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The Forum > Article Comments > Informal voting - don't blame the voters! > Comments

Informal voting - don't blame the voters! : Comments

By Antony Green, published 13/4/2005

Antony Green argues adopting optional instead of compulsory preferential voting could result in less informal votes.

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If we start acomodating our ballot papers and changing the way we live and our voting process for the sake of 5.5% of the population who are morons, then we have let the terrorists win!

We are dealing with people who should be given lethal injections rather than a ballot paper. If someone is that stupid, that they muck up their only chance to choose their government well we don't want those types of people in our country. I don't feel safe sharing a street with them. We decide who is too mentally defective to vote, and the manner in which they should be sterilised. Any relationship to the Mikado is intentional.

In order to make things simpler though we could make candidates for election gather 500 signatures of that electorate before they can run. There was a managerie of morons running for Werriwa and they have the potential to screw up the democratic process because people are confronted with the names of people who have been too lazy to campaign, so the voters have never heard of them. Maybe that's what your refering to with: "candidates they donít know or donít care about."
Posted by Penekiko, Wednesday, 13 April 2005 10:44:46 PM
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I can only presume this first post is some feeble attempt at humour. I know I wouldn't feel safe sharing the street with this correspondent.
Posted by Antony Green, Thursday, 14 April 2005 9:33:27 AM
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Well I needed to do something to get the ball rolling. From my first post you should be able to tell that I blame the voters rather than the legislators (my feeble attempt at humour), although technically as they cast an informal vote they are not really voters.

I don't believe that a good solution is to adopt an optional preferential system, because I think that it is a less accurate measure of the consensus of the electorate. The reason why preferential voting is so good is that the voters reach a compromise, rather than in a first-past-the-post system. Although you do make the point that the vast majority of seats are won by candidates who were leading in the primary votes after the first count. Never-the-less a vote for a minor party is sadly a wasted vote in the US and Britain, one of which cannot truly be called a democracy.

But I like your solution to have candidate registered tickets, like in the upper houses; this makes sense because most people follow a candidate HTV anyway. Except for me, I draw up my own HTV, after consulting the various party preferences posted on in the internet.

But even if thought my first two paragraphs were too stupid to comment on, what about my third? I have noticed that of the 16 Werriwa candidates, only 3 received less than 500 votes, but if all candidates were required to acquire 500 signatures to run (in either house), then how many candidates do you think would have run in Werriwa? It would certainly have cleared out some of the dead wood and informal voting would go down as a consequence, hopefully.

Another question Antony, could some of the confusion about whether to put just a one or number all boxes be due to the states that have changed there voting regs? So is there a higher rate of informal voting in say Queensland, than in Victoria at the Federal level?
Posted by Penekiko, Thursday, 14 April 2005 10:26:24 AM
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The article is an abbreviated version of a much longer submission, and the full version does deal with the candidate numbers issue.

All elections conducted under compulsory preferential voting show an increase in informal voting as the number of candidates increases. Increased informal voting owes something to the doubling of the number of candidates contesting elections in recent years. This increase is caused by registered party candidates, not independents.

The problem here is registered parties can nominate candidates centrally without getting the signatures of local nominators. Parties are able to nominate candidates in every electorate, even if they have no supporters in the area. I think your 500 nominators might be a bit high, as parties only need 500 members across the country to register. But along with many other aspects of party registration, how central nomination works needs a re-think. A rise in deposit fees may also be an option.

Again, in my submission I provide chapter and verse on informal voting at federal, state and territory elections going back 20 years. The incidence of ticks, crosses and '1' only votes has risen more in NSW and QLD than other states at federal elections. Informal voting is higher than in Victoria, but both states are also seeing many more candidates than Victoria. My conclusion from the incidence of informal voting is that the more candidates that contest a seat, the more numbering errors you get, and the more voters give up and simply use a '1' as in the Senate, or as they have done at state elections. As anyone who has voted below the line in the Senate knows, it is a time consuming task that really only produces joys for the politically masochistic.

There is also apocryphal evidence that the complex how-to-vote cards produced as parties try to put One Nation last have created strange numbering sequences and increased transcription errors on ballot papers.
Posted by Antony Green, Thursday, 14 April 2005 11:49:38 AM
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I agree with Antony that optional preferential would result in more informal votes than compulsory preferential. I live in Queensland, so know what both systems are like.

Under the Queensland system, I am generally able to lodge a formal vote as after I have completed my extensive research on the candidates standing, there is usually one that I am actually prepared to vote for. However, to expect me to rank the rest is almost impossible. In a field of 6 to 10 candidates (which is more often the norm these days), how can I be expected to differentiate between some of them? Some of them have such similar views that it is almost impossible. Some I detest in equal amounts, although for different reasons, and cannot possibility rank one ahead of the other.

This is what leads me to vote informal in federal elections. And make no mistake, I know exactly what constitutes a formal and informal vote. I have a degree in politics and government, have researched and written many papers on electoral systems at university, and have even scruitineered at elections. I am not an uneducated moron who cannot get it right, but rather an educated woman who will not be made to vote in a certain manner, and in some instances has resorted to adding an extra box stating "none of the above" and attaching an essay outlining my reasons why. Am I having a "say" by doing this? Not according to voting requirements, but at least I have not voted for someone whom I could not, in all conscience, vote for.
Posted by Sweetpea, Thursday, 14 April 2005 4:02:56 PM
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Penekiko,

Make up your mind on the argument - do you want to allow minority parties to be able to run for election or not.

At one point in your post you say that we need minority parties to be real democracy than you say there needs to be 500 signatures for a party to run.

This means that certain candidates would be excluded and the people who would otherwise vote for them would be left without their choice.

Parties such as the Greens would have struggled to get any support early on if these criteria were applied.

I hope you don't feel the same level of intellectual snobbery and contempt towards the many battling Australians who do not fill out their Centrelink forms correctly and end up being screwed by the most incompentent bureaucracy in the country.

t.u.s
Posted by the usual suspect, Thursday, 14 April 2005 4:11:52 PM
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