It’s election day today and it’s my first election day as an Australian citizen. Voting is compulsory in Australia, which is an interesting concept for anyone from the US. According to the Australian Electoral Commission website voter turnout at the last election in 2004 was 94%! As an American, I can’t imagine that kind of turnout…I’ve always been an avid voter but I have to admit I found it a bit daunting to vote knowing that I had to. The fines for not voting aren’t huge and I’ve heard they’re often not enforced, but still it seems to get people out voting.

I found myself up late on the internet last night searching for a list of all the candidates.. reading the political party websites, the ABC website… I looked up some of the candidates on wikipedia… and found myself less and less sure about who I wanted to vote for – labor? greens? independents? I couldn’t find info on all the candidates… I couldn’t find who the preference votes would go to (I’m not sure I can explain preferences correctly but wikipedia had a reasonable description on it….

Then what were my political views really? Did I support urban development? I live in the inner city – who did I think could really support the kind of housing I think the inner city needs? Who did I think could fix the public transport problems (I don’t own a car, so this one was pretty important to me)? What are were the so-called workplace reform plans really going to do?

I also started to think about how could I live in this country for so long and still not understand the political system? the voting system? how voting preferences work? what each party was really about? If anyone asked me how the US system worked, could I explain that?

So, I voted. As I re-read my post I don’t think I really have a point, except that maybe I expected my first vote as an Australian to feel more momentous or to that I would feel more informed as I voted or something. I’m still not sure if it made an impact, or if it was the impact I intended..

Melissa, 35, Sydney, Australia