Voting is compulsory in Australia. I see this thrown around in arguments quite a bit, but I'm not sure many people think through the implications.

Voting is only compulsory if you have enrolled to vote. It's also compulsory to enrol, but noone is checking up on you. In Australia you can get a drivers license, social security, pay tax and even fill in a census without enrolling to vote.

If you are enrolled, but you fail to vote, you receive a letter at your registered address asking why. I have received this letter on more than one occasion, and have supplied decent (made up) excuses, such as "my car broke down and I couldn't get to a polling place." I suspect that only a small number of the responses are actually read, and that you would have to say something pretty stupid for it to get to the next level.

However, I have a friend who took it to the next level - he ignored the first letter, and received a second. The idea being - "you haven't given us a reason, please pay this fine of $60". My friend chose to ignore the second letter, so he received a third: "you are summonsed to appear in such-and-such court on the charge of non-payment of fines"

I went with him to the court that day, and waited for four hours before we were sent away. He returned the following day (without me), where he was asked by the magistrate if he had a reason for failing to vote. He answered in the negative, and was given another notice stating that he now had to pay $90 in court fees plus the original $60 within 15 days or face a jail sentance.

Having explored the possibilities of non-voting in Australia, he paid the fine and the court fee, and resumed his practice of informal voting.

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