The US Studies Centre has suggested that compulsory voting should be rethought1. This assertion that compulsory voting is injurious to democracy has a long history with one of the main drivers of it being former Howard government minister Nick Minchin2,3. His involvement is enough to make any normal person believe the opposite is better, as Minchin was one of the Howard drones who was a climate change denier. It is therefore clear he doesn’t understand the concept of evidence, let alone understand how science operates.
Compulsory voting is something that has occupied my mind ever since the smugness of not being able to elect an idiot like George W Bush dissipated when Australia elected Tony Abbott as Prime Minister. Unlike the Republican Party in the US, the Liberal Party in Australia were astute enough to realise that it is not a good idea to have a halfwit as a Prime Minister, and dumped Abbott. Unfortunately, his nemesis is only marginally better in being slightly more articulate, while still prosecuting the same idiotic policies4,5,6.
The only thing that worries me about compulsory voting is forcing people to vote who are under the misapprehension that they have a direct say in who will be prime minister, or that the most important thing is to stop more brown people arriving in Australia, or that we are in danger of being swamped by Asians (or is it Muslims now?), or that there is a queue that is being jumped, or stopping the imposition of sharia law, or stopping all the thousands of white people being killed by terrorists, or stopping them doing burnouts in their V8 manhood surrogate.
Modelling by Simon Jackman, CEO of the US Studies Centre, shows that compulsory voting has created a steady, guaranteed supply of disgruntled voters that cannot exit the system1. This is a silly thing to say, given the long history of protest informal votes in Australia. One could be forgiven for wondering whence the funding for this modelling came. Could it in part have come from someone with a vested interest in the major parties retaining their hegemony? This sort of attempt at hegemony has reached its apotheosis in the US, which Professor Jackman would have seen in his studies, and is manifest in the attempts to minimise voting enrolment of minorities and the extreme gerrymandering, mostly by the Republican Party7.
The good thing about compulsory preferential voting is that, unlike the simplistic voting systems in some other western democracies, your vote is not meaningless if you prefer a minor candidate. This allows you to vote for your minor candidate but also allows you to rank your preferences so that you can put a major candidate last. As an example, in the 2017 UK election, the Newcastle-under-Lyme constituency was won by the Labour Party, whose vote came to 48.2% of the total vote. The Conservatives received 48.1% while the Liberal Democrats received 3.7% of the vote8. So, more people voted against the candidate who won the seat than voted for them. It is quite possible that most of those who voted for the Liberal Democrat would have preferred the Conservative, but we will never know. If preferential voting existed in the UK, then those Lib-Dem voters would not have wasted their vote.
While my enthusiasm for compulsory voting is more ambivalent since the Abbott disaster, I still think the risk of turning Australia into a carbon copy of the US or UK is too great a danger to get rid of it. What we do need is an electorate which is informed and not prey to the alarmist drivel used by modern politicians to suck in the uneducated and ignorant. Unfortunately, an educated electorate is something of which conservatives live in fear9.
When a politician tells you that it would be best if we did not have compulsory voting, as Minchin has done2, you can be certain that he is only ever doing it out of self-interest. It will be a method, as he sees it, of making it more likely that his side of politics will attain power and stay there. That is reason enough to be suspicious of any pronouncements he might make. Compulsory voting with a secret ballot makes it almost impossible to corrupt the system by paying people to vote; optional voting would facilitate it. As Jackman says, if the major parties tried to force this through, it would be purely out of self-interest and would make it very difficult for some of the smaller parties to garner the votes they do now1. Of course, that would be their aim. When it comes to politicians, the interests of the populace and the institutions of democracy come a long way behind self-interest.