JSCEM post-election inquiry

Combing through the commissions and omissions of the federal parliamentary inquiry into the 2019 election.

The federal parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters yesterday published the final report of its inquiry into the 2019 election, being the work of five Coalition members (including the committee’s chair, Queensland Senator James McGrath), four from Labor and one from the Greens (Larissa Waters). It features separate dissenting reports taking issue with various majority recommendations from both Labor and the Greens. The first thing that must be said about the report is that it could be a lot worse, a fact that strikes you very forcefully if you’ve spent the last few weeks reading Trump campaign legal challenges. Nonetheless, the extensive range of recommendations on offer demands careful scrutiny, which I endeavour to offer below.

Optional preferential voting

Apparently for no other reason than that inconsistency between state and federal systems is resulting in a high informal vote in New South Wales, the report recommends adopting that state’s system of optional preferential voting. This was vehemently opposed in separate dissenting reports from the four Labor members and the one Green, neither of whom have an interest in limiting the flow of preferences from the latter to the former. A further recommendation that Robson rotation be introduced, so that the order of candidates differs between ballot papers, likewise emerges from the blue without being justified in the report, though they could have managed it if they tried. Labor nonetheless opposed the recommendation in its dissenting report, on the dubious grounds that it will make how-to-vote cards harder to follow.

Early voting

The report unsurprisingly recommends that the three-week pre-polling period should be reduced to two, correctly noting that “the consensus is that a two week period best balances the opportunity to participate in an election as a voter”. Whereas length of the early voting period is one flashpoint among many in debates over voter suppression in the US, it appears in Australia that left and right alike agree that the present situation places undue burdens on their campaigning resources.

The report dutifully notes the common argument that early voters do not enjoy “consistent access to campaign information across the period”, depriving them of badly needed election-eve Medicare and death tax scare campaigns. Undeniably this is a difficulty for the party campaigns, who have a harder time matching their set-piece events to the all-too-short attention spans of swinging voters. However, I personally tend to think this is their problem, and to doubt that voters emerge from the stuff and nonsense of a typical election campaign all that much the wiser. The more persuasive argument is that traffic during the first week of the period is too low to justify the expense, both for the AEC and the political parties.

More contentiously, the report also recommends that the AEC should start taking seriously the eligibility criteria (travel, access, medical or religious) for pre-poll voting. The AEC has developed highly permissive practices on this score, and given tacit encouragement to the pre-poll surge by increasing the number of voting centres, from 436 to 511 in the case of the 2019 election. However, here I suspect the horse has bolted: too many voters have grown accustomed to voting early, and will not appreciate being turned away in huge numbers after having had their votes accepted under ostensibly the same regime in previous years. The report would have done better to have dropped the charade and allowed for no-excuse pre-poll voting.

Postal voting

The report considered two issues without recommending anything be done about them. The practice of parties distributing postal vote applications so they can harvest data before sending them on to the AEC, which is popular with no one but the parties themselves, was once again weakly rationalised as a means of providing “outreach” and “build(ing) relationships with supporters”.

The report also discusses the fact that applications can be accepted as late as the Wednesday before polling day, giving the AEC an extremely tight window in which to get ballots in the hands of applicants. The commissioner, Tom Rogers, told the inquiry that AEC staff sometimes engage couriers or even deliver the ballots personally on the Thursday and Friday, “particularly if they are elderly and they know they are desperate to get a postal vote”. The AEC favoured moving the deadline to the Friday eight days before election day, but the committee preferred that Australia Post be directed to pull its finger out, perhaps with recourse to “premium mail products that can support postal vote materials in future”.

Campaign finance

The recommendations in this important area are predictably weak: after waffling a bit about the standing outrage of the $13,800 disclosure threshold for political donations, which had been but $1500 before the Howard government won its Senate majority, it reaches the irrelevant conclusion that tax deductibility of donations and concessions for major parties should be expanded (the Greens are opposed). It is particularly shameful that the report offers nothing on the timing of public disclosure, which happens either once a year in February or six months after election. Compare and contrast the regime in Queensland, where donations of more than $1000 must be disclosed within seven days.

In the wake of Clive Palmer’s pre-election advertising blitz, which was believed to have cost more than that of the Labor and Liberal parties combined, the report mounts a formidable case for campaign spending caps then fails to follow through, pleading they would disadvantage conservative parties that did not have a trade union movement effectively campaigning on their behalf. A slew of disinterested authorities were cited in favour of reform, and it was further noted that the practice is commonplace in most non-dysfunctional western democracies (by which I mean just about all of them except the United States, where the Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United ruling of 2010 held Palmer-style excesses to be a sacrosanct constitutional right), as well as being in force in three Australian states and one territory. The committee appeared not to be on top of the fact that a fourth state, Queensland, recently introduced caps that applied at its recent election. This did not noticeably curtail Palmer’s increasingly quixotic campaign advertising, which was required to observe a limit of around $5 million, or $92,000 for each of the 55 citizens who were ready to sully themselves by running as candidates of his party.

The report does recommend civil or criminal sanctions should apply to “siphoning” of otherwise illegal donations through front intermediaries, which Eric Abetz claimed funded donations from climate-related groups. Its overall timidity on campaign finance was roundly criticised in Labor’s dissenting report.

Counting process

With the rise of early voting, a pattern has developed on election night in which election day booths wrap up their counts mostly in the first two-and-a-half hours after 6pm, followed by a delay until the much larger pre-poll voting centres start reporting generally not sooner than around 10pm, and often much later into the night. This has prompted Antony Green, for one, to propose options for having the pre-poll voting completed earlier, which can be categorised as soft (opening boxes a few hours early so non-counting preliminaries such as sorting Senate from House ballot papers can be completed before 6pm) and hard (starting the count before the close of voting and ensuring no intelligence of the results leaks out, as is done in New Zealand). The report makes a firm recommendation for the soft option, proposing that sorting begin at 4pm, and says consideration should be given to starting counting at that time as well. The latter notion was opposed by Labor in its dissenting report, since it considers it essential that scrutineers be able to contact higher-ups.

The committee also recommends the declaration envelopes that postal and absent voters are required to sign should be similarly pre-processed “over a very limited number of days before election day”, with care taken by staff not to sneak a peek to see how people are voting. Such a process is in place at state elections in Western Australia, for one, and I can say from what I’ve heard from those at the coal face that the latter objective may be easily said than done, albeit that it does not seem to have led to any known harm.

Voter identification

After the previous two parliaments failed to act on inquiry recommendations that a voter identification regime be introduced, the latest report tries again, and further proposes that “photo ID or other forms of suitable ID” be required of those enrolling or changing their enrolment. Any suggestion of voter identification generally elicits cries of “voter suppression” from the progressive left, with certain American states having tailored their acceptable forms of identification to make life harder for traditionally Democratic constituencies. However, the regime that was introduced in Queensland by the Newman government (and abolished after one election by the Palaszczuk government) at the 2015 election had little or no such effect: a wide range of forms were allowed for, and those who arrived at the booth empty-handed were still allowed to cast a provisional vote, which was admitted to the count when it was established nobody else had voted under that name.

The committee’s recommendation does well enough on the former score (utilities bills being deemed sufficient as forms of identification), but is a little vague for my liking as to how a recommended provisional votes backstop might work. The stringent new proposal for voting enrolment would seem to be even worse, although here too the wording is too vague to say for sure. Both proposals concerning voter identification were opposed by Labor and the Greens.

Third parties and associated entities

Much ink has been spilled in the Murdoch press (and even the not-so-Murdoch press) about the iniquity of the GetUp! organisation and its campaigns for progressive causes, standing accused of various underhanded campaign tactics and acting as a front for the ALP. The majority report throws it some meat by calling for the introduction of a new offence of “electoral violence” that is implicitly directed at GetUp! campaign tactics, and suggesting that the Electoral Act be “amended so the test for affiliated organisations be broadened”.

The report also has a lot to say about a claim made by GetUp! in a submission to the inquiry that “the AEC has investigated GetUp three times and every single time confirmed our independence and that we are not associated with any political party”, which referred to its rejection of efforts to have the organisation classified as an “associated entity” of Labor. Interrogated about this at a committee hearing by Senator Eric Abetz, the Electoral Commissioner concurred that this did not amount to the AEC having “declared them independent”. I’d have thought this at least arguable myself, although GetUp! was no doubt pushing the envelope when it went on to assert the AEC had found its campaigns to be “100% issues based”.

Also: aggrieved at the activities of local campaigns that have cost the Liberals their usually safe seats of Warringah and Indi, the report recommends lowering the bar for “political campaigners” with respect to disclosing donations received. Labor and the Greens opposed both recommendations.

Constitutional reform

The majority report tilts at the following windmills:

• “Consideration” should be given to a referendum to abolishing the nexus provision that requires the House have not more than twice as many seats as the Senate, which a) makes it impossible to increase the size of parliament incrementally, but b) is a part of the federation compact that the small states are never going to let go of.

• The committee wants to be allowed to conduct an inquiry into extending parliamentary terms, from three years to four in the case of the House of Representatives and (the inevitable sticking point) from four years to eight in the case of the Senate.

• The report recommends, without offering anything to justify the idea, that it should conduct an inquiry into abolishing by-elections, presumably with a view to having vacancies filled by the party of the outgoing member, as per casual vacancies in the Senate. Both Labor and the Greens opposed the notion, which I’m assuming without looking into it would require constitutional change.

Miscellany

• Extensive consideration was given to the media blackout on television and radio advertising in the last three days of the campaign, an obvious absurdity in the era of social media. The only question is whether the blackout should be expanded to the internet or eliminated altogether. The report favoured the latter, calling for the provision to be “reviewed with a view that the restrictions on commercial radio and television broadcasters be removed”. The Greens’ dissenting report opposed lifting the blackout, apparently on the basis that any existing limitation on major party campaigning is worth hanging on to.

• The Liberal Party has long had a bee in its bonnet about the AEC’s liberal (no other word for it) approach to allowing other parties to use the word “liberal” in their name, notably the Liberal Democrats, who clearly won seats they would not otherwise have won when they were placed well ahead of the Liberal Party in the ballot paper draw for the New South Wales Senate in 2013 and the Western Australian Legislative Council in 2017. The report recommends a tighter regime on this score, noting that Labor has an equivalent problem with the Democratic Labor Party.

• Barnaby Joyce’s miserable proposal to lock minor parties out of the Senate — sorry, I mean “provide greater representation of the geographical diversity of Australia” — by breaking states into three four-member regions (each electing two at half-Senate elections) was neither actively recommended nor treated with the contempt it deserves. Rather, the majority report concluded that the committee “would need further information on the proposals to divide States into electorates or divisions before it would make an informed comment on the proposal”, though I personally fail entirely to see why.

• The majority report gives short shrift to extensive calls for the introduction of a truth in advertising regime along the lines of the one in South Australia, which generally seems to have done neither much harm nor much good. The Labor and Greens reports are critical of this, though not for particularly well-defined reasons.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

33 comments on “JSCEM post-election inquiry”

  1. My biggest concern would be

    “In a similar vein, an MP who voluntarily resigns from the Party under which they were elected at the general election will be deemed to have vacated their seat.”

  2. Catprog,
    Parties are not even considered in the Aust Constitution so forcing a by election when an MP resigns from a party would be breathtaking over reach.

    It would make parties far more important than individual members.

  3. Re Voter Id, the AEC reports after each election that genuine voter fraud ( where people intentionally vote more than once, not due to forgetfulness etc) is insignificantly small.

    So the current system is just fine!

    It’s the Howards, Campbell Newmans & James McGraths of this world who think they can derive advantage by making it too hard for certain groups to vote.
    Howard tried to stop prisoners voting, but the High Court disagreed.
    It also fits with the Libs’ ‘ punish the poor’ mentality.

    Our current paper based system does not need Voter ID. “Vote Early, Vote Often” is a joke. If you don’t believe me then try it and see how you go.

    Of course, if the AEC ever goes down the electronic voting path then we really will have a problem. Hopefully it never happens.

  4. So the nexus is “a part of the federation compact that the small states are never going to let go of.” Well, the “small” (less-populous) States may have thought that way when the Constitution was being drafted, but really it doesn’t do a lot for them. In the passage of ordinary Bills, the relative size of the Houses is irrelevant – consider the US where a Senate of 100 has an awful lot of power as against a House of Reps of 435. In a joint sitting it’s the relative majorities in the two Houses that matter, and in most parliaments since 1949 (though not the current one) the majority in the Reps is much greater than the one in the Senate, so Bills that the Houses have differed over will be passed – as they were in 1974. So, even if the Senate majority is reflecting “small-state” opinion (which ain’t necessarily so) the nexus gives no real protection to the interests of the “small” states.

    I suspect the real reason that the “abolish the nexus” referendum was defeated in 1967 (apart from the dishonesty of the No case) was that a restraint on government action was to be replaced by no restraint at all. The People may not know much about the Constitution, but I suspect there’s a widespread intuitive feeling that it’s a good thing to have some limits on the power of governments. So, if the government wants to change the nexus I’d suggest a relaxation rather than an abolition – to, say, “the number of such members shall be not less than twice but no more than three times the number of the senators”. So then, as the population increases, the number could creep up slowly and a drastic change to the Senate would only have to be considered when the number of reps for the States got to 216. And none of this would affect the relative powers of the two Houses, or of the “small” and “large” States.

  5. It is curious that Robson Rotation for the Reps is floated.

    Robson Rotation is used only in the small population jurisdictions of ACT and Tasmania. It is unknown to most Australians. If introduced it will become much more familiar across the country.

    Once familiar to voters across the nation there might be a push on to use it in Senate elections to promote intra-party competition.

    This long-term possibility is probably not what the proponents of RR for the Reps had in mind.

  6. “The Greens’ dissenting report opposed lifting the blackout, apparently on the basis that any existing limitation on major party campaigning is worth hanging on to.”

    And of course because proselytising on social media is their strong suit.

  7. Tell me if I’m wrong but if someone just votes ‘1’ for, say, Labor and Labor ends up leading the count, I was under the impression that that vote is not discarded despite being technically wrong. The only effect of OPV (if someone uses it) would be to stop, say, National Party voters being forced to choose between the Libs and Labor if the NP was eliminated.

    Or do I have this wrong?

  8. I’m also having problems understanding why Labor is opposed to OPV and the LNP is in favour. Maverick One Nation voters are probably the most likely to “just vote 1” followed probably by UAP voters (who almost by definition are looking for someone else to vote for) and possibly Nats voters (many of whom don’t trust either Labor or Libs which is why they exist at all). This will hurt the Libs more than Labor. Conversely, Green voters are arguably more informed (damn inner city latte drinking graduates) and will know to preference further.

    I’m wondering whether this is a case of be careful what you wish for.

    What I do worry about is the possible rise of Trojan “just vote 1 for me” parties specifically designed to split opposition votes.

  9. https://www.pollbludger.net/2020/12/11/jscem-post-election-inquiry/#comment-3524653

    The small states get increased representation in the parliamentary parties through the nexus clause, increasing their behind the scenes power.

    The Nexus Clause (as it currently stands) is also key to the crossbench in the Senate, both in keeping the Senate quota low enough for them to get elected and to reduce chances of being overridden by a joint sitting. The 1967 Parliament Referendum went down as badly as it did because of the DLP campaigned heavily against it, causing their stronghold Victoria to be very heavily against it and probably costing the yes campaign Queensland. The size, political diversity, spread across the states and visible political utility of the crossbench have significantly increased since 1967 (plus there are now similar systems in 4 state Legislative Councils), meaning that the Nexus Clause would be night on impossible to dilute now. The time removing/diluting the Nexus Clause may have worked was before the 1955 split in the ALP or possibly in the first term of the Fraser Government.

    Allowing the Nexus clause to dip bellow 2:1, as a successful 1967 Parliament referendum would have, would have cut the minimum size of the House of Representatives from 72 to 30 (5 per original state), potentially reducing the proportionate representation of any state with more than 1 sixth of the combined population of the states (whichever state that is, which since state populations can be altered with a referendum potentially includes Tasmania) and consequently likely requires a majority in every state.

  10. House of Representatives by-elections are the only constitutional means of filling House of Reps vacancies (section 33), although there is not much in the way of a mechanism to force a by-election if the speaker doesn`t issue a writ and the House of Reps backs them on the issue (and the Governor General also does not get involved).

    I think it unlikely an anti-by-election referendum would pass. It takes power away from voters.

  11. I’m not morally opposed to OPV. We have a system that compels people to vote, so it’s only right that once in the voting booth that voters can express their preferences in any way they see fit. OPV works fine in NSW, and is only really a problem for either of the majors in a landslide election, in which case preferences don’t really matter much.

    As for the other suggestions, I’d offer cautious support to the thoughts around constitutional reform (especially the nexus issue, though it’s disappointing that not thought seems. To have been given to s44 issues), prepoll voting, and early counting, but a big thumbs down to voter ID requirements and going after third party groups.

  12. I have two thoughts about preference rules:
    1. To tell all voters “We won’t count your vote at all unless you number every square in a correct sequence” (a) is totalitarian, (b) causes voters for the leading candidates to waste their time numbering the squares of no-hope candidates, and (c) causes the electoral officials to waste their (paid) time checking the formality of every vote – BUT
    2. Someone who votes for a minor candidate without indicating a preference for one of the candidates with a serious chance of winning (and we usually know who they are) is throwing away his/her vote, and should at least be encouraged to express a preference for one of the leading candidates.
    The key word here is “encouraged”. Let’s make preferences optional, but modify the instructions on the ballot paper to explain WHY it can be a good idea to give preferences beyond the number 1. Something like:

    Place the number one (“1”) in the square opposite the candidate of your choice.
    Unless you are confident that your preferred candidate will be placed first or second in the count, you will make your vote more effective if you indicate your further preferences among the candidates by numbering further squares “2”, “3”, and so on, in the order of your preference.

    That’s not a lot of extra words, but it might encourage some voters to do more than just voting “1”.
    There’s only room for one language on the ballot paper, but I’d also suggest that this instruction/explanation should be posted on the walls of the booths in the languages commonly spoken in the area around the polling place.

    [And yes, Jack S, you’ve got it wrong. Under the current rules, a “Just 1” for Labor will be thrown on the informal pile at the first stage of the scrute.]

  13. Yes Tom the F&B, if I’d wanted to make the ballot-paper instructions even longer I would have included a caution to that effect. But _something_ has to be left to the discretion of the voters. I still think they should have the choice to just vote 1, or vote 1,2 or 1,2,3, and if not enough Labor voters had bothered to preference Sam Hibbins in 2014 under OPV then too bad for Sam. And if the Labor voters had fretted about being represented by a “Liberal” for another 3 years then some of them may have known better by 2017.

  14. There is always the option of instructing the voters to preference but not actually requiring it (like with ATL preferencing 2-6 in the Senate).

    The Tasmanian Legislative Council system of a minimum of 3 preferences is another option.

    I also stand by my earlier comments on the Nexus Clause.

  15. Oooh, Tom, you’re standing by some very odd arguments then. There’s never been any suggestion that the nexus would “dip below 2:1” – the motivation for trying to repeal it was the desire to _increase_ the number in the Reps without also increasing the Senate. No politician that I’ve heard of has ever suggested that the House should have less than 72 members, let alone 30! As the population increases, they want more!

  16. A few comments on some odd things in the Report.

    (1) The proposal that on election day, canvassers and how-to-v0te card hander-outers who aren’t representing a party or candidate would be required to be at least 100 metres from a polling booth, while the party/candidate ones could still be as close as 6 metres, would be highly susceptible to a constitutional challenge based on the implied freedom of political communication. (A non-discriminatory ban, such as is applied in Tasmania and the ACT, would probably be OK.)

    (2) The proposal to cut back the pre-poll voting period hasn’t really taken on board the extent to which increased pre-poll voting has become a public health measure to increase social distancing by reducing queues on election day. It’s also not at all clear that people who up until now have been voting pre-poll won’t simply opt to apply for a postal vote instead – especially if parties keep sending out postal vote application forms to all and sundry.

    (3) The requirement for the production of voter ID would also be likely to slow the flow of voters through the polling places and make social distancing more difficult, which again doesn’t seem like a good idea if an election might have to be held against the background of a pandemic.

    (4) It’s fine and dandy to say that people applying for a pre-poll (or postal ?) vote should have to specify their reason. But some of the acceptable reasons (eg “Throughout the hours of polling on polling day, the person will be absent from the Division for which the person is enrolled” (Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, Schedule 3, item 3)) are purely within the knowledge of the voter, and no AEC official would be in a position to refuse a pre-poll or postal vote to an elector who asserted that as a reason.

    (5) The idea of doing away with by-elections isn’t a new one: it comes up every time someone suggests PR be adopted for the House, and wants to see countbacks used (as in Tasmania and the ACT) for filling casual vacancies. The Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform, way back in 1983, hinted at the constitutional problem which would arise from trying to abolish by-elections. Frankly, this suggestion from the Committee is too implausible to be worth wasting much time on.

    (6) The idea of “determining a seat to be declared vacant when the sitting MP resigns from or leaves the Party under which they were elected” creates a tangled web indeed. Such provisions are not that unusual around the world, and arguably make some sense if, for example, MPs have been elected off a closed party list, as in Timor-Leste. They are also sometimes implemented where money drives politics and there’s been a problem of MPs being bribed to switch sides. Neither factor is really relevant at Australian federal elections. The question of when an MP has “resigned from” or “left” a party also leaves a lot up in the air. Must the member formally resign? Must the resignation/departure be from the parliamentary party, or the broader party organisation? What happens if the MP is expelled, rather than leaving voluntarily? And would it make a difference if the party rules gave the party leader full authority to expel a member, enabling such a leader to eliminate internal opposition? If the member takes no formal steps to resign, but instead simply starts voting against the party line and criticising the party publicly, has he or she “constructively resigned”? All in all, this idea is likely to cause more problems than it solves.

  17. Intentions can change without a referendum, therefore what the referendum allows is a perfectly valid point to bring up, even if it is not what anyone intends. The issue of the ability to reduce the House of Reps bellow 72 is particularly important as may effect the proportionate representation of any state (including up to 5 original states an any one time, with no added states) and therefore may require a majority of votes in every state, making a referendum much harder to pass.

    Therefore, any straight deletion of the nexus clause is, if the High Court also holds my view, almost certainly impossible. A conversion of the Nexus Clause to a no fewer than twice (or any larger size) clause would certainly only require a majority in a majority of states (still not going to happen, all political parties other than The ALP, Coalition parties and possibly KAP would oppose it on potential Senate cuts/ lack of Senate increases). A minimum size for the House of Reps of anywhere between 72 and double the Senate is a grey area.

  18. https://www.pollbludger.net/2020/12/11/jscem-post-election-inquiry/comment-page-1/#comment-3525875

    4. (and also 2.) Given absent voting, the out of electorate provision you provide as an example for reasons to pre-poll could be tightened, as a vote on election date measure, it certainly should be for postal voting.

    5. Countback might be construable as within the bounds of section 33 of the constitution (if properly constructed), although it is entirely debatable. It certainly should be introduced for the Senate.

  19. Tom the first and best @ 7:32 pm

    “Given absent voting, the out of electorate provision you provide as an example for reasons to pre-poll could be tightened, as a vote on election date measure, it certainly should be for postal voting.”

    That was just one example: “travelling under conditions that will prevent the person attending a polling booth” would enable anyone to say “I’ll be on a weekend hike on polling day”. The bottom line is that the acceptable reasons aren’t a state secret, and word will get around about which ones should be stated by people who just want to vote early for the sake of convenience. That’s really why the need to nominate a specific reason was done away with: it will penalise people who are honest or ignorant, while people who want to play the system will still be able to do so.

    Re countbacks, the arguments in favour are obviously stronger in principle when a PR system is used than when you have single-member constituencies. I made the suggestion about five years ago that even now it would be possible with an appropriate amendment to legislation to do a non-binding recount when a Senate casual vacancy occurs, akin to that conducted under s282 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. See https://auspublaw.org/2015/09/senate-electoral-reform/

  20. I understand that OPV is attempt to emulate run off elections, where the person may not wish to cast a formal ballot in each round, but once you opt out you have no ability to opt back in as you would in a run off election.

  21. https://www.pollbludger.net/2020/12/11/jscem-post-election-inquiry/comment-page-1/#comment-3525928

    Run off elections, at least where the public vote, are rarely more than 2 rounds and therefore do not have any opt back in point.

    OPV, as currently operating in NSW, still allows overtaking on preferences that is ndo not ot possible in run off systems.

    Run offs have a far greater vote splitting potential, for getting to the second round, as seen in France in 2002 when the Front National got into the second round ahead of the Socialist Party because of vote splitting.

  22. Tom the first and best @ 9:52 pm

    “Many people`s willingness to use fake excuses would fade away if there was some enforcement of the requirement for honesty.”

    So how might that work if the “excuse” is a matter of people’s plans? “I had a pre-poll vote because I was planning to go hiking in the distant hills. Then my knee got sore, so I changed my mind”.

    Even back in the days when it was necessary for people to cite their specific reason for seeking a postal or pre-poll vote, it wasn’t the practice of returning officers to refuse to accept the voters’ declarations at face value.

  23. The case for early voting restrictions rests mainly upon maximising the on the day vote to get as equal a electorate knowledge base as possible.

    The case for postal voting restrictions is stronger because of issues with late arriving postal votes, dramatically reduced protection of the secrecy of the ballot and consequently from voter intimidation into voting in a particular manner, etc.

  24. Not everybody who gives a false excuse would, if investigated, be able to explain their way out of it. I grant you there may be difficulty in finding cases to investigate, however there are options for doing so. A tip line/website would be one.

    You don’t think that, at the point you are setting up a tip line for people to dob in others for a dodgy early voting excuse, you might have crossed the silliness event horizon?

    Political parties have typically years to make their case before an election, a fortnight’s difference at the sharp end isn’t something to get bent out of shape about. In fact it may well be an advantage to blunt the impact of any last minute dog and pony show that the parties decide to dish up.

  25. caf @ 1:46 am

    Spot on. Imagine the tabloid reaction if voters wanting to have an early vote on the basis of illness or approaching childbirth were required to produce a doctor’s certificate or a pregnancy test result.

  26. Tom the first and best @ 12:18 am

    For the reasons you have noted, pre-poll attendance voting is a superior process to postal voting. But other things being equal, making pre-poll voting harder could well produce an increase in postal voting rather than election day voting, unless postal voting is also made harder. And that’s not going to happen, not least because postal voting is still widely appreciated by voting blocs that lean towards the coalition.

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