Will VBM delay election results? The Australian Case

The Sydney Morning Herald reports on efforts by the major parties to encourage voters to cast their ballots as absentee (or “postal voting” in the Aussie jargon). The paper projects that by mail ballots will constitute 20% of the ballots cast in the upcoming election, up from 13% in the last election. Most of the increase is being attributed to party mobilization efforts.

I don’t know specifically what Australian electoral laws are, but it looks to be a “postmarked by election day” rule (“Though commission staff will work through the night to count every standard vote on the day of the poll, they will not begin counting the declaration votes until the following Monday. Postal votes that arrive up to 13 days after the election will be considered.”) I’ll try to find out more about what this means.

This story is interesting for a number of reasons. I’ve blogged here many times, most recently just last week, about how GOTEV (get out the Early vote) efforts may have the greatest impact on non precinct place voting, far more than just relaxing the voting rules.

Second, many US scholars and activists are paying attention to absentee and by-mail voting in 2008 to see how it may change the composition of the electorate. Apropos of Thad and Megan’s paper, however, I would not expect much of a change in turnout, since the Australian system has compulsory voting.

Last point: the Australian National Election Study is released a few months after each national election, and this may be one of the best cases to study in a comparative framework voting by mail. Can we compare the US and the Australian case? We shall see…