Voting

Well, I just got back from voting for the first time (State elections). In honour of the occasion, I’m going to tell you then things about voting in Australia:

1 – Lots of people will tell you that it’s compulsory to vote in Australia. This isn’t entirely true. Instead,
(a) It’s compulsory to be on the electoral roll if you’re an Australian citizen* aged 18 or over.
(b) It’s compulsory to turn up to vote on (or to vote by post prior to) Election Day, on pain of a $20 fine (or good explanation), and have your name ticked off on the electoral roll.
(c) Since it’s a secret ballot, what you do with your bit of paper is entirely your own business. You can scribble on it, do a dot-to-dot, put it in blank, or do a donkey vote.

2 – *British Citizens and citizens of other Commonwealth nations (except South Africa but including the Republic of Ireland) who were on a Commonwealth electoral roll in 1984 (or earlier), and who have had residence in Australia for a minimum if 6 months, are also required to vote.
(a) It’s compulsory, just as for any Australian citizen over 18.
(b) It doesn’t apply to Commonwealth citizens who were on electoral rolls after 1985 and have permanent residence.
(c) These countries include, in alphabetical order, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Canada, Cyprus, Fiji, Hong Kong, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, the Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Saint Lucia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, the United Kingdom, Western Samoa, and Zambia.

3 – Your right to vote may be suspended if you’re in prison serving a sentence of 3 years or longer, or if you’re got an intellectual disability which means you can’t fully understand what voting means. The right to vote might be compromised if you’re homeless, because of the difficulty in proving identity and providing a permanent address.

4 – In Australia, it has been compulsory to
(a) enrol to vote at federal elections since 1912
(b) turn up to vote at federal elections since 1924
(c) turn up to vote at state elections beginning in Queensland in 1915.

5 – If you don’t vote, the Australian Electoral Commission sends out a letter demanding a good explanation.
(a) If a good explanation can’t be provided, you have to pay $20.
(b) If you don’t pay the $20, you’re sent to court.
(c) If you’re found guilty of not voting in court, you can be fined up to $170, plus court costs, and will have a criminal conviction recorded against you.

6 – South Australia was the first state to allow all males 21 and older to vote in 1856. Victoria was second, in 1858.

7 – South Australia was the first state to grant women the vote in 1894.
(a) New Zealand granted women the vote in 1893.
(b) The entire of Australia had granted women the vote by 1902.

8 – Aboriginal Australians did not have the right to vote across the whole of Australia until 1967.
(a) Almost 91% of Australians voted to change to Constitution to give Aboriginals the vote in 1967.
(b) However, Aboriginal Australians already had the right to vote in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania, since they were legally considered British subjects along with European Australians – so men had been allowed to vote since the 1850s and women since 1895.
(c) Until 1967, only Queensland and Western Australia denied Aboriginal Australians the vote.
(d) However, throughout the implementation of the White Australia Policy, it was made very difficult for Aboriginals, along with Chinese, Indian, etc, to vote.

9 – Even though we use British spelling for everything else, one of our major parties, Labor, still uses the American spelling which experienced (very) brief popularity around the time the party was formed.

10 – Although we strictly-speaking have a two-party system, with Liberal and Labor, Australia is very much verging towards a three-party system, with the Greens included in televised vote counts.
(a) Although Liberal technically represents the businessmen and farmers, and Labor the working man, the truth is, there’s not much difference at all between them.

Now, I have ten things to tell you about this particular election. The information has come from a Port Augusta newspaper, the Transcontinental. You can see the original here: http://www.transcontinental.com.au/story/2145705/10-election-facts-you-may-not-know-sa-election-2014/?cs=1286.

1 – During Election Day (today, the 15th), electoral officials are covering an area four times the size of the United Kingdom.

2 – 27000 pencils were purchased for use during the election, and 15080 pencil sharpeners have been deployed to keep them sharp.

3 – The use of pencils isn’t mandatory, and you can used a pen if you want (or if you’re paranoid about tampering). Pencils are supplied simply because they’re easy to store and don’t run dry.

4 – The election required 4 million ballot papers, 7000 polling booths, and 11000 cardboard screens.

5 – About 80% of voting will happen today. (The other 20% will be made up with postal votes and forgot-to-votes.)

6 – Over 5000 people have been employed as officials for the election day.

7 – Running today’s election involves the largest co-ordination of people and resources in a single day than any other South Australian event. (Which is even more amazing considering it’s Mad March and we’ve had the Fringe, the Grand Prix, and WomAdelaide all happening.)

8 – In elections between March 1950 and March 2006, Liberal won at least 50% of the primary vote only once, while Labor won seven times.

9 – The most House of Assembly electorates won by a single party between 1950 and 2010 at a South Australian election was by the Liberals, in 1993, with 37 seats. Labor took the other 10, and no minor parties or independents were elected.

10 – There are 25 parties running for the legislative council in this election, with names such as “The X-Team”, “The South Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party”, “Stop Population Growth”, and “The Multicultural Party”. Thankfully, Federal parties such as “The Motoring Enthusiasts” and the “Party Party Party Party” aren’t in there.

Well, I hope you’ve learnt something about voting in Australia.

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