Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The ongoing discussion about

the selection of Nova Peris as a Senate candidate for the Northern Territory at the next election will probably continue right up until her election - or otherwise. If she does get elected it wil be because most people will vote "above" rather than "below" the line for the Senate.
It is one of those peculiarities of our electoral system. It has many but this is one of the strangest.  In order for your vote to be valid you must fill in all the boxes in order of preference in our preferential voting system  - unless you are voting "above" the line for the Senate.
If you do that then you can mark in a one above the line and leave the boxes below the line blank. That way you will give your preferences according to the preferences of the party of your choice.
For the record, I vote below the line. I prefer to make up my own mind about whre my preferences are going. I would, almost always, prefer not to have to fill in all the blanks.
There is, of course, a danger in voting below the line. You have to be very careful about filling out the ballot paper. It can have a great many names on it and the list of numbers can be long.
It is not such a problem in the Northern Territory, or it should not be. The number of voters is less there and the number of candidates for election tends to be smaller. The problem will be that people are encouraged to vote above the line. It suits the main parties. People will vote in a way that will give the main parties the preferences they want - and often depend on.
This time around the ALP is going to be particularly anxious for that to happen....even if they are unhappy with the Prime Minister's autocratic behaviour.
All this has made me acutely aware that governments of all persuasions would really prefer that at least some Australians do not understand the voting process and, more especially, the preferential system.
If they did then some of our more high profile candidates may not be able to rely on their names and popularity in other areas to "win" a seat.

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