Community, History & Traditions

Sunday Saying – Democracy

My daughter voted for the first time ever yesterday. It was a proud and important milestone for both of us. Time for her to exercise her democratic right as an Australian female citizen.

Beginner embroidery
Completed Embroidery in hoop

For centuries, women were disregarded as not being able to understand the complexities of the parliamentary system and relegated to the parlour where embroidering was a more suited pursuit.

Rather shocking to think of that now…

If my daughter had been born over 100 years ago, she would not have qualified to vote. Thank goodness times have changed.

New Zealand
Yay for New Zealand!

It is unsurprising to see which countries offered universal suffrage first:

“New Zealand was the first country to allow women to vote -1893 – [ well done, sister kiwis], while the King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia granted women the right to vote in 2011. “

  • 1893 New Zealand
  • 1902 Australia
  • 1906 Finland
  • 1913 Norway
  • 1915 Denmark
  • 1917 Canada
  • 1918 Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia
  • 1919 Netherlands
  • 1920 United States
  • 1921 Sweden
  • 1928 Britain, Ireland

Compulsory voting for national elections was introduced in Australia in 1924, following a pronounced fall in turnout at the 1922 federal election.”

Furthermore, I have grown up knowing voting was once a privilege of the landed gentry, or a domain of men, and thus, take my democratic right very seriously. I am Australian and we expect to vote. It is compulsory here. Yet for many people, voting is a painful process, they avoid it, cast an informal protest vote, or don’t vote at all.

When you think of how many generations did not have a say in how their government was run, it is sobering to think that some would take this right to determine our parliamentary makeup frivolously.

American Thomas Jefferson noted,

” We do not have government by the majority.

We have Government by the majority who participate.”

Whilst many other countries don’t make it compulsory to vote, be it bad or good, our compulsory system, means we do get a more comprehensive view of the public’s wishes in our federal elections. Notwithstanding the preferential voting systems, of course.

“Bad Officials are elected by good citizens who don’t vote.”

~ George Jean Nathan

Do you agree with Preferential system of voting? Or, ‘first past the post’? [ie. those with the most votes in first place].

Should voting be compulsory?

As Ab Lincoln said, “the ballot is better than the bullet.”

stpa logo

Something to Ponder About


44 thoughts on “Sunday Saying – Democracy”

  1. I believe in voting as a right but not as a compulsion by punishment. We are not in good company when looking at countries that have compulsory voting.
    Of course we have a duty to vote and that is taken seriously by anyone keen to vote. However, to make it a compulsion seems somehow anti-democratic. We should have the freedom to vote. (or not)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I see your point, Gerard. I think there would be some folks that would never vote if they were given the chance but if they voted would we have a better government then? We could also have a worse one as well?


      1. I felt terrible about last night’s result. Voting or not would have made little difference.
        So much hope was invested in a change of leadership that would finally allow Australia to progress to a more just and fairer society. A society that would be leading in climate change and care for the environment. Today is a day where we celebrate the standing still of Australia. When will we ever learn, that change ought to be embraced even if change might at times fail? It is always better to have tried than not at all. Why is Australia often celebrating the fondness for looking back and clinging to the past?
        How hollow a victory based on tax cuts, border control and holding refugees who have done no wrong, in indefinite detention.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Many people are hurting today, Gerard. They had hopes for Australia that are now dashed. The blind don’t seem to realize that the clock is running down to do something about saving this planet. With a Prime Minister who takes coal into Parliament and follows an ideology that we are put on this earth to plunder and use, it is doubtful that there is any hope for mankind and for much of the Australian life, as we know it. May history show that it was a uneducated and unwise decision by the electorate.


  2. what a special moment with your daughter – and I used to save my “I voted” stickers on the calendar we keep on the fridge – but I do not keep those anymore – however, I still where my “I voted” sticker all day because i am so grateful and proud to vote.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Sometimes it does matter! I just want to shake their ignorance of this out of them…. Our ancestors would be ropeable that they are wasting their constitutional right. Still, I respect that some want to deliberately abstain.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Amanda this is a bit of sore point with me. I love that we live in a democracy that has freedom of speech, but I think compulsory speech is the opposite side of the coin. To my mind compulsory voting is extremely undemocratic. If voters don’t turn out to vote, then I think that’s a reflection that no-one’s offering anything worthwhile voting for. There used to be a great divide between rich and poor, a division that has closed considerably in my life time. I think the division between the left and right sides of politics have also closed the divide. Quite honestly, I see little difference to my life no matter who’s in power. Aside from climate change, none of them offer me anything that I consider would make a notable difference in my life. As far as climate change goes, I don’t think making that an election issue the way to go. It’s still to controversial. But both leaders know change is necessary, so just get on with it and make the changes. It’s hardly likely the opposition will use any positive climate changes against them come the next election. And now I’ll get off my soap box with apologies for getting on it in the first place.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is always good to hear opposing views, Chris as closed ears do not hear anything. So I appreciate your viewpoint and also the gracious and non antagonistic way that you approached this subject. It is eye-opening, as the election result was, for me, a little befuddling. I agree the doctrines of the right and left side of Australian politics have moved considerably closer. However, I do see one side as being more egalitarian and that is what I have always championed about Aussie society. Yet it turns out we still appear to have a little streak of self centred xenophobia somewhere and that might also be a result of us growing up in Anglo-saxon Australia under the white Australia policy. As much as I would deny that was the case.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think the xenophobic mentality eased just slightly after the Christchurch massacre. It’s a shame it had to take such a tragic event for people to see the extreme behaviour such a phobia can lead to. Yes the election results were quite a shock, no one saw that coming, least of all the party leaders themselves. I hope it doesn’t go to Scott Morrison’s head…. the surprise result has given him a perfect opportunity to grab the bull by the horns and do something really good, – if only!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. It may seem cynical of me to say but I think once the politicians think they are safe for 3 years; it does tend to go to their head visavis Abbott; Rudd and Howards’ tenure.


          1. I think you are right. I think it’s the nature of politics. They probably all start out as really nice people full of good ideas, but then they all seem to change. Hence my dislike of voting – I just don’t there’s anyone worth voting for. Mind you, I don’t look to deeply either.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I am afraid that I don’t see the possibility of politics changing either and can well understand your disillusionment with the candidates on offer. It is a demanding job, and requires a lot of self-sacrifice, and ego in order to get anywhere. Do you remember what happened to John Hewson when he tried for a different approach to politics. They ate him alive. I so wish it wasn’t about point scoring and more about changing the world for the better. Somewhere underneath all this chest pumping rhetoric, there may have been someone who wanted to make a difference? We might be wanting for a long while for someone with the right mix of charisma, leadership and self-sacrifice to be a visionary leader. Even Obama’s hand were tied. And he was arguably, the most powerful man in the world. What a strange beast politics is. Democracy is in many ways, a flawed system.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. Voting should be compulsory but in so many countries it is the same old who get it. It’s like people are so narrow minded and just exist in the old and don’t care about the future.. Quite depressing really.. But the people have spoken..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The people have indeed spoken, Lisa. It is hard to feel positive when there is no real plan to tackle the long term future. If I think too much about the legacy of this choice and the wasted time, I do feel sad. It appears one state in the country played a key role in the end result. That is interesting to explore.


  5. Amanda, what a special moment for your daughter … a milestone indeed! My son voted for the first time a couple of weeks ago, just eligible earlier this year. I think it is important to cast ones vote, even in rather madcap elections such as the one soon here in the U.K. Well done to Australia for making it compulsory to participate and vote in elections, and that way everyone has a responsibility of the final outcome. You rightly point out how hard fought for this right was, not only for women but also for ordinary men.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. An exciting moment for your son also. Was he keen to vote, Annika? Young folks here seem quite passionate about animal rights and climate change. Or is the BREXIT issue a bit overwhelming for them?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, he was keen to vote even if it was only for local elections. In the night he was part of a group doing the count for the local area … he thoroughly enjoyed that, meeting the representatives ( and earning money in the process!) Next week is the European Elections … totally crazy considering the U.K. ‘s position. To say the general populace is absolutely fed-up with the politicians in parliament is putting it mildly! No business would be allowed to be so inept!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. There is a sense of distrust and disenchantment with politicians here too, Annika but I can’t imagine it approaches the despair British folks feel atm. What a dilemma for you all. I remember being in Poland when the first vote came in and some British people were quite shocked. Politics in many places around the world has become a nasty affair.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Politics is something I usually keep to myself. I don’t like the idea of compulsory anything. I always voted until I realized year after year that my vote actually did not count for anything. The electoral college has the final say and that means it’s no longer one person, one vote. Then there is the tampering of votes that has been going on longer than we have been fully aware of. It goes on in other countries as well. That’s how our dictators are elected. You HAVE to vote for him or you can be killed. Here it’s not so bad yet but coming. Votes mean not as much anymore. I still cast my ballot but when the yellow man got in office, my faith in the system was extinguished. Maybe your daughters generation can change it. We can hope. I’m happy she’s experienced this rite of passage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can understand your cynicism, Marlene. It is rife here. I suppose there is something on the nose about, ‘compulsory anything.’ However, as much as I aren’t happy with result of the recent election here, I can’t blame anyone for not voting. We make the public have their say and they do. Even if it is unpalatable, ill informed, even stupid choices, they make it known in their vote. One state here voted in a different way to the rest, the reasons for which will be debated in coming weeks and months, no doubt. Strange though that they can tip the election result when the rest of the country wants something else. That is the preferential voting system. There is no perfect system, but I do think I prefer to have compulsory voting- lazy folk need a bit of a deterrent, but not a punishment.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes! For Slovenia voting should be compulsory, and referendums too. It’s appalling how low the percentage is of the people who vote and it’s getting lower. it’s also true that the worst stratum of population goes into politics over there, but this has to change and is changing. I haven’t voted since I moved to Italy (6 years ago), even though I could arrange electronic voting and vote from home. At the last election I personally knew two candidates and was sorry that I couldn’t vote. One of them missed the Parliament by not that many votes (all the candidates above him on his party’s list got in). I was upset but not enough to fix it now that I was in Slovenia… Next time.


    1. It is great that you still take an interest in the political machinations in Slovenia even though living in another country might mean you are more detached from the repercussions of an electoral change there. I wonder why politics attracts the corrupt, the manipulative and the power hungry. Logic would dictate should also attract the community minded, the visionaries, those who are future minded, and perhaps it does and these voices are drowned out by others? Sorry to hear that your friend missed out on a seat. It has happened to many good people in this election in Australia too. A loss that Australia will bear for the next three years. How long between elections in Slovenia, and Italy? Our terms are short – 3 years, which drains the public purses.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it’s 4 years in Slovenia, as far as Parliament goes, and I’m not sure about Italy. There there are presidential elections. And mayors. And a bunch of referendums… Always something going on.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely, Khurt. We just had that happen! Some folks just didn’t understand a well-analysed and complicated economic and social reform agenda. They thought very simplistically and responded to cheap stunts and three word slogans. So in this way, voluntary voting IS preferable, ( I can’t believe I am saying that), but I have a fundamental problem with abstaining. I could never do it personally.


  8. I do vote but I often feel ill informed and unhappy with my choice. I often wonder if a ‘bad’ vote is worse than no vote. Looking at the political situation in Britain is enough to make anyone despair, Amanda.


    1. You Brits are having a rough trot over there at the moment. I think politics can be frustrating if the public vote appears to favour ignorance, stupidity and short term thinking which it often does. This is the flaw in democracy.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Before women had the right to vote, women were property. Her father, bother, or husband could do with them as they pleased. Giving women the right to vote was a legal declaration that women were no longer property,


    1. Isn’t it hard to imagine that mentality these days, Phyllis? And thank goodness it is. It must have given many men license to treat woman badly, or as slaves – conferring ownership is tantamount to slavery. I could not blame women for not wanting to be married, but then I guess the alternative was poverty?


  10. Compulsory voting is an interesting idea. And though there is some merit in the argument that it is undemocratic in a way to disallow the ‘abstain’ vote, I still – on consideration – favour it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am interested in why you favour it, Northern Dragon. I was 100% in favour of it until I had the discussion on this post. Now I have a slight doubt – but would never give it up. I would still always vote. I want to be heard, even if the choice is the best of the worst candidates.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I am writing a longer series on democracy and how and why it works – and does not work – on my blog, so this topic is more than a little interesting for me. 😉 Put shortly, if you have voluntary voting, then some people will vote and some won’t. In the US, for instance, barely 40% vote during the midterms, and even the presidential elections rarely rise above a miserable 60%. Other countries may fare better; Scandinavia is regularly in the top-80’s…

        Now, with compulsory voting, a lot of those abstaining people will just make an empty or protest vote. But … some of them won’t. Some of those, who otherwise wouldn’t vote, will – because they have to vote – actually do something about it. The human animal is like that – contrary, lazy, and difficult. But it is also curious and inquisitive – when it has to be. And it is those extra voters, the men and women who wouldn’t otherwise take the time to do it, who is the real gain here.

        That was one benefit. Another one is voter disenfranchisement. Disenfranchisement is actually a significant problem in some countries – the US, for example. And it is far more difficult to enact, if you have compulsory voting. For that single reason alone, I would be all in favour.

        So yes, we will be violently (more or less) forcing people to do something against their will. But in what way is that different from any other situation, where we regulate behaviour using laws in society? You are not allowed to drive past a red light, no matter whether there are any other cars nearby or not. Or – a rather better example actually: you are also not allowed to not pay taxes, whether you want to or not. And voting is easily just as important for a democratic society as taxes are…

        If people do not partake in democracy, it will die.
        But even that is actually too optimistic a pronouncement; the actual picture is much worse: if people do not *care* about democracy, it will die…

        That is why your daughter gives me hope.


  11. Thanks for an excellent comment, Northern Dragon and I am thrilled that you are interested in this topic. It is quite dear to my heart .
    As I have said, democracy is a flawed beast but it might be made more democratic than it currently is, although the perfect system will allude us if money and greed is involved.
    Have you heard any of Noam Chomsky’s videos about democracy? Very interesting history on the evolution of same in US, in particular. I must have a listen to them again.
    To your points, I agree about deriving some voting voices from those who would abstain in a voluntary vote, and I agree with the comment about the human animal!
    I wasn’t aware of disenfranchisement issues in the US. So thank you for opening my eyes to that. I don’t believe that is a problem here, (only in a historical sense relating to the Aboriginal folk who didn’t get to vote until 1967, after one state gave them the right to vote decades earlier – which was overturned due to inconsistency with the rest of the country). The reason disenfranchisement issues are not so much an issue could well be because of the point you made about compulsory voting. So yay for compulsory voting.
    Re informal votes: – You are always going to get some duds writing ‘protests’ or obsenities on voting forms, whether the vote is compulsory is voluntary. If they thought they were sending a message to politicians, the best way to do that would be with a countable vote. One politician was voted in here with a majority of less than 10 votes.
    Interesting stats about Scandinavian countries, but they are generally proud and very protective of their civel rights, incidentally they are also proud of the right to pay taxes, and most of them are happy to pay more tax because they know the get more services that way. Guess it is not surprising I have Scandinavian heritage! Hah!


  12. This is an example of what I was talking about: The photo of your daughter is not included in this post at all if I open it separately! Only if I look at the main page of your blog, it’s there. And it’s such a beautiful photo!


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