Two of Australia's electoral conventions continue to be under pressure; compulsory voting and preferential voting. These are a couple of the good things about the Australian system so I want to defend and preserve them. The advocates of the abolition of compulsory voting are either those who want to rig elections or innocents that are their dupes or playing into their hands. Their arguments may sound good; easy but vacuous high sounding phrases about freedom; but I wish to defend compulsory and preferential voting with reason and substance. The simplistic arguments and pseudo-idealism of their critics is a cloak on the iniquity of their actual intentions, or, with the innocents, on the intentions of those who control their opinion or use them as cover.

The critics dislike the Australian system because it is more difficult to falsify than the American, British or other electoral systems round the world. Compulsory and preferential voting make the electoral outcome just a little more uncertain and so complicate their bribery and blackmail systems with large numbers of prospects. They frustrate vote-buying systems and lower the success rate of using non voting names to lodge false votes so much that it becomes pointless, and they reduce the effectiveness of the standard strategy of the rich and powerful in fielding tame spoiler candidates to confuse the electorate and mislead their opponents supporters. The attempts at intimidation one may have experienced just for articulating these phenomena should confirm the extent to which these corrupters are used to getting away with such practices throughout most of the world; they're annoyed that they have to find new ways to rig the elections here.



Firstly compulsory voting doesn't make voting compulsory; what it makes compulsory is polling booth attendance, electoral roll mark-off and ballot paper lodgment.
You do not have to vote, you only have to attend to demonstrate that YOU exercised your right to vote; as opposed to someone else exercising it instead.
This is simply a consistent action of law. Voting is about who makes the law, you will be subject to this law while you are within this jurisdiction and are given a right to some control over who makes this law. Law can have terrible effects on peoples lives and in all legal things it is paramount that the correct person is established before proceeding, so if the right to decide who makes law is given to anyone then law has to make sure that right is used by the right person. "Compulsory voting" is simply the civic duty to ensure sound process, no more undemocratic than the fact that a court summons must be served in person and if accused of a crime one must attend court in person or sign a legally binding document in person to secure it's authenticity; voting is secret so we can't get people to sign their ballot papers; so we get them to show up in person and have their name marked off the roll.


  1. You must attend the polling booth and have your name marked off the electorate lists; this helps prevent anyone else using your name to forge votes for their preferred candidate.
  2. You must place your ballot paper in the ballot box before you are allowed to leave the polling booth; this has 3 functions,
    1. It means officials can count the names marked off compared to the ballot papers in the box and detect any corruption of the numbers like added papers
    2. It helps prevent extra "votes" being added in the first place
    3. It acts against the ability to walk out with the ballot paper and thus prevents most vote buying.


Taking a ballot paper out of the polling booth is the usual method of buying votes. Most elections now use a distinctive ballot paper and don't reveal its form until the day so forgers can't print fakes in advance. So vote buyers have to get hold of the actual papers. It is arranged in a chain, one ballot paper is retained by the person and taken out of the booth to the vote buyer who pays for it, they fill it out and give it to the next person who takes it in, lodges the already filled out paper and brings out their blank ballot paper, they are paid when they bring out a blank ballot paper and on and on until the vote-buyer lodges the last 2 ballot papers. The "freedom not to vote" faction is simply the same people who, if they succeeded, would be sitting at those tables buying votes, servants and stooges of the plutocrats, Mafiosi and corrupters. They have a simpler and superficially more freedom loving message; but they are the front men and servants of the corrupt and antidemocratic forces of the society.


The vote is secret and there is no effective policing of voting. One can lodge an empty paper or write obscenities or a political tract or polemical slogan on the ballot paper. Of course anything other than a formal vote invalidates the vote; but there's no policing of defacing ballot papers or lodging a blank.


Compulsory voting is the major wisdom of the Australian system, certainly it was only passed by politicians because they were all suffering low self-esteem because less than a quarter of the population thought any of them worth voting for; but that isn't why it's valuable. Some think it is retained because the parties get election funding per vote they receive; but that allocation is under the control of parliament and they could just increase the per head amount or change it to a proportion of votes if they got fewer votes, so it's not the real reason. However and by whatever motives it was introduced; it accidentally yielded the electoral system with the highest degree of integrity and incorruptibility of any in the world; and this is why it's something worth retaining and defending. Because 97% or so of the population fronts the ballot booth, the ability to appropriate names of non-voters and mass vote them into one candidate is severely inhibited. Corruption of that nature suffers both exposure and diminishing returns, with only 3% of the electorate to play with and that unidentifiable it cannot effectively influence even close run elections. In the old days, before compulsory voting, the party cynics used to say "vote early, vote often", and this wasn't a joke, it was the real determinant of elections, as it still is in many elections in Britain, Europe and America; it died overnight in Australia as a result of compulsory election attendance. A lot of scientific progress is, like the discovery of penicillin, the result of an unintentional but happy accident, we should allow the sophistication of our political systems to develop by the same means. Less corruptible systems are rare treasures in a corrupt world and regardless of what accidents put them in place are worth fighting to retain.


The main argument of the non compulsory camp is that elections are determined by people ignorant of the persons and issues involved. Which is true. It was no less true when Adolf Hitler said the same thing about democracy in Mien Kampf, his attitude was why should a tailor tell an engineer how to do things, it's the engineer's job to work out the engineering, and this logically led to it being the head of government's job to work out the governing, and anyone else should mind their own business or at best only offer advice; taking such an attitude is a path to dictatorship and brutal lack of consideration in corporate decisions. Some voters don't even know they are stakeholders in a politician's future decisions, but they know when it impacts their lives and can note the politician's name and take revenge at the next election.

The non compulsion camp lack Hitler's evil steel; but they make up for it in evil hypocrisy. Churchill, a less hypocritical politician than most, said "The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter". Note that he said voter not citizen, voting has never been compulsory in Britain, yet he spent his life in parliament and walking the hustings for their votes. Ignorant voters are one of the plagues of democracy. But ignorant voters are inherent in democracy itself, Churchill wasn't joking when he later said "democracy is the worst possible form of government; except for all those others that humanity has tried from time to time." If the non compulsion camp want to argue that voters' ignorance and uninterest disqualifies them from voting, then let them make the argument as honest persons and argue against democracy itself.

Making voting non compulsory doesn't improve the standard of intellects choosing to participate; in fact, even if it seems a laconic Aussie cliche, it would probably decrease the intelligence of the vote. Anyone who can get hellfire enthusiastic and dedicated to a process where their part in it is one ten millionth or less of the outcome even if they do get a direct vote, or who believe in representative democracy in a big way where the person they elect isn't even obliged to vote consistent with their values, has to have something a bit substandard happening in the brains department; so making voting non-compulsory probably lowers the voting IQ in many cases. Non-compulsory voting results in having only mean and interested parties to decide elections; without leavening it with the indifferent impartiality of reasonably intelligent people who are skeptical as to whether their vote has any impact upon events or not and wouldn't bother if it wasn't compulsory.

Higher motivation to participate in a power process and act on something is as little a guarantee of knowledge as anything else; knowledge and intelligence can just as readily make one indifferent to a process as interested. The "if voting could change anything it would be illegal" revelation is true in some dimensions of human desire for change within the current system. In the USA they have a corruptible and purchasable political process, they have two main parties, a right wing party and an extreme right wing party, and choosing between them isn't something any left winger really wants to do. The anger that leads people to alienation from political process is complex and many feel about Australia as I do about America, but readily corruptible voting systems don't help.


If anyone were to conscientiously object to involvement in compulsory voting I think an amendment could be moved to allow any citizen to renounce their right to vote and thus be removed from the electoral roll, or an "abstain" box could be put on the ballot paper; then the objector could actively abstain without opening a vulnerability in the voting process. One strains to find any purpose in such behaviour; but as with returning a medal or something, some may find it of symbolic protest value; and for others it may be a way of establishing deep categorical differences, of refusing to personally legitimate the extant regime. One should however, insist on retaining an "opt-out" system rather than an "opt-in" system as there exists in the USA; for the obvious reason that people can be culturally discouraged from voting, as the white population of the South did to the Negroes for decades, employers could discriminate against workers who enrolled to vote, etc.


Many who oppose preferential voting, and I've heard a number of Frenchmen and Englishmen wax vitriolic on the subject, in the next breath can support run-off elections in the EU and their own countries. What can be done with such simpletons? Preferential voting is a runoff election; just without the waste of money and time. The count is made, the candidates with least votes drop out, their voters are consulted via their preference vote as to who, since that person is no longer eligible, they would wish to elect instead, the votes are given to their next preference, a new count taken and the last drops out, etc until a majority winner is decided. The process sometimes looks complicated, but numbering one's preferences from one down is a simple and natural act in the polling booth. Sometimes there are too many candidates to be sure you haven't made a mistake with the numbers; but short cuts are evolving all the time and small amendments can address this.


The plutocrats would want to get rid of preferential voting as well; they much prefer first-past-the -post-voting as one has in England or the US presidential election. That is because rich people can pay people to run as spoiler candidates, if the rich candidate has 40% of the vote and their opponent 60%, the rich one can get 10 people to nominate saying exactly the same things as their opponent, even if each one only gets 3% of the population to believe them the vote splits so the rich gets 40% and the nearest opponent only 30% so the rich candidate wins. But if you have preferential voting, people with slightly different opinions can run against each other and exchange preferences and let the people choose between them without injuring each others chances. In Australia one party can slowly shade into another group, the Democrats and Greens used to complement each other's chances; but this is the opposite in first-past-the-post-systems In the USA 2000 Presidential election the effect Nader, as a Green candidate, had on Al Gore's run for President was completely negative, even though most Nader voters would have been a little happier with Gore than Bush. Totally fraudulent spoilers can still run in preferential systems; but the party to whom they instruct their voters to give preferences ultimately gives away their true orientation.


Also, if you have a 2 party system, so people only focus on voting for the candidate representing their side and can't be sidetracked by spoilers, as the fiercely partisan voters of the UK have traditionally been, then the plutocrats and their mafia content themselves that at least they only have 2 people to focus on "bribing, bullying, brainwashing, blackmailing and bamboozling" into doing their bidding; the plutocrats tend to favour a smaller number which is less expensive; and this gives rise to an argument against parliaments and representative democracy per se; but that is another argument for another time and place. Because there are more candidates involved in preference systems, and no absolutely settled parties to target, it's a bit harder for the dedicated corrupters to find any permanent mark.


Candidates in preferential voting are eliminated one at a time; usually runoff elections get rid of several at once; and it can be too much of a bother on preferential voting papers to name a preference for every candidate; also there are some candidates who one would wish never to be associated with under any circumstances, and people can resent having to preference them at all. So the amendment to allow optional or exhaustible preferential voting is allowable. It does open a few smallish vulnerabilities with incomplete ballot papers so it might be best if the candidate has to write "and final" indicating their last vote, or an "and final" tick box can be beside every number box on the paper or something, just so someone cant get at the incomplete paper and fill in the rest of the boxes.


So if the changes are not rigorously defined and minor one should oppose any change in the Australian electoral process. We already have the best electoral process (not the best political system) in the world. Those advocating frigging around with it in the name of "improvements" that are nebulous and undefinable are just the corrupting, alienating, power stealing plutocrats at their diabolical work.

Justin Moore - Plympton South Australia 2007 Oct 31 Wed

Copyright Justin Moore 2007