Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Voting yes to compulsory voting

Australia is to retain its compulsory voting system - for now. The Liberals - capital "L" Liberal in Australia equating to Republican or Conservative in other countries - have been trying to undermine the old traditional voting system because we all know that voluntary voting favours the Right. Naturally they want "reform" to make life easier for themselves. They have been uttering assinine things such as "compulsory voting is not really democratic". Well, it is not compulsory to vote, as it happens. It is only compulsory to have one's name struck off the electoral roll on the day of voting. Thereafter, one may throw away the democratic process if that is one's will. One can write "Fuck politicians" on the ballot paper. It is then called an "informal" vote. Isn't that quaintly polite!
One of the precious things about compulsory voting is that it stimulates a need to think about the political status quo. Once a term, even the apathetic are stirred to look at the political environment and make a choice. In the long run, this has created a more politically aware society than most. Aussies are notorious for being political thinkers. I can't see that this is a bad thing.
As a politically conscientious Aussie, I was keen to be involved in the democratic process when I lived in England a lifetime ago. What a shock it was. On polling day I trotted off to my nearest polling station. Well, I tried. There was not much to give guidance and when, finally, I found the little South Kensington school, there was barely a sign that anything was going on. One desultry person standing in the grounds with some party leaflets. None of the colourful lines of party representatives handing out how-to-vote flyers that one sees in Australia. No party rosettes or candidate placards. Just an empty expanse of school tarmac. They seemed quite surprised to see me inside. I was one of a pitiful few who had turned out.
How can people dare to so much as comment about a government when they have not bothered to vote? How realistic a reflection of national opinion is it when only a small percentage have voted?
America also has this problem - and a mass of people too indifferent and lazy to vote. Many are simply not educated about their democratic voice.
This seems to me to be unforgivable. I see voting as a duty as well as a right.
It is the only way that the real people can have any control over their destiny.
It is the one and only equaliser. The vote of the pauper is worth as much as the vote of the corporate fatcat.
I am glad we retain our system - and I hope that when next they try to undo the national strength of the compulsory vote, it will be put to the vote.

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