An 18-year-old filled in a few different ballot papers before the polling booth volunteer realised which electorate he belonged to.
Another young gentlemen walked out of the bush hall and told his mother, "Oh, was that what I was meant to do? I didn't know".
At a country pub during the dinner service one patron was heard telling a friend, "the senators are for an area, right? Like Wide Bay, or the Senator for the Moreton Shire?"
Welcome to compulsory voting in 2022.
It might seem hard to believe, but those were just a few statements and experiences country folk witnessed during the nation's biggest day of the year last Saturday.
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For some people, like the three cases above, the federal election and its political outcomes may not have a significant impact on their lives.
They'll still wake up each morning, enjoy the freedom of deciding between a coffee or tea and head off to work in their stable, long-term job.
But for people in the bush, for those living in rural areas, or anybody in the agricultural industry; elections can be life changing.
They could wake up tomorrow morning without the land they've farmed for decades, they might not have the freedom to run the livestock or crops they want, and the stable, long-term markets they supply could be cut in a split second.
A vote isn't just compulsory to them, it's powerful. It doesn't mean avoiding a fine, it means the chance to shape their futures.
Compulsory voting was introduced in Australia for federal elections in 1924. It stemmed from a fall in the turnout at the 1922 federal election, some 100 years ago.
But if those were just three of the statements we over heard on Saturday, how many more people across the country were misinformed by the significance of their vote?
When people are passionate, they'll fight for what they want - compulsory or not.
Take America for example, where voting is at your free will. The 2020 election saw the largest turn out of voters in 120 years. The figures were especially high in states expected to produce close contests, as if the chance to make a difference in a battleground area enticed participation.
Here's hoping three years is enough time for people in Australia to learn what they're "meant to do" when they use their compulsory vote at the next federal polls.
- Talk of the Town is a weekly opinion piece written by ACM journalists. The thoughts expressed are their own.
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