@Neoc - voting in Australia
> As a side-note, I often wondered why you have to register to vote in the US if you are
> not *required* to vote. Down here, voting is "optionally mandatory". In other words,
> you do not have to vote to register (you could spend your entire life without stepping
> into a polling station) but if you *do* register to vote you will be required to vote; if you
> do not, you need to show cause or pay a fine.
Neoc, I think you have it slightly wrong. There are two separate laws. One says that anybody who would be eligible to register must do so (basically citizens over the age of 18). You are required by law to be on the electoral role.
Then, there is a second law that says that if you're on the electoral role you are required "to attend a polling place". That's what most Aussies don't know. We talk about voting being compulsory, it's not. It's perfectly alright to go to the polling place, state your name (we don't have to show id, just state our name and address and attest that we have not already voted), have it crossed off the list, receive your ballot papers and do what you like with them (maybe you can't take them with you but you can place them in the box unmarked, you may even be allowed to refuse to take one but most officials would probably have a problem with that).
The thing I find interesting is that the US system doesn't cope with a large voter turnout. Elections are on work days and voting is not compulsory so a high turnout overwhelms the system.
Australian elections are on Saturdays and almost every public school or church or similar is a polling place. Queues rarely exceed a few minutes and you can attend any polling place with your electorate/ward/etc. So much more civilised.
But I agree 100% with Neoc - the AEC is a great thing to have. And also having federal law govern a federal election helps as well. In the US every state has its own way of participating in a federal election. That's just plain weird. And I have no idea what this concept of political parties purging voter roles is all about. Here the AEC does the lot. And they do it well.