In Australia, cheap sausages in cheap white bread lathered in cheap sauce help grease the wheels of democracy. On election days, humble sausages, also called affectionately “snags”, are barbecued outside polling areas either for free or to raise money for local causes. Slingers of “democracy sausages” can be sure to get lots of customers among waiting voters, since not voting in Australia gets you fined.
In 2016, sausage sizzling at the polls reached its highest profile yet. During the year’s federal election, Twitter released a snag-on-bread emoji to accompany its #ausvotes hashtag, while #democracysausage has been trending. Election Sausage Sizzles, a site that maps where hungry voters can track down tasty sausages to accompany their ballot, recorded 1,992 sizzles and bake sales at the polls.
In addition, both the prime minister and opposition leader have been snagged in sausage-related controversies. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten committed a faux pas when he tried to eat his sausage from the side, rather than from the end, while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull left a polling booth in his Sydney electorate without consuming the traditional “democracy sausage”. His unusual behavior led to a round of condemnation on social media, with someone calling it “the lowest moment we have ever seen in politics”.
All the hype resulted in democracy sausage beating out “deplorables” and “smashed avo” (avocado toast) to become Australia’s 2016 word of the year, as decreed by the Australian National Dictionary Centre. Due to mandatory voting, Australia has one of the highest voter turnouts in the world. And really, a sausage is cheaper than the $20 fine for not voting!
Sausage were already an Australian tradition, even before they achieved civic importance. At these fundraising events, school and community groups sold sausages doused in tomato or BBQ sauce and housed inside sliced white bread. Onions are common but usually cost extra. Many sausage sizzles outside of the election season happen at Bunnings hardware stores, which rent grilling space to fundraisers.
And if you are in Australia and you’d like to try it, For a genuine democracy sausage, find a polling place during a state or federal election. Or for an “apolitical sausage”, head to Bunnings on a weekend!