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Australian History

On this day (Australia): In 1911, compulsory enrolment for compulsory voting was introduced


Voting in Australia

On 6 October 1911, compulsory enrolment for compulsory voting was introduced in Australia.

Compulsory voting was first advocated by Alfred Deakin at the turn of the 20th century. Voting was voluntary at the first 9 federal elections.

Compulsory enrolment for federal elections was introduced in 1911.

In 1915, consideration was given to introducing compulsory voting for a proposed referendum. As the referendum was never held the idea wasn’t pursued.

Also in 1915, compulsory voting was introduced in Queensland by the Liberal Government of Digby Denham, apparently concerned that ALP shop stewards were more effective in “getting out the vote”, and that compulsory voting would restore a level playing ground.

Ironically, Denham went on to lose the 1915 election.

The significant impetus for compulsory voting at federal elections appears to have been a decline in turnout from more than 71% at the 1919 election to less than 60% at the 1922 election.

The Bruce-Page government (a conservative coalition of the Nationalist and Country parties) was reluctant to be too closely identified to such a proposal.

In 1924, a private member’s bill to amend the Electoral Act was introduced in the Senate by Senator H. J. M. Payne (Nat. Tas) sponsored in the House of Representatives by Edward Martin (Nat. Perth). It was only the third private member’s bill passed into law since 1901.

The impact was immediate, with turnout at the 1925 election rising to over 91%.

Victoria introduced compulsory voting in 1926, NSW and Tasmania in 1928, WA in 1936 and SA in 1942.

When enrolment and voting at federal elections was introduced for Australian Aborigines in 1949 it was voluntary, and continued to be so until 1984 when enrolment and voting became compulsory for all eligible electors.

When Queensland introduced compulsory voting in 1915, it became the first place in the then British Empire to do so.

There are currently 32 countries with compulsory voting, of which 19 (including Australia) pursue it through enforcement.

10 of the 30 members of the OECD have compulsory voting.

Source: Australian Electoral Commission

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

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