As an Australian citizen, I voted in the recent federal election there. So did about 95% of registered Australian voters. That figure contrasts markedly with elections in the United States, where the turnout in the 2004 presidential election barely exceeded 60%. In Congressional elections that fall in the middle of a president’s term, usually fewer than 40% of eligible Americans bother to vote.
There is a reason why so many Australians vote. In the 1920’s, when voter turnout fell below 60%, parliament made voting compulsory. Since then, despite governments of varying political complexions, there has been no serious attempt to repeal the law, which polls show is supported by about 70% of the population.
Australians who don’t vote receive a letter asking why. Those without an acceptable excuse, like illness or travel abroad, must pay a small fine, but the number fined is less than 1% of eligible voters.
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