Compulsory voting? A look at how Australians handle elections

The free world is watching and holding its breath, appalled that an American coup can be treated so lightly by the U.S. media.

Australia is a federation.  Independent states came together to form that federation, and the system they came up has similar features to the United States.  It may be worth looking at.  Australia's constitution dates to 1900 — we are young.  And at the outset, our systems are not perfect.

Our House of Representatives is based on population, and we have a Senate based on states.  The Senate acts as your Electoral College.  Each state has the same number of senators.

To change the Constitution, we need a majority of the population and a majority number of states agreeing.  Without the Senate, more populous states could gang up on smaller states.  In our case, Sydney and Melbourne could run roughshod over the rest of Australia with urban policies detrimental to a diverse nation.

America and Australia have different systems with similar goals.  Let's look at the voting system.

One of the main differences is that our voting is compulsory.  Shock, horror.  Every citizen must vote.  Some here regard that as an imposition, but we are assured that whoever is voted in is representative of the entire electorate.  In typical Australian fashion, if you don't vote, you are fined the massive sum of $10.00 — and if you ignore the fine, no one bothers to follow up.  The impost is not huge, and generally, 95% vote.

At the very least, compulsory voting stops just 60% of voters turning up and allowing someone to fraudulently back-fill the other 40%.  At 95%, there is not much room to back-fill.

We still have dead people voting, double-votes, and cheating — but it is relatively minor, certainly compared to what Americans are experiencing now.  Strangely it seems to be usually perpetrated by our leftist parties and unions.  Maybe it's a cultural thing.

We also have what looks like a more complicated voting system — preferential voting.  We usually have results the night of the election — and we use paper ballots (with "scrutineers" or your "poll-watchers").

Australians are required to put numbers on a paper ballot based on which candidate we prefer — No.1 for the favorite and, maybe, up to No. 8 for the least.  If our No.1 does not get enough votes to be in contention, the ballot devolves to our No. 2, and so on until there is a runoff between the two most favored candidates.

This means we can't have the situation where a third candidates bleeds votes from one of the top two and the third candidate's voters' votes are lost.  Every person who wins in Australia represents the majority preference.  Every vote counts.

It also means that there is a process for small parties to establish themselves over a number of elections.  Voters can afford to take a risk on an independent without risking wasting their votes — a potential break to the divisive two-party system.  In the words of one of the leaders of a minor party, "we are keeping the bastards honest."

As with all attempts at fairness, either one of the parties claims unfairness and wants the system to be changed and skewed in its favor.  Welcome to politics.

In summary, from the distance of Down Under, our "Electoral College" protection is each state having an equal vote.  Our voting is compulsory, and the voters get to say whom they prefer and whom they don't want in sequence.

Everyone votes, and a lot complain, but it's not that often.  If the only coercion in a free society is being required to participate in choosing who runs that society every four years, it's not a huge price to pay.

The down-side is, as Winston Churchill said, that "the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."

The reality is that it's all a crap shoot — but it is essential that it be a fair crap shoot.  The world is watching America in awe, wondering how an entire party can be so dishonest with something so important as the world's greatest republic.

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