Voting and Elections: Voting: Should you have to?


Middle primary/Upper primary

Curriculum links

Links to the Australian Curriculum


Students examine the reasons for compulsory voting and think critically about the responsibility this requires. They participate in decision-making activities related to the concept of compulsory voting. They develop their ideas related to this concept and have a debate to express their opinions.


One week.


'Compulsory Voting' from the Australian Electoral Office


1 Setting the scene

In a whole class discussion, explore the concept of what 'compulsory' means. Have the students name some things that are compulsory for them to do (for example, go to school, wear seat belts, wear bike helmets). Have them explain whether they think these things are a good idea.

Tell the students that in Australia voting is also compulsory. Explain that they will be thinking about compulsory voting during this week.

2 Participation in voting

During the next week, set aside time at the beginning of morning recess for a class game. Tell the students that they will decide which game to play each day. Suggestions will be written on the board each morning, then the class will vote on the game of the day. Make a special rule for the voting. Half the class MUST vote for the choice of game and half the class can choose whether to vote or not. Divide the class into two groups so they are equal in number. Tell the students they have to stay in the compulsory or non-compulsory group all week.

3 Thinking about what happened

On the last day lead a class discussion to have students respond to the following questions:

  • Was it a good idea to make people vote? Why?
  • For people who did not have to vote, how many did? Why?
  • What would have happened if no one had to vote?

Explain that in Australia in federal elections, everyone who is eligible to vote has to do so. Tell them they will think about whether this law is a good idea or not. Divide the class into groups of those in favour of compulsory voting and those not in favour. Tell them that they will have a debate about whether voting should be compulsory or not.

Provide work time for the students to write down their ideas about this issue. You may want to use the information sheet 'Compulsory Voting' from the Australian Electoral Education Centre as background detail. After discussion, have the students nominate people as speakers for the group and people to make posters to support the ideas. Students may be interested to know that some of the earliest posters in Australia were created by the Chief Electoral Officer to remind Australian electors to vote!

4 Sharing ideas

Allow a class debate for and against compulsory voting. At the end of the debate, have the class vote on whether they think voting should be compulsory. The activity 'Voting - By law or by choice?' on this website provides an opportunity for students to record their ideas in a national vote. They can enter their votes directly on the website form. They can also use the email facility on the site to send in their ideas about whether they think voting should be compulsory. Photos of posters can be sent in to Discovering Democracy Website, PO Box 177, Carlton South, Victoria 3000.

Other resources

The unit 'Stories of the People and Rulers' in the Discovering Democracy School Materials Project has lesson plans to help students to investigate the origins and principles of democracy.

Back to Middle Primary Teaching and Learning Activities