The federal government has released the second of its two green papers on electoral reform. This one deals with pretty much everything not covered in the first, which focused on disclosure, funding and expenditure issues. Like its predecessor, the paper serves as a useful overview of Australia’s electoral arrangements and their potential for reform, the latter being dealt with in a suitably comprehensive and non-committal fashion. Of interest:
• Consideration is given to all the usual suggestions for reform to the voting systems, such as optional preferential voting in its various manifestations and a threshold of support for representation in the Senate. Also covered are things we can safely rule out happening, such as proportional representation in the lower house, single-member constituencies in the upper and a return to first-past-the-post.
• It is suggested redistribution processes might be reformed so they are held more frequently and to a set timetable.
• Headline-grabber number one: resigning MPs might suffer financial penalty for causing a by-election (don’t hold your breath).
• Headline-grabber number two: serious discussion is given to granting the vote to sixteen-year-olds.
• Some reforms of the relatively recent past are raised for re-consideration. Example one: the removal of the requirement that those filling casual Senate vacancies contest their seats at the subsequent half-Senate election even if their term isn’t expiring, as was the case before 1977. It is further suggested that a Tasmanian-style recount procedure replace the current situation where the choice is effectively made by the party of the vacating member.
• Example two: as the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters had done in its report on the 2007 election, it is suggested we might return to allowing voters to use the same number more than once on their ballots in order to reduce the number of informal votes, and to reinstate the prohibition on advocating that voters do this on purpose. This was knocked on the head in 1998 following the infamous Albert Langer episode.
• Automatic enrolment processes, whereby personal details provided to other government agencies are used to place people on the electoral roll, are suggested as a remedy to the problem where the Australian Electoral Commission does well at removing wrongly enrolled voters from the roll but less well at getting unenrolled voters on there in the first place. It is noted that the NSW government is examining such a mechanism for its “Smart Roll” project, utilising high school students’ details from the NSW Board of Studies.
• The Howard government’s more stringent requirements for proof of identity look very likely to be weakened, although the paper has good things to say about allowing enrolment for those who provide a driver’s licence without also requiring them to present the signature of a witness.
• The Howard government’s indefensible move to close the electoral roll almost immediately after the issue of the writs is set to be at the very least reversed. There is discussion of pushing the closure even later into the campaign, which technological developments have made easier to achieve, and even of allowing registration on election day, as occurs in Canada and some places in the United States.
There’s further stuff I haven’t read yet on the campaign, polling, scrutiny of ballots, dispute resolution and compliance and enforcement; I might add further to this post when I do. Somewhere in all that is discussion of electronic and internet voting, which Robert Merkel discusses at Larvatus Prodeo.
25 comments on “How green was my paper: episode two”
Let me be the first to say I think none of this will happen except the reversal of the Howard government’s changes on roll closure and photo ID for enrolment.
Enrolment on election day occurs in Canada, some parts of the US and even Nigeria. Why not here?
[Headline-grabber number one: resigning MPs might suffer financial penalty for causing a by-election (don’t hold your breath)]
A silly idea anyway. All it does it give MPs who don’t won’t to be there a disinsentive to resign. Who does that help?
[Headline-grabber number two: serious discussion is given to granting the vote to sixteen-year-olds.]
I’m not holding my breath on that one either.
[Some reforms of the relatively recent past are raised for re-consideration. Example one: the removal of the requirement that those filling casual Senate vacancies contest their seats at the subsequent half-Senate election even if their term isn’t expiring, as was the case before 1977.]
Terrible idea. It distorts proportionality.
The move to give the vote to 16 year olds is a cynical ploy to increase the Labor primary vote.
[The move to give the vote to 16 year olds is a cynical ploy to increase the Labor primary vote.]
Your point being?
Are you saying a 16 year old shouldn’t have the option of voting? It would only become compulsory at 18.
I would rate the return of the “Langer vote”, votes for 16 year-olds and automatic enrolment as possibilities.
I reckon they could introduce registration of how-to-vote cards.
I would argue that the Liberals opposing votes at 16 is a cynical ploy to keep their primary vote up.
[quote]Headline-grabber number one: resigning MPs might suffer financial penalty for causing a by-election (don’t hold your breath).[/quote]
Stupid idea. Why you would want to force MP’s who don’t want to be there to stick around is beyond me. Populist crap. Can’t believe the Greens are pushing this.
Some 16 and 17 year olds are smart enough to vote, so make enrollment on the electoral roll voluntary for them. That way voting is still compulsory for everyone on the electoral roll (thank you Lindsay@NewDems)
It would be nice for them to act on the suggestion to clarify the Section 44 qualifications for nomination, but you’re probably right 🙂
Even to reverse that Labor needs to get past Fielding, sadly
Could I suggest that people over the age of 65 be banned from voting as well. Has anyone noticed that the polls taken in retirement villages etc are badly distorted and having been on the mobile booths I would suggest badly corrupted.
The Section 44 changes require a referendum. I think everyone is agreed it’s a stupid clause, but it’s not a huge deal worthy of a referendum. Generally you can get around it with a bit of pre-planning.
Not on its own, true. But the groundwork could/should be done so that – with genuine bipartisan support – a reformed section could be put at the next opportunity.
It’ll be a cold day in hell before there’s bipartisan support for anything in the current political climate. The Libs are determined to oppose everything Labor does (even things they themselves supported in government), for the sake of looking “tough.”
[It’ll be a cold day in hell before there’s bipartisan support for anything in the current political climate. The Libs are determined to oppose everything Labor does (even things they themselves supported in government), for the sake of looking “tough.”]
I think you’ll find that a Labor Green Senate majority after the next election will be much more workable when it comes to electoral reform.
[Some 16 and 17 year olds are smart enough to vote, so make enrollment on the electoral roll voluntary for them. That way voting is still compulsory for everyone on the electoral roll (thank you Lindsay@NewDems)]
My suggestion is to make provisional enrolment compulsory for 15yo students as part of civics at school. At that time (and any time in the next few years) they have the option to bring forward the date of enrolment to their 16th birthday.
Once on the rolls that’s it, compulsory voting.
Given them the option (even if it is just a window) will potentially given those who take it up more “ownership” of the democratic process. Having a fresh cohort of engaged voters can’t be bad for Australian democracy.
[Having a fresh cohort of engaged voters can’t be bad for Australian democracy.]
It can if that cohort tends to vote for the other party rather than yours.
ie: GP’s dummy spit above. Shame.
I haven’t made up my mind on the merits of 16yr olds being given the option to vote(seems a bit young to me) but GP is right about the intent.
We are allowed to strat driving at 16. Thats potentially a lot more dangerous or safer, then voting. But I think classes on how the voting system works need to be implemented.
GP, how do you know 16yr old will vote ALP? When I was 16, most of my year were Liberal supporters. Those that weren’t were Green or swing.
Just because 18-21 year olds(who are often influenced by uni politicians and realise that unless they are rich, the Liberals dont care about them much) vote ALP for the most part, means nothing
William, Thanks for this post.
This becomes important issue as Australia begins to adopt an electronic counting system. There is much that needs to be reviewed not the least availability of information related to the scrutiny of the electronic ballot.
We must not see a repeat of the 2006 Victorian State Election process where votes went missing between Counts and data files were destroyed in order to prevent public and parliamentary scrutiny and review of the elections process, where access of electronic data files was made without scrutiny and proper security by the electoral authority prior to the closure of the ballot.
Elections in Australia MUST remain open and transparent.
Data files recording preference data, ballot paper allocations statistics MUST be made available during the elections process with certified copies of the preference data-files published prior to the declaration of the declaration of the election and the press “run” in calculating the results. The federal Government MUST publish polling place details and result for the Senate as well as the Lower house. The limited perceived interests of certain Media interests must not override the interests and needs for proper scrutiny of the ballot.
I look forward to more discussion on this topic and welcome the opportunity for more public debate.
The Senate counting system MUST be changed. The current system is was designed in the early 20th Century and is outdated and undemocratic.
Each ballot MUST be treated equally. one vote one value
The current system was designed to facilitate a manual count. With the use of computers in counting the vote we must ensure that counting process is fair and accurate.
In Queensland we saw the Greens unfairly denied representation due to the way in which we count and distribute preferences. I order to avoid this mistake we should adopt a reiterative count or the Meeks method of counting the ballot. If you recount the Queensland Senate vote, excluding all candidates except the final seven (3 ALP, 3 Liberal/NP and 1 Green) The Greens should have been elected to the sixth Senate spot. This demonstrates the problem with the way the AEC segment the count.
Segmentation of the vote
There is no need or justification for segmentation of the count. (Currently based on the value of the votes)
There should be one transaction per candidate. A single transaction being either a distribution of Surplus or redistribution of preferences on exclusion). remainders should be retained and stay with the value of the vote as it progresses though the count
A reiterative counting process ensures that each vote is treated equally and in the same manner. The final result being the iteration that elects all vacant positions.
Surplus Transfer Value Calculation
We must adopt a Gregory weighted transfer formula where the transfer value each vote is calculated on the value of each vote as its progresses through the count. IE Value of the Surplus divided by the Candidates total surplus times the value of the vote. Analysis undertaken on the Victorian Senate has highlighted the potential distortion in the way the AEC currently count the vote. A distortian that can deliver a bonus 7,000 votes to major parties at the expense of minor/below the line voters. My analysis on the Victorian Senate Count has been backup independently by Antony Green (If he did an analysis on the the Queensland result he would realise that teh system produced an incorrect result)
Artificial thresholds. Tweeking the system to build in a bias
Australia does not need to adopt a Representation Threshold. Unlike European Countries that have small percentage quotas Australia uses a preferential voting system and we have relatively large quotas. There is no justification and or need to implement an artificial threshold under a preferential voting system.
The suggestion above that over 65s be banned (#12) is barking up the wrong tree. It is the most stupid thing I have ever heard and has no merit for consideration and must be rejected here and now.
Correction: Surplus Transfer calculation = Value of Surplus divided by the elected Candidate’s total value of votes, times the allocated value of each vote.
The current formula being the Value of Surplus divided by the total number of ballot papers distorts the value of the vote. 75% of ballot papers might represent 20% of the candidates total vote and 25% the remaining 80%. Under the AEC rules each vote is transferred out at the same value disproportionally to the value of the vote being transferred. Western Australia has adopted the Gregory Weighted Transfer method and Victoria has recommended adopting it also.
Tasmania and the ACT use the last bundle method which is also outdated and can no longer be justified. Every vote that contributes to a candidates surplus MUST be redistributed proportionally to the allocated value of the vote, not just the last segmented bundle received. ACT and Tasmania also need to reform their method of counting the votes.
If optional preferential voting is to be implemented then it should apply to below the line votes only and not above-the-line registered Ticket votes. Ticket votes should be required to list preferences for all candidates. Parties/Groups should be able to submit three tickets and nominate the percentage that each ticket is allocated. The percentage allocation of above-the-line ticket votes could be based on sample poll undertaken prior to the count.
It should also be possible to preference vote above-the-line.
There is considerable concern at the way in which some electoral authorities administer the compulsory voting provisions and the lack of security over access to the role within then electoral commissions which violate privacy concerns and are often sold on the black market to private investigators.
Overseas citizens are often denied a vote wrongfully by vexatious and over zealous corrupt Commissioners.
The electoral role has become a defacto Australia card. Maybe we should revisit the Australia Card issue. It is already there in a different form and widely open to abuse.