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Australia Election: Where Democracy Smells Like Barbecued Sausage

SYDNEY/MELBOURNE, Australia - Australia's election may be too close to call but voters on Saturday were united in their pursuit of their democratic right to a sausage sandwich.

The traditional sausage grill is as big an attraction as the polling booth in Australia, where voting is compulsory for the country's 15.6 million registered citizens.

Image: Opposition leader Bill Shorten eats a sausage sandwich - controversially starting from the middle - as part of the 2016 Election Day in Sydney, New South Wales.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten eats a sausage sandwich - controversially starting from the middle - as part of the 2016 Election Day in Sydney, New South Wales. MICK TSIKAS / EPA

With the polls taking place on a weekend, local charities and schools take advantage by manning the hot plates to serve up a simple sausage in a slice of white bread or bun - give or take tomato sauce.

"Australian democracy is not complete without the aromas of a sausage sizzle," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said as he cast his vote in his Sydney electorate.

So powerful is the pull of the humble sausage, locally known as a snag, a website is devoted solely to tracking the location of polling stations around the country with so-called sausage sizzles.

Snagvotes, which registered a record number of food stalls for the 2016 election, includes listings for sausage sizzles at diplomatic missions in the Netherlands, India and Singapore.

"My husband was so disappointed that there was no sausage sizzle at the polling station he went to that he had to go to Bunnings," said Rebekah Smyth at a polling booth in Melbourne, a reference to a hardware store chain known for its weekend charity barbecues.

The hashtag #DemocracySausage was the top trending topic on twitter in Australia and opposition leader Bill Shorten caused consternation on social media by daring to eat his sandwich sideways.

For many charities, the election day barbecue represents their most profitable fundraising day of the year.

"With the extremely long Senate voting form, people want to reward themselves for getting through it with a sausage," said Snagvotes creator Grant Castner.