Australia's Adoption of Compulsory Voting: Revising the Narrative — not Trailblazing, Uncontested or Democratic
Article first published online: 21 MAR 2014
© 2014 The Authors. Australian Journal of Politics and History © 2014 School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, School of Political Science and International Studies, The University of Queensland and Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd.
Australian Journal of Politics & History
Volume 60, Issue 1, pages 1–27, March 2014
How to Cite
John, S. and DeBats, D. A. (2014), Australia's Adoption of Compulsory Voting: Revising the Narrative — not Trailblazing, Uncontested or Democratic. Australian Journal of Politics & History, 60: 1–27. doi: 10.1111/ajph.12042
- Issue published online: 21 MAR 2014
- Article first published online: 21 MAR 2014
Presentations of the history of Australian democracy inevitably dwell on the innovative and early democratic practices of the colonies and, later, the nation. Compulsory voting is typically placed in this frame. This article challenges three key pillars of the accepted narrative of the Australian adoption of compulsory voting by placing nineteenth-century debates over the mandatory franchise in the Australian colonies in the context of other similar democracies in North America. It shows that compulsory voting debates in the colonies were contentious, protracted and motivated by negative experiences of democracy and a desire to limit or order democracy to ensure that engaged minorities did not overwhelm an apathetic majority.