It’s compulsory to vote in Australia.
We are one of a handful of countries in the world that enforce this rule at election time, and the only English-speaking country that makes its citizens vote.
Not only that, we embrace it. We celebrate compulsory voting with barbeques and cake stalls at polling stations, and election parties that spill over into Sunday morning.
But how did this come to be? When and why did we begin making Australians vote? What effect has it had on our political parties, our voting systems, our participation in elections? And how else is the way we vote different from other English-speaking democracies?
From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage is a brilliant essay-length book by the celebrated historian Judith Brett, the prize-winning biographer of Alfred Deakin. This is a landmark account of the character of Australian democracy.
‘Magnificent…Brett has constructed an excellent, fast-moving narrative establishing how Australia became one of the world’s pre-eminent democracies…[She] skilfully weaves her way through what would be in the hands of a lesser writer a dull, dry topic…Brett is right to point out that we need “more than the Anzac story” to understand our success. From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia Got Compulsory Voting will be an important part of that conversation.’ Weekend Australian
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Every Australian should read this
An extremely enjoyable witty and enlightening read which really brings to life our unique history and our fortunate situation in the world. It also highlights the great work done by fine bureaucrats who impartially set us on the road to peaceful elections where the will of the whole adult population is known and respected. Americans should read this too, to know what they're missing. A really great book.