In the latest issue of Policy, Derek Chong, Tim Fry and Sinclair Davidson look at the issue of compulsory voting, and utterly demolish Liberal Senator Nick Minchin’s suggestion that moving to voluntary voting would not affect his team’s performance in the polls.
Senator Nick Minchin, 4 Oct 2005: You know, I. look, I don’t think there is any partisan effect one way or another on this, because overwhelmingly – as we know from opinion polls – Australians will continue to vote.
Derek Chong, Sinclair Davidson and Tim Fry, 15 Dec 2005: In each of the last four elections, the Coalition would have had a far higher vote share under a voluntary regime than it does under the current compulsory voting regime. Similarly, in each election, the ALP would have had a smaller vote share.
Chong, Davidson and Fry are honest supporters of voluntary voting, who look at the evidence carefully – adjusting the data to take into account the point first made by Stanford’s Simon Jackman – that the Australian Election Study overstates turnout under a voluntary system because those who return the study are more civic-minded than those who don’t.
The trio are commendably open about their arguments: they oppose voluntary voting on the grounds of paternalism,* while finding that a move from compulsory to voluntary voting would lift the Liberal Party’s share of the House of Representatives vote by between 6% and 12%. Now let’s see if the Coalition’s supporters of voluntary voting – Eric Abetz, Ron Boswell, Tony Smith and Nick Minchin – can be equally honest with the punters.
* To which I would reply to Chong, Davidson and Fry with the Blairite line that "with rights come responsibilities". It’s always seemed weird to me that Americans accept compulsion in their Census, but not in elections.