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date: 07 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores Australia’s well-deserved reputation as a democratic innovator and, in particular, an electoral innovator. This tendency has been driven substantially by two uniquely Australian inheritances: first, a relative absence of rights protections in the Constitution; and second, a pragmatic political culture less concerned with individualized rights than with utility, fairness, and equality. Australia introduced a number of electoral innovations that have defined and distinguished its democracy, some of which were enthusiastically adopted by other democracies. These include the secret ballot, preferential voting, mobile polling booths, Saturday voting, and, more recently, direct update. It was also an early adopter of women’s suffrage and compulsory voting, the latter of which is arguably Australia’s most important and consequential innovation. The latter also helped to drive the development of integrated, effective, and inventive electoral management that is respected the world over. All of these developments have resulted in an electoral system that is well managed and highly trusted and has unusually high and socially even rates of electoral inclusion. In turn, this has made Australian democracy quite robust.

Keywords: voting, elections, secret ballot, women’s suffrage, preferential voting, compulsory voting, electoral integrity

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