The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has published the full report of its inquiry into the 2013 election, following on from interim reports that recommended an optional preferential above-the-line voting system for the Senate, and warned against going too far with electronic voting. The key points:
With dissent from Labor and the Greens, the report advocates a voter identification model along the lines of Queensland, in which those who cannot provide one of wide range of prescribed forms of identification must cast a declaration vote, to be admitted to the count only when it is established that the personal details claimed for match up with an entry on the electoral roll, and that no other votes were cast in that name.
Also with dissent from Labor and the Greens, the report recommends that confirmation be required from a person prior to their enrolment being added or updated by the automatic enrolment process introduced by the previous government.
The government should examine the future viability of the broadcast media blackout, by which advertising may not be carried on television or radio on the Thursday or Friday before polling day.
There is a recommendation that scrutineers should not be able to make repeated challenges to the same ballot paper at each stage of the count, which I presume relates to the Palmer United Party’s obstructive grandstanding during the count for Fairfax.
A range of measures are concerned with the Australian Electoral Commission tightening up its act, in response to the Western Australian Senate election debacle.
Pens, rather than pencils, should be provided in polling booths.
16 comments on “Must try harder”
The Committee’s recommendation on direct enrolment is ill-considered, and is likely to lead to less accurate rolls.
According to paragraph 4.22 of the Report, “In the period between 27 July 2010 and the announcement of the 2013 election on 4 August 2013, 39 909 persons were newly enrolled through direct enrolment; 50 029 were re-enrolled; and 699 804 individuals’ details were changed.”
The last of these figures is the critical one, since changes – which would overwhelmingly be changes of address – are the most numerous of the transactions. The Committee has recommended that these transactions only proceed after the change of address has been confirmed by the elector. If a person fails to confirm, he or she will, presumably, be kept on the roll for his or her old address.
Unless the address information received by the AEC from another government agency and actioned through the direct update was false – and that seems most unlikely to be the case most of the time – the effect of the Committee’s scheme will be to make the rolls less accurate, since superseded enrolments will be left in place as “dead wood” rather than being updated. Things would be especially messy if there had been a large volume of data received and actioned immediately before a roll close.
It’s been for precisely this sort of reason that past proposals for proof of identity at enrolment have tended to draw a clear distinction between new enrolments and updates.
[Pens, rather than pencils, should be provided in polling booths.]
It’s the end of Australian electoral practice as we know it.
This report, together with the Committee’s first interim report (on the Senate voting system) would seem to give rise to some interesting opportunities for horse-trading in the Senate.
The ALP and Greens don’t want to see changes to enrolment processes, or the introduction of voter id requirements. The cross benchers don’t want to see changes to the Senate voting system.
What’s the chance of the ALP doing a deal with the cross benches: “you oppose enrolment and voter id changes, and we won’t support Senate voting system changes”?
Or will the coalition get in first: “If you support enrolment and voter id changes, we won’t try to change the Senate voting system”?
The Group Ticket Voting replacement with Above the Line Preferencing is an as close to just before the election matter to avoid the cross bench (definitely with the exception of the Greens and probably with the exception of Xenophon) spending the rest of the term upset with the government. The ALP also has a vested interest in Senate reform because it has a reasonable chance at government next term and thus would want a more reasonable Senate than Group Ticket Voting would produce.
Who knows where the crossbench stand on voter id requirements?
JSCEM Final report of the 2013 Federal Election has been published.
Missing is the much needed review of the method of counting the senate election.
The need for
A Weighted Surplus Transfer system.
A reiterative system of distribution of preferences from excluded candidates where the count is reset and restarted on each candidate(s) exclusion
The scraping of the Droop quota and the adoption of a pure proportional representative model (x/y)
The retention of Above-the-line (ATL) Group voting with the allocation of ATL voting to be equally distributed to each candidate within the group. The group maintaining the right to determine the order of exclusion within the group.
The guiding principle being
“That votes from excluded candidates should be redistributed and counted as if the excluded candidate(s) had not stood
The current system is disproportionate and favours minor parties/Candidates and does not reflect the voters intentions.
A full value vote should always be allocated to the first available continuing candidate without skipping and jumping.
A reiterative counting system would also allow of the adjustment of the quota for election on each iteration, facilitating optional preferential voting..
The current outdated system of counting the vote was designed to facilitate a manual count.
With the use of computer based technology there is no excuse or justification to maintain the outdated flawed system of counting the Senate vote.
[Missing is the much needed review of the method of counting the senate election.]
I can’t believe they ignored your submission/s!
If they’re going to ask for voter confirmation on the direct enrollment changes, it should be on an “opt-out” basis: ie if you don’t respond, the change goes ahead.
WeWantPaul @ 6: I can.
Tom @ 4: Much as the government might like to hold back any Senate voting system amendments until just before the next election, that will be difficult if they opt for reforms which require significant changes to the AEC’s vote counting software. The AEC is obviously feeling extremely risk averse at the moment, and certainly wouldn’t be prepared to use a changed system which hadn’t been thoroughly tested.
The Government can tell the AEC to be prepared for the adoption of the system advised in the JSCEM report and hen implement it at the last minute.
Might well happen but in my view the Senate voting system is a much bigger issue than the enrolment and especially the voter ID changes.
If any party trades away Senate reform then it deserves to be not merely exposed and called on it but destroyed.
Unfortunately it’s not easy for a government to get reform happening – most of the crossbenchers who will find life hard under the new Senate system will be still there after the next half-Senate election, which means that changing the system now will still involve dealing with vindictive 2013-slate Senators until mid-2020. The ideal solution is to pass reform with bipartisan or Greens support then have a DD to flush the place out. But with Abbott polling so badly he’s unlikely to go there.
I’m wondering if Abbott is just going to wimp out and serious reform will have to wait until we get a government with the guts to go to a double dissolution. The problem is that another half-Senate election now would elect still more of these crossbench jokers. This might be the last time that Greens support is sufficient for reform to pass.
Tom @ 10: That may not be quite so simple. If my memory serves me correctly, one element of the AEC’s testing is an independent and external certification of the extent to which the software complies with legislative requirements, which couldn’t be done until amending legislation had been enacted.
In any case, there’s nothing on the public record at the moment to indicate that the government is actually in agreement with the detail of the JSCEM recommendations on the Senate voting system. On plenty of occasions in the past, governments have walked away from JSCEM recommendations which had been supported by their own people in the Committee.
Kevin Bonham @ 11: I’m by no means sure that the ALP and Greens would share your view about the relative importance of the issues. One thing of which they are very conscious is that attempts at vote suppression here are part of a world wide trend of conservative activism, being pursued even more viciously in the USA. This is a fight that’s been going on for at least 30 years.
I also have a sense that the ALP is increasingly coming to the belief that its own people are intrinsically better at dealing with randomly chosen cross benchers than the LNP’s are. Clearly they are going to get short shrift from the right wing ones; but they seem to have done well in dealing with the rest. This may also influence their views on Senate voting system reform.
Voter IDs (but issued for free and on-demand), keep (and expand as necessary) automatic enrollment, pens in polling booths and abolish GVTs altogether in favour of ATL preferencing. Fixes the problem(s) and builds public confidence in the system without the need for voter-disenfranchising systems such as quotas.
A government with guts would do it and an opposition with guts would support it.
Voter ID is an attempt at voter suppression and nothing more, and thankfully Labor and the Greens seem to hold the line on that one.
“Issued for free and on-demand” doesn’t mean a damn thing if you can’t prove identity for that purpose. I don’t have valid photo ID (I don’t drive, the ID I was using expired, and I lost the documents that would allow me to get new IDs easily), and I’m hardly alone in that boat.
Now, I know Queensland has ways of working around this, and a hack like me would do that, but most people in that boat, hearing that there’s voter ID requirements? Are just going to not bother and be disenfranchised.
That doesn’t take “guts”. That takes ignorance and a contempt for democracy.
On the subject of voter ID, I’ve considered it for a long time and have generally come down against proposals to require it for voting.
However, if all not having ID means is that your vote details must be checked against the roll to ensure that you are indeed entitled to vote (ie. a declaration vote), then I feel that the increase in public faith in the integrity of the electoral process is worth the tradeoff in administrative overhead.
Of course, the electoral commission should be make it extremely clear that not having ID doesn’t mean you don’t get to vote, just that the process is a little different.