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Last Updated: Friday, 21 September 2007, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
To vote, or not to vote?

Australian Prime Minister, John Howard voting
Australian Prime Minister, John Howard leads the way...

Australian voters will go to the polls in the next few weeks.

They will have to, because voting is compulsory in Australia, and now a British think tank, the Fabian Society, is suggesting we should have it here, too.

In Australia voters pay a trip to the polls every three years for elections to the country's lower chamber, the House of Representatives.

Now John Howard, who is seeking an historic fifth term as Australian PM and who last called an election in October 2004, is expected to fire the starting gun within weeks.

Purely as a matter of interest, you can vote below on whether or not compulsory voting should be introduced in the UK - but it's not compulsory!

Stimulus for change

VOTE RESULTS
Do you think that compulsory voting should be introduced in the UK?
Yes
 54.00% 
No
 46.00% 
600 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Compulsory voting at Australian federal elections was introduced in 1924.

It followed a big campaign to increase participation and reduce party spending during elections, yet at the federal election in 1922 turnout fell to just 59% from 71% at the previous election.

The law change had an immediate effect: turnout at the next election rocketed and since then nine out of 10 Australians have voted in every election.

Making people vote

Australia is not alone. In fact it is just one of 32 countries with compulsory voting. Of these, 19 enforce it, including Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Turkey, Brazil and Argentina.

Ballot boxes
Would you agree with a change in the law on voting?
For Australians, this means abstaining can be a costly business. Not turning up to vote means a fine of A$20 (8.37).

Still, you can turn up and "spoil" your ballot paper, and in the last federal election 5% of ballot papers were completed incorrectly. Australian authorities believe most of these are misunderstandings.

Changing the face of British politics

For a country with voluntary voting, Britain has historically enjoyed good turnouts at elections, which had been above 70% until the 2001 general election, when it fell to 59%.

Although there is not much research about the political preferences of non-voters in the UK, ICM did conduct a poll of non-voters after the 2005 general election.

The result suggested that Labour's position would have actually been strengthened, with their vote rising from 35% in the actual election to 41%.

ICM suggested that the other big winners would be small parties, while the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats would both have dropped below their actual performance.

What do you think... would you turn up if forced to - would you "spoil" your ballot paper? You can reach the Politics Show team by using the e-mail form below...

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E-voters 'not boosting turnout'
05 Jul 07 |  UK Politics
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