Fact sheet - Compulsory voting

Updated 29 Apr 2020

In Australia, the law says that if you are an Australian citizen, 18 years old or over, then you must enrol. With the right to enrol and vote, comes the responsibility to contribute to the way the ACT and the country is run. One way to contribute is through voting and you cannot vote until you are enrolled.

Every Australian citizen (18 years or older) is required by law to vote. If an enrolled citizen fails to vote and is unable to provide a valid reason for not voting, a penalty is imposed. The penalty in the ACT is $20. If the penalty is not paid the matter is taken to court.

Compulsory voting is a distinctive feature of the Australian political culture. It was advocated by Alfred Deakin at the turn of the century and introduced at federal elections in 1924, following the passage of private member's bill. Compulsory enrolment for federal elections was introduced in 1911.

Introduction of compulsory enrolment and voting laws in Australia
Jurisdiction Compulsory enrolment Compulsory voting
Australia 1911 1924
Queensland 1914 1914
Victoria 1923 1926
New South Wales 1921 1928
South Australia 2009 1942
Tasmania 1930 1928
Western Australia 1919 1936

In Australia voting is a civic duty comparable to other duties citizens perform like paying taxes, compulsorily attending school and performing jury duty. With compulsory voting, it is claimed that parliaments reflect more accurately the "will of the electorate". Governments must consider the total electorate in policy formulation and management. Candidates can concentrate their campaigning energies on issues rather than on encouraging voters to attend the poll.