On federal election day last year Darwin pensioner Frank Bost turned his nose up at voting lines and declined the democracy sausage, deciding not to vote.
“I didn’t approve of the policies from the ALP, the CLP or the Greenies and as far as I’m concerned it’s my right that if I don’t want to vote I don’t have to,” he said.
“But according to the law we have to, it’s a crime not to, and I did the crime.”
Today, Bost stood in Darwin Local Court and pleaded guilty to violating section 245 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1918 — failing to vote in a federal election.
He, and 12 other Darwinites charged with the same offence, discovered the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) does not like you ignoring its letters.
Australia is one of a small number of democratic countries that have compulsory voting, with an even smaller number actively enforcing the law.
Over a series of months Bost was sent three penalty notices which asked him to pay a $20 fine or provide an acceptable excuse for not voting.
Bost told the court he did not see the letters and would not have been able to read them. He is illiterate.
“I don’t check my mail box that often,” he said.
But the court showed no mercy, issuing Bost the maximum penalty, a fine of $180.
Before he could accept his fate, the AEC’s lawyers put forward their legal costs, a sum of $123, which was added to Bost’s fine.
“That was a shock, the lovely Electoral Commission adding their fees.”
Bost was ordered to pay a total of $303, which he said he will pay in $5 instalments out of his pension over the next year.
The AEC lawyer said thousands of people across Australia are taken to court for not voting after each federal election.
What did Bost learn about the value of democracy?
“I should have walked in and got my name crossed off and walked straight out.”