for that.

    Having said that I kind of like the “must appear, don’t have to vote” concept because it does send a message. I have voted in every election since I was eligible, but I have regularly not cast votes in certain races in the hope that it sends a message.

    I don’t think that message has ever been noted, especially in the regularly uncontested elections we have here in the land of the free.

    Do people in Australia ever note that only X percent of votes were cast in a precinct with yX voters?

    Mark Johnson

    Chicago

  10. February 7th, 2004 at 18:57 | #10

    I got a “please explain” form, I filled it in and returned it telling them I hadn’t known there was an election and hadn’t had a postal voting form – it was all postal voting (I have since learned the local election was advertised in all the local newspapers, which I regularly bin unread as hard copy spam). Then I got a demand for a fine. No contact with a bureaucrat whatsoever, except in this faceless way.

  11. February 8th, 2004 at 00:13 | #11

    Hmm, interesting. Though it’s local government, someone was probably being a bit venal.

    “All postal votes” is one step from Siebold, I reckon.

  12. Homer Paxton
    February 8th, 2004 at 15:13 | #12

    I worked in a polling booth in Jonee’s electorate last federal election and I can confirm Dave’s analysis.

    You are given the papers but you can put sausages on them if you want!

    All you need to do is turn up ,once, and recieve the said papers. what you do with them is your own business.

    8-10 was busy too. so was 5-6 as well though

  13. Dave Ricardo
    February 8th, 2004 at 17:54 | #13

    That’s good, Homer, but as your Grade 3 teacher would have taught you, it’s i before e except after c.

  14. wmmbb
    February 8th, 2004 at 19:48 | #14

    The essential point about compulsory voting, or polling booth attendance at pointed out above, is that equal provision is made for every elector to vote. Polling booths are accessible to all regardless of socio-economic status. The pencil and paper method is reliable. There is external supervision of vote counting.

  15. Mark Bahnisch
    February 9th, 2004 at 00:55 | #15

    Mark Johnson – it’s a bit rich to describe Queensland as ‘moronland’ when you are apparently sojourning in the US – the land of rigged voting machines, dodgy electoral rolls which discriminate against blacks, and George W. Bush and all his works.

    The only good thing about the US is write-in voting. Or used to be – before they invented the voting machine.

    The other alternative to being fined is to collect one’s ballot paper in the Federal Election and write on it ‘Paul J. Keating’ and number a 1 next to it. Of course, this will invalidate your vote but might send a ‘message’ to Mr ’3rd Way’.

  16. Mark Bahnisch
    February 9th, 2004 at 00:57 | #16

    Apologies – misinterpreted your comment. The Premier Pete Qld parochialism has fried my mind evidently!

  17. Homer Paxton
    February 9th, 2004 at 09:18 | #17

    Dave,

    They had to burn the school down to get me out of school!

  18. Mark Johnson
    February 9th, 2004 at 09:52 | #18

    I was referring to U.S. as moronland. Much of what Mark Bahnisch said is the reason why I said that. Then there are my fellow citizens here who provide further reason for that name.

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