Mandatory voting in which nations?

Which nations have mandatory voting and what happens to you if you don’t vote? :eek:


There’s a table of countries here, along with what happens if you don’t.

The table Mr. Kobayashi linked says that voting in Brazil is voluntary for “illiterates and those over 70.” I’ll add that it is also voluntary for 16- and 17-year-olds. People aged 18-70 must vote. People aged 15 and below can’t vote.

In Australia, voting is theoretically compulsory. The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, section 245(1) states that “it shall be the duty of every elector to vote at each election”.

However, in practice, nobody is forced actually to fill in the ballot paper. While you must go to a polling place, have your name crossed off the roll, accept a ballot paper and deposit it in a ballot box, you are not actually forced to mark a vote on the ballot paper. It’s a secret ballot, so clearly you cannot be forced to vote.

If you are not marked off the roll as having voted then you will receive a penalty notice for a $20 fine. If you can offer a reasonable excuse then the fine will be waived. If you choose to take the matter to court, and lose, then the fine is increased to $50, plus court costs.

Yes. This has been covered before here in other threads. Apparently the law does dictate that you must VOTE and not just throw a ballot marked with “All politicians are c**ts” into the box. Under the law, this is an offence, and you must actually make an effort to indicate a genuine voting preference. Of course, as a secret ballot, this law is ridiculously unenforceable, so in practice you just have to show up, get your name marked off, and stuff a couple of bits of paper in the box, then go back to the pub.

Other thing, I believe the fines are significantly higher than those indicated. More like A$75 straight off the bat.

A few things about the Australian system:

(1) It is illegal to advocate an informal vote (though there is a fine line between that and pointing out that informal votes are legal).

(2) You can write stuff on the ballot paper (like “All politicians are bastards”), and it would still be a formal vote as long as you also filled in the squares. What you are not allowed to do is write anything which would identify you as a voter – that would go against it being a secret ballot. But I’ve never seen a ballot paper treated as informal for that reason: it must be a very rare thing to do.

(3) Once they have been forced to the polling place to vote, almost all Australians find that they do have some kind of preference among the candidates. From scrutineering on many occasions, I have formed the opinion that very few formal votes represent random marks on the part of the voter. This is partly because they have a lot of information vailable to them: the political parties are listed on the ballot paper next to the candidates’ names, and supprters of the political parties try to make surethat everyone gets a “how to vote” piece of paper before they enter the booth. (A few voters don’t accept any of the “how to votes”, and my guess is that most of those already know what they are going to do. Most people accept all that are given to them, either out of politeness or to conceal their intentions. Some make ther intentions clear, e.g. by saying something like “Who’s handing out the Green how-to-votes?”)

That’s weird because anything could allow to identify your vote (here, all ballots with something written on them are discarded). For instance you could be handed 100 $ to vote for Mr Smith, and as a proof that you voted according to this agreement, state that you will write “all politicians are bastards” with green ink on your “Smith” ballot.

I agree that it could be a code for whose ballot paper it was, but in the absence of any suggestion that it is, it’s not.

THe whole philosophy behind ballot processes in Australia is to ensure that as many people as possible cast a formal vote. It’s not just the compulsory ballot, there’s a lot of voter education (through TV and newspaper ads), optional preferenctial voting, and party list voting in PR systems like the Australian Senate. When you work as a scrutineer at the count, you learn pretty quickly that the poll clerks want to count every vote as formal if there is any sort of voter intention to be gleaned from it.

The main ways to vote informal all involve making your intention unfathomable:
(1) No number 1’s on the ballot paper.
(2) More than one number 1 on the ballot paper.
(3) Putting your number 1 outside the box so that it is unclear which candidate it’s aimed at (this is pretty rare).
(4) Writing your number 1 like the number 7 (though if you also write your 7 with a stroke through it, then it’s clear which is 1 and which is 7, and the vote is formal).

And, as a scrutineer, it’s a great pleasure working with election officials who are trying to maximise the formal vote, even when they allow as formal some very strange votes for the other candidates.

So what percent of eligible people in Australia don’t vote? What percent of ballots are “spoiled” by people not wanting to vote? I guess you can’t tell those often from ballots that are just poorly marked, so what percent are spoiled in general?


In the last Federal election, 4.82% of votes were informal .

That means that the Democrats (5.41%) and Greens (4.96%) just beat informal, and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (4.34%) was just behind informal.

The turnout rate varies from election to election, but I’d say it averages about 95%. So about 5% of eligible voters don’t vote. I would think that the vast majority of those who don’t vote would be able to provide a reasonable excuse.

You are exempt from voting if you object on religious grounds. Jehovah’s Witnesses abstain from voting.

There’s a local who owns a motel and claims he’s the victim of persecution by, oh, everyone but mostly his local council. He has a sign out the front of his establishment that says “Wiener Kuche” which means Austrian Cuisine. After the last election they received a fine in the mail for not voting - addressed to Mr Wiener Kuche. I wonder if he was counted in the 5% who didn’t turn up?

Nope, the law expressly states that informal votes of that kind are perfectly legal.

“However the court decided that as it was not illegal to vote informal it could not be illegal to advocate informal voting.”

The last couple of elections I think voted for no-one (no marks on the ballot) which makes my vote informal.

The time before that I asked my daughter (probably 4 at the time) which name she liked (actually I think it was which one she could pronounce) and I voted for them.

I live in an extremely safe Labor seat, so my vote does not impact the overall result. I would prefer to live in a marginal seat, so I had an ability to really determine the government of this country.

I believe that there should be a formal ‘I want to vote for none of these candidates’ which would then not be counted as informal, but a register as a non-vote for anyone.

Slightly different things IMHO.

I hate the compulsory voting thing, but if it weren’t mandated, then I wonder how many of us would actually turn up.

Probably about the same turnout rate as the US, which for presidential elections is usually about half of the eligible voters. If there’s a good strong candidate, turnout will be higher. If you’ve got nothing but a bunch of good-for-nothing losers (like this year) turnout will be lower.

OTOH, you can argue that the people who don’t show up to vote don’t really care who wins, so why bother with them?

Perhaps not as low as in the US. The US has, by comparison with other western democracies, very poor turnouts - perhaps 50% when there is a presidential election, and less than that when there is not. I think something in the 60-80% range would be more typical of other western democracies, so that is probably where Australia would end up.