Forgot To Vote? Pay The Fine Or Your Driver's Licence Could Be Toast

NSW has local government elections this weekend. It's tempting not to make the effort to vote, especially if you're overseas. But be careful — if you don't vote and don't pay the fine either, it can affect other key documents, including your driver's licence.

Picture by Fran Tapia

Expat Aussie Jo White recounts how she didn't vote in the last Federal election, and the fine that was issued never reached her because of a mail kerfuffle. She wasn't worried:

I did, honestly, forget all about it. *Until* (that’s a big UNTIL) I went back to Australia for a visit and got a new piece of mail telling me my drivers license had been suspended due to my non-payment of fines. Yeah? I didn’t pay a fine? I investigated. Pretty weird that I got a fine related to my drivers licence when I hadn’t even *driven* a car in Australia for the ENTIRE year. And it turns out, it all happened because I didn’t vote. Yep, that’s right. If you don’t vote, you don’t get to drive either. Because the Government agency that handles traffic offences also handles fines for those who don’t vote. Incredibly, they match up the voters with their drivers’ licenses – and shaft them.

I'll be honest — I suspect that the efficiency of local councils is lower and you're less likely to receive a fine in the first place. However, it's a reminder that voting isn't just your duty in a democracy: it's also wise if you don't want to cause yourself other hassles.

Get your drivers licence suspended in Australia – don’t vote [Mediamum]


    Yet another reason why compulsory voting is ridiculous - besides the obvious: forcing people to choose a candidate regardless of whether they even know that candidate's policies or not.

      In Faderson v Bridger (1971) 126 CLR 271, the High Court on appeal, where all three Justices affirmed the principles laid down in Judd v McKeon. Chief Justice Barwick stated:
      ... However much the elector may say he has no personal preference for any candidate, that none of them will suit him, he is not asked that question nor required to express by his vote that opinion. He is asked to express a preference amongst those who are available for election.
      That is to state which of them, if he must have one or more of them as Parliamentary representatives, as he must, to mark down his vote in an order of preference of them.

      of course, you could also get convicted for treason which would disqualify you from voting.

      You aren't required to choose, you can put in a blank ballot, and you can vote by mail or send in someone as your representative if you are unable to physically get to a polling station. The fine for not voting is $20, but the day is a paid holiday so you've got all day to get there.

    I've missed several elections due to being overseas. I got the mail asking why and responded before it reached the fine stage, and I've had no problem. I guess if you don't get that mail and the followup fine mails due to being overseas, you might get this problem, but I would think the decision can be reversed once you let them know you've been away.

    Voting is not compulsory, J.
    Attendance at a polling place, or a postal ballot, or a reasonable excuse is all we ask. Is it really such a burden to have to travel less than 2k from your home to a local school for 10 minutes, once every few years?
    Don't like any of the candidates? Fine. Get your name marked off then walk out, nobody will mind.
    It is a tiny, tiny obligation

      But why?
      If I am not going to vote for someone and that is acceptable, why do I have to go out of my way to attend when my nonattendance should suffice for the same thing?
      How about this: after the voting period is over everyone who did not attend is marked as having donkey voted. Problem solvered, same thing achieved without inconveniencing people.
      To me it just seems like another excuse for the government to demand money from people.

        How does compulsory voting make the Govt demand money from you? You can vote in so many places, or even before the fact via mail if you want to that there really is no excuse.

        And if you think non-compulsory voting works well, just look at the sorry state of US politics.

      Voting is compulsory. The High Court have repeatedly found this. It is compulsory to cast a formal vote. You do this by validly marking a ballot paper and returning it (by putting it in the box, posting it, etc). In practice, it is very unlikely you will be caught casting an informal vote because of our system of anonymous voting. However, if it is obvious you have not cast a formal vote (because you tear your ballot paper in half or something equally obvious) you can be fined for not voting.

    The only way this could be better is if Lifehacker provided the link for overseas Australians to vote - my dad won't appreciate not being able to drive when he gets back! ahaha

    Compulsory voting is ridiculous. I've "voted" in a number of elections.
    And by "voting" I mean "get the ballot sheet and draw pretty pictures till I'm bored".

    Don't get me wrong, I love having the option to vote, but I'd like it at that, an OPTION. Not a "you better get your name marked off or we'll send you fines and if you don't pay them, then take away your license" threat.

    I have a few friends who aren't even registered to vote. Just didn't register when they turned 18. I've been telling them it'll catch up to them eventually, and they'll have some massive fines to pay once they get found out. But they don't seem to care. Anyone have any experience with this? Will they just get a massive fine if/when they get found out? Are they likely to get found out?

      Yes they can be fined, the fine doesn't rack up over time though, it's just the one offence not to enrol. You can also avoid prosecution by enrolling i.e. once you tell the AEC you want to enrol, they can't prosecute you for not enrolling when you should have.

      I'm not sure why you don't vote, if you've gone to the trouble of showing up and going into the booth, you might as well put a few numbers down.

        Thanks, good to know.

        I don't vote properly, because I don't read up on what each persons policies are, and where they stand, so I'd rather not have any impact on who gets in.

      Yep...... And I know this is reply is almost 18 months later - I would assume this discussion would have centred on the 2012 "electoral fever".
      I am 33 and have never registered to vote at the age of 18. I have been to a polling booth only to babysit the children on the primary school playground while my wife tick and flicks the form.

      I wont go into why I wont vote as that was not your question. The fact I don't vote should explain why.

      I thoroughly enjoyed my fishing trip on election day, and I had the boat ramp and all the good spots to myself.

      But, the electoral commission have no idea who I am, because I never registered in the first place. Technically, I am invisible to them. We are all born with a tax file number, so their is no escaping that one, and even if you don't have a TFN (illegal immigrants) or on welfare the GST will pick you up anyway.

      I have a drivers licence: motorcycle, car, medium rigid truck as well as a marine licence. I have a passport and bought and sold real estate several times. I was told once I bought property I would be picked up. I first bought in 2004, again in 2008 and again in 2012, without a call from the AEC.

      As long as you pay your taxes and stay out of crime the state does not care who you are.

      I have given a fair bit away on this forum and I am sure I could be tracked down with this info, this would require a lot of state resources to catch one guy, resources better spent lining politicians pockets.

    Voting in local government elections (i.e. local council) is not compulsory (at least in WA). I have never voted in council elections and never received a notice about it.

    State and Federal elections however are compulsory.


      Voting in local elections in NSW, VIC and QLD is compulsory.

        Not compulsory in for local government in SA either.

        You learn something new every day ;-)

    If you can not be bothered to take an interest in government, accept responsibility and vote, then those same people should not be allowed to voice their opinions on how the country is run or complain about government affairs.

      Indeed, first step is take away their Lifehacker commenting privileges.

    Its a good thing I didn't enrol ;)

    i was so happy when i turned 18 and was allowed to vote now 7 years on i dread the day i filled out my enrolment form.... worse thing is my mother in law works for the AEC so now i as soon as i change address the enrolment form is sitting in our letterbox

    Dealing with that traffic fine handling agency is like dealing with the local planning agency in HHGTTG. I came back from overseas once to find my license suspended for fines I'd never been given for places I hadn't been to. Only appeal was through court which would have taken weeks and much more expense than paying these fines. My solicitor said that he sees these almost daily in NSW.

    Unfortunately we get no vote on determining how these agencies are run.

      You could of paid the fee for the photo which would of proved it wasn't your car. If it was your car, you could of put through a stat dec for who you had lent the car to exchanging the fine into their name. You also could of written in with proof you were on holiday requesting the fine to be withdrawn.

      Once it has gone through to the state debt recovery office for being overdue though I think it is more of a PITA, they're not fining you, they're not a law enforcement agency, they don't care what you did, they're just debt collectors.

        No photos for parking fines. I was living overseas for five years.

        The process for going through this takes months because no one responded to any of the correspondence on the issue and there's no phone service. The cost of me not being able to drive for even a few weeks was much much higher than the fine.

    Simple solution: allow voting via SMS or Internet. If you don't have a phone or computer, goto the school. Honestly if big brother can implement SMS voting, I'm sure government can introduce it and save a lot of time, money and wasted paper.

      Sure SMS voting works on Big Brother and other similarly crap reality shows, but that's only because a) You can vote any number of times you like, and most importantly b) You don't need to be registered to vote or have your attendance taken. Although a novel idea which would make all our lives much easier come voting time, it would never work. Ever.

      You could make voting non-compulsory, but that introduces a whole mess of other problems (CIP: The USA). In my opinion, anyone who couldn't care enough about the state of our nation to follow (at least loosely) and vote on matters that directly effect their lives doesn't deserve to be a part of this country. I say stop fining people for not voting without a valid excuse; instead, just take away all the privileges given to them by our government. Family tax benefit: Gone. Tax cuts: Gone. Social Welfare: Gone. I think you get the idea... Anyway, problem solved!

      How about being able to vote over the net or sms using your licence number or tax file number as an identifier? Everyone's is unique and covers most of the population...

    Don't pay court fee's and you'll lose your licence too. It's pretty standard across unpaid government fee's.

    I am not sure the government take voting seriously when they provide a voting booth that is narrower than the voting slip. The senate paper at the last election was huge.

    It was a first time postal vote for me this year and it was so easy.

    Here's how it works. Big business, multinationals, big money, stock markets, banks and CEO's run the show and tell two teams of politicians what to do and say. You have the illusion of control by being able to choose between 2 political parties that have no control over anything.

    Maybe the government should send a letter out a few months prior an d ask "Do you want to Vote"

    For those who don't, post the letter back saying no and be done with it, otherwise you have to go to a polling booth. Will be easier.

    My partner and I both did a dec vote. Went to register a new car the other day and found he had a COB on his registration .
    Due to apparently being issued a fine for not voting (which he did)
    Not receiving the fine as we moved.
    The fine has now jumped up to $400+

    How do we prove that he voted and seeing as they could match him up with his registration which has our new address surely they knew where we live and could send the fine to us.

    So bloody frustrating , you do the right thing and you still get shafted.

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