On Saturday Australia held it’s federal elections. If you’re not Australian you might not be familiar with how this works. Voting is compulsory – if you are 18 or older you are expected to enroll to vote (most people do) and if you are enrolled to vote you are required to attend the voting place, have your name checked off the list, and post your voting papers into the appropriate cardboard box (we have a bicameral system, so we vote for members of a lower and upper house). If, in between having your name checked off and putting the sheets of paper into the box, you also want to step into a private booth and vote, you can do that. You don’t have to. But, while you’re there, why not.
Voting is anonymous. Voting is also based on preference rather than first-past-the-post. Therefore, you don’t just vote for who you most want to win, you also say who your second, third, fourth (and so on) choice would be, if you first choice doesn’t get enough votes.
Indonesia is the worlds biggest democracy. America is, perhaps, the most famous, but personally (and with obvious bias) I think Australia is the best.
That said, I was a lot more excited about voting when I was in my 20s. Now, I’m much more disillusioned, not just by the politicians who speak in rhetoric and tell lies and half-truths, but also by the vitriol and recriminations that appear around election time. The idea that, if someone doesn’t vote the way you would vote they must be an idiot, is offensive to me. My parents, for example, are intelligent, well read and engaged people. So am I. We didn’t vote the same way. That doesn’t make either of us less intelligent. It makes us human.
My husband and I hardly ever vote the same way. So far, we’ve avoided a divorce.
I think the thing I like least is the labeling. All political parties have numerous policies on numerous issues. Some of those policies even conflict (they think we don’t notice). Unless you are a rusted on supporter of a party, it’s unlikely that you won’t have to weigh up priorities and make compromises when you vote. But, when we label people Left or Right, liberal (small ‘l’ liberal) or conservative, or anything else, we ignore this.
All that said, being able to vote – a right and a duty that people died for me to have – fills me with pride. And, with each election, I am refilled with hope that the people elected will take all Australia’s people towards a brighter future. It remains to be seen, of course.
If all else fails – we’ll have another crack at it in four years.