The Downside of Compulsory Voting When You’re An Expat

English: Ballot Box showing preferential votingAustralia, along with Brazil, Congo, Singapore, Uruguay and five other countries has compulsory voting for political elections. In Australia, it is compulsory to vote in all city, state and federal elections once you turn 18. If you do not vote, you are fined $20.  If you don’t pay that $20 within 21 days, you are then taken to court. When I lived in Australia, I had no issues with this law as I wanted to vote in every election as I had strong options of who I wanted to be voted in.

When I left Australia, I changed my residential address for the purpose of elections to my parents’ place.  This made sense as they could forward any information sent to me.  However, this also means, that I have to vote in that city’s elections – and this is the situation I find myself in.

Today I received a letter from the Australian Electoral Commission containing ballot papers for the upcoming city election that I must submit.  Now this is for elections in a city where I have not lived for almost 20 years.  I know nothing about the people standing for election and what they stand for – and yet still I must vote for one of them.  I find this utterly ridiculous.

Now I can register as an overseas voter and I’m pretty sure that is what I did, and this is supposed to limit my voting responsibilities to just federal elections, but since I’m getting ballot papers for city elections something has gone wrong here, which means I now have to run around and sort this out before the city elections are held – and since I’ve been sent ballot papers, I still might have to vote.

Another ridiculous element is the pre-paid rely envelope they sent me.  This pre-paid envelope is only for postage inside Australia, but someone has taken the time and effort to put an airmail stamp on it. I wonder if they realise that the pre-paid postage even if there is an airmail stamp on it won’t pay for the postage from Germany to Australia.

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One thought on “The Downside of Compulsory Voting When You’re An Expat

  1. I lucked out- my local government is really on the ball with absentee voting. It was kind of a pain in the butt to get it started, but now they e-mail me the ballot. I print it out, mark it up, scan it, and send it back by “fax” (through an online faxing service). There’s an option to have it sent via mail also, but I chose the no-postage version.

    Also, there’s a website where I can see the status of my ballot- sent to me, received back by them. It’s quite nifty.

    I had the same issue as you- since my “permanent” US address is actually my brother’s house, my voting district changed on me, putting me into position to vote for races I know nothing about.

    The only rela down side though is that as I understand it, absentee ballots like mine aren’t even counted in the US unless a race is too close to count.

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