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Compulsory Voting

In Australia, it is compulsory for all citizens over the age of 18 to enrol and to vote.

Australia maintains a national electoral roll, or list, based upon the 150 electorates in the House of Representatives. All citizens over the age of 18 are required to enrol.

Seventeen-year-olds may provisionally enrol and will be able to vote if their 18th birthday falls on or before polling day.

In addition to being compulsory by law to enrol, it is also compulsory by law to attend a polling place at election time.

Brief History

  • Enrolment and voting in federal elections was voluntary from 1901.
  • Permanent electoral rolls were established in 1908.
  • Enrolment became compulsory in 1911.
  • Queensland was the first State to introduce compulsory voting in 1915.
  • Compulsory voting for Federal elections was introduced in 1924 and first used in the 1925 elections when 91.31% of the electorate cast a vote.
  • Enrolment and voting for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples became compulsory in 1984.

Other countries which have some form of compulsory voting are:

  • Argentina
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Cyprus
  • Dominican Republic
  • Egypt
  • Greece
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Liechenstein
  • Luxembourg
  • Panama
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland (some cantons only)
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

Non-Australian Citizens

The only non-Australian citizens eligible to vote at federal elections in Australia are:

  • British subjects who were on a Commonwealth electoral roll before 26 January 1984, at which time the eligibility requirements were altered.

Australian Citizens Not Entitled To Vote

The following people are not entitled to enrol and vote:

  • prisoners serving a sentence of five years or more
  • people who have been convicted of treason and not pardoned
  • people who are incapable of understanding the nature and significance of enrolment and voting

Compulsory Voting In Australia

This is a paper written by Tim Evans for the Australian Electoral Commission. It was published in January 2006.
Malcolm Farnsworth
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