I had an official looking letter drop through my letterbox the day before yesterday and upon inspection it was from the local Electoral Returning Officer in this part of the world, who is in charge regarding public elections and how they are run in a democratic fashion. So far, so obvious I guess.

However, on this occasion it seems that when I next go to vote at the church hall up the road I will be required to present official photographic evidence as to who I am, which I would have though was ‘fair enough’ as it seems that some people do attempt to cheat the one-person-one-vote system or are not the person they claim to be. However, what would be your position if a rule was brought in that made voting compulsory?

For instance, depending on your definition of democracy there are said to be 80 democracies in the world. Of those, perhaps 20 make it compulsory for citizens to vote, including Belgium and Brazil. And of that group, only one is English-speaking and that is Australia. In fact if you don’t vote in an election down-under you are fined 100 Aussie dollars and told to buck-your-ideas-up next time or else. But could this approach, in itself, be deeply undemocratic, because is it for the state to insist that you place your cross(s) on a ballot paper or be financially reduced by that very same state?

Here in the United Kingdom it is quite usual for local elections to be avoided by almost 80% of the electorate with turnouts embarrassingly low given the powers of local government in most areas of the country. Thinking about it, this level of turnout is about the same as the voting pattern in similar elections in Spain and the Balearics in general I believe. It seems that it is only in nationwide general elections when that number quoted gets any higher and even then in only generally makes it to around 65% of the electorate - and that’s if it doesn’t rain on polling day!

Moreover - why does the UK insist that we vote on a Thursday when the rest of the world seem to feel that a ‘workless’ Sunday is a better bet? Interestingly, past academic studies suggest that the more people who turn out to vote, the more ‘centrist’ the outcome, whether that be a good or bad thing I will leave it to you to consider dear reader.

In many countries around the world election day is often allied to a fiesta atmosphere with banners and bunting and BBQ’s aplenty - rather than a miserable looking so-and-so sat outside a polling station wearing a limp rosette and a desperate look on his/her face appealing for confirmation that you have voted for their party’s candidate. I have to say that I always take the cowards way out and indicate to them all, without actually saying anything, that of course I voted for their person; come on, you did the same didn’t you?

However, before anyone gets too excited by the prospect of practically a 100% turnout at election time, perhaps I should also make the point that in Australian elections, if you were interested in standing for public office it might be a good idea if your surname began with the letters - A - B - C or D and not W - X - Y or Z : I wonder why that might be so?