Anne here, apologizing for the lateness of this posting. Guess who forgot what day it was?
Here in Australia, voting is compulsory for all citizens over the age of 18. If you don't vote, and don't have an acceptable reason (illness, absence from the country, or religious objections, for instance) you will be fined.
People from other countries sometimes find that strange, and some think it's outrageous, but in fact, nobody forces you to actually vote — you just have to turn up to vote on the day, get your name crossed off on the register, and lodge the voting slips in the box. You don't have to fill them out if you don't want to — it's a secret ballot so nobody sees what you have marked on the voting slip.
I've never witnessed the voting process in another country, but I got the idea for this blog because of a young woman from the USA who was standing with her Australian boyfriend in front of me in the queue (line) to vote. (That's part of the queue in the pic on the left.) She was asking him questions about it all and seemed to find it interesting and very different from the system she was used to, and it made me think there might be a blog in this. She also sent me the photos she took — so thank you Kate.
Australia is a federation, and this was a Federal election, so we had two voting slips — one to choose our local area representative, and the second to vote for our state representatives in the senate.
The government is formed by the party who commands the majority of seats in the House of Representatives, and the parliamentary leader of that party then becomes the Prime Minister. We don't have a presidential system so the Prime Minister is It.
I usually go to vote at a local primary (elementary) school. When you arrive, there are always people from the various parties and candidates standing outside the school gates handing out how to vote cards. They don't come inside the gate — I guess there's a rule about that, so once you're in the yard, nobody bothers you.
Because the polling booth is set up inside a school, the schools often take advantage of the situation to raise a bit of money by having stalls in the schoolyard selling food and other things, so the atmosphere is a little like a low-key market or fete. At the very least many places will have a sausage sizzle — a bit of an Aussie tradition where you get a hot sausage in a slice of bread with fried onions (optional) and tomato sauce (ketchup) mustard, etc. The money raised goes to the school, or some kind of charity.
On Saturday the weather was lovely and at my local primary school, as well as a big sausage sizzle, there were home made cakes and jams for sale, raw honey, plants, cacti, jewelry, second hand books and clothes, an aboriginal music stall with various sticks and didgeridoos, home made soaps and lotions, face painting, Devonshire tea (scones, jam and cream), woven leather goods, tea and coffee.
The queue for the sausage sizzle was nearly as long as the one to vote and my young American friend wondered whether people were given a sausage after voting. No such luck — though I do love the idea.
And there were kids everywhere, some accompanying parents who'd come to vote, some who attended that school and who were dragging their parents off to see their class room or artwork or whatever, some just playing in the yard as usual or helping out at a stall. It was a very relaxed and almost festive community atmosphere.
I voted, bought a sausage, and also couldn't resist some honey and some home made lemon butter and marmalade, and I pride myself on resisting the delicious looking home made cakes and buscuits (cookies). The lemon butter is already half eaten — I'd forgotten how yummy it is and I might make some more. There's a recipe here.
So what about you? Do you usually vote or not? What do you think of the idea of compulsory voting? How is voting done in your neck of the woods? And are there sausages?