Surprising amount you’ll be fined if you don’t vote

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

It’s election week and the airwaves are humming with campaigns, volunteers are lined-up outside pre-polling booths and train stations as Australians eagerly await their chance to voice their opinion and enjoy a right that comes with living in a modern democracy.

Or at least some Australians are.

But while the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) doesn’t look kindly on non-voting, the fine for failing to vote this Saturday is a surprisingly low $20.

The fine will be levied against anyone eligible to vote who failed to, regardless of beliefs around compulsory voting, conscious decisions not to vote or dislike for long queues, party volunteers and sausage sizzles.

Non-voters will receive a penalty notice, but can appeal the fine to the Divisional Returning Officer if they believe they have a valid reason for failing to vote, or believe they were unable to vote.

A record number of Australians have enrolled to vote in the upcoming election

More than 16 million Australians are tipped to vote this weekend, which is 96.8 per cent of the voting population and 750,000 more people than those who voted in the 2016 federal election.

“A national enrolment rate of 96.8 per cent was for a long time thought to be unattainable,” AEC electoral commissioner Tom Rogers said in April.

“Such a complete roll is a credit to Australian citizens and to the hard work and careful processes put in place by AEC staff. It is something all Australians can be proud of.”

But broadly, voter turnout is on the decline

The 2016 federal election saw the lowest voter turnout since compulsory voting began in 1925, with more than 1.5 million Australians failing to cast a vote. That’s more than 9 per cent of the 15.7 million-strong pool of eligible voters.

And while an extended three-week period of pre-polling is hoped to curb the declining number of voters, it’s unlikely to completely mitigate declining voter numbers.

“[Voter turnout] has been on a slow downward trend in recent years, mirroring the experience of most developed countries,” the AEC said in a 2016 report on the topic.

The same report found voter turnout was influenced by age, Indigeneity, socio-economic status and voters’ confidence in Australian politics.

Just last week, the Victorian Electoral Commission issued 190,000 $55 fines to residents who failed to vote in Victoria’s 2018 state election.

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