Election Day in Australia
I admit that I rather enjoy election day.
Australians vote approximately every 3 years to elect their federal parliament and every four years for their state or territory government. Voting in Australia is compulsory which sometimes sounds odd but generally enjoys wide support. Election participation typically approximates 96-98%. There’s a great sense of civic duty on election day because most Australians consider voting to be a responsibility as much as a right.
Voting typically occurs in church halls or government schools across the nation, always on a Saturday. Political parties will attach posters at the front of the polling place and party volunteers will hand out how-to-vote cards. People can choose to take or decline these at their will. Some people take all of the cards to mask whom they may be voting for. Others choose not to take any.
Sometimes there are queues and sometimes not. My polling place generally has a queue but it moves quickly.
Once inside, the Australian Electoral Commission officers will check our names and mark them off in a massive book. He or she will then provide us with two ballot papers; one for the House of Representatives and one for the Senate. The Senate paper is often very long, sometimes exceeding a metre!
Australia does not use electronic voting owing to concerns about security. Voters fill out their preferences with a pencil. As a new innovation in 2016, the ballot papers have logos on them to assist in choosing a candidate.
Voting in Australia is secret. People will stand at a polling booth to cast their votes before folding their ballot papers and placing them into a locked box.
Once the vote is cast, the fun doesn’t end there!
Australians love the great outdoors and especially love a barbecue. Consequently, there will often be a barbecue positioned outside the polling place serving “democracy sausages” (there’s even a website dedicated to them). Not only does the barbecue offer an opportunity for voters to eat some processed meat wrapped in bread and doused in tomato sauce, but the barbecues are generally run as fund-raisers for charities.
The fun often continues later in the afternoon and evening. Many Australians will gather with friends and family to watch the live television coverage of the election results on the ABC or one of the commercial television networks. This will probably be done whilst enjoying another barbecue and a drink or two!
Polling starts at 8am and finishes at 6:30pm. In most cases, the election result would be known by about 9:30pm (eastern Australian time). Generally the leader of the party that lost the election would make a speech to the nation first, followed by the victor.
The Australian way of celebrating democracy is laid-back and casual and that’s just how I like it. Happy election day!