Democracy, with a side of grilled onions.

Democracy, with a side of grilled onions.

Grill sausages and onions until they are nicely browned. Take a slice of white bread, place sausage diagonally and top with onions. Fold. Garnish to taste.

Now if only the business of democracy were that simple.

Every Election Day in Australia, the smoky aroma of sizzling sausages permeates the air near polling stations, as barbecue stands serve up a beloved tradition that acts as a fund-raiser for local schools, churches or community groups.

“Democracy sausages,” as they’ve come to be known, make the compulsory trip to the voting booth feel like less of a chore and more like a block party.

Election Day barbecues have been around for longer than most can remember, but “democracy sausages” as a phrase first emerged in 2012, and took off during the federal election in 2016, according to the Australian National Dictionary Center.

The center says the term’s popularity that year was boosted in part by an infamous faux pas — when the opposition leader, Bill Shorten of the Labor Party, bit into one from the side, like he was eating corn on the cob. (“Sausage gaffe a snag for Labor,” The Guardian wrote. “Voters across Australia were largely astounded,” The Sydney Morning Herald observed.)

“That was definitely wrong,” said Annette Tyler, a co-creator of the site, which has been mapping sausage availability at thousands of polling places since 2012. “We’re very inclusive, however you like your sausage, with onions or without onions, but eating a sausage like that, from the middle of the bun, is one of the strangest things I’ve seen.”

Lest there’s any confusion, the right way is to bite into either end, Ms. Tyler said.

“It’s not a complex art,” she added. “You’re not having dinner with the queen.”

Ms. Tyler, 38, said she enjoyed the spirit of community engagement the barbecue brought out. During one by-election in her home state of Western Australia, she and other volunteers behind the website sampled five sausages in four hours, she recalled.

As the electorate has diversified, so have the offerings, with more stands providing vegetarian or halal options, even fancy ones commanding prices of up to 8 Australian dollars. (Inflation stands to be a key issue on voters’ minds this election.)

scroll to top