Saturday, October 16, 2004

Fine For Littering, $200

Sometimes I think people misinterpret signs like this. They say, "Yes, this place is fine for littering. I think I will. Now, where's my $200?"

From my trips to Ireland I was aware that that country, like England, requires a license for televisions (and possibly for radios as well.) This amounts to an annual fee to be paid for the privilege of receiving those radio waves which the government broadcasting system beams through your house and your person. Woe betide the viewer who does not pay this fee if the license inspectors should catch him watching an unlicensed TV. I imagine the scene would look like something from Brazil. I don't think too many Americans, who gladly pay over $50 a month for access to a plethora of channels which carry dozens of different varieties of crap, would be willing to stand for such government intrusion in their in-home entertainment. Besides, we don't have a government-run broadcasting system, which is what the licensing fee is intended to support.

Anna Quindlen's column in this week's Newsweek made me aware of the fact that in Australia, you will be levied a fine if you don't vote on Election Day, at least if you don't have a good reason.

This is so remarkable I couldn't believe it. So I turned to the source of all knowledge and information, the Internet, and Googled the words australia fine voting. And sure enough, there was an Australian Electoral Commission page on How Elections Work that detailed "Electoral Offenses". On this page is the following information:

Voting at federal elections has been compulsory since 1924 for all citizens on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll. Anyone who is unable to provide a valid and sufficient reason to the Divisional Returning Officer for failure to vote at a federal election may be required to pay an administrative penalty of $20 (section 245).

If an elector who has failed to vote refuses to pay the $20 administrative penalty, then the matter may be referred to a Magistrates Court, where a fine of $50 plus costs may be ordered on conviction. Anyone who chooses not to pay the court-ordered fine will be dealt with by the Court accordingly, and this may involve community service orders, seizure of goods, or one or two days in jail. The penalty in such circumstances will be a decision for the local
Magistrates Court and not the Australian Electoral Commission.

For reasons that Anna Quindlen details in her column, this also would never fly in the U.S. It will be interesting to see if the record voter registration that has preceded this too-close-to-imagine-calling election results in a record turnout on Election Day. As Quindlen points out, the U.S. has not had a voter turnout better than 60% since 1968.

In a future post I might propose an alternative Electoral voting method - and then tear it down again, unless I can think of a way around my argument's gaping flaws between now and then.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I couldn't imagine HAVING to vote and being fined if you don't. Considering the people I 'service', it's good we don't have that here, not to mention they couldn't pay the fine. I just watched Fahrenheit 9/11 which pointed out how Ashcroft lost to a guy who died a month before the election, I could see that happening alot.