Not voting can be costly exercise

Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer
(Australian Associated Press)

The $20 fine for not voting in a federal election could turn out to cost hundreds of dollars more.

Under Australia’s electoral laws, any eligible voter who does not cast a vote at an election receives a notice of a $20 fine.

If they pay the fine the matter is settled.

But the Australian Electoral Commission’s chief legal officer Paul Pirani told a parliamentary committee hearing on Wednesday there are dire consequences for those who don’t come up with the $20.

Mr Pirani said that in 2013 the AEC took 3500 people to court over not voting.

In the case of 139 West Australian voters, a magistrate awarded the maximum penalty of $180 plus $155 in court costs – $315 more than the initial penalty.

Mr Pirani said courts in each state adopted a “wildly variable approach” to the penalty.

At the July election, 1.4 million enrolled Australians did not cast a House of Representatives vote.

The committee also heard the double-dissolution election cost taxpayers $298 million, with a further $64 million going to the political parties in public funding per vote.

Electoral commissioner Tom Rogers said the cost was $98 million higher than in 2013.

He put the extra spending down to the government’s changes to the Senate voting process, the longer campaign and internal processes put in place to avoid the mistakes of the 2013 election, which led to the WA Senate election being invalidated and re-run.

Mr Rogers said the cost was still in line with countries such as Canada.


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