Sunday 22 May 2022

Compulsory preferential voting

has to go.

Downunder is about to get a government which was the first choice of less than a third of voters. No doubt the "winners" will be claiming this is how "democracy" works under our voting system. 

The reality is different. For both the state election and the federal election I was called in to help people with disabilities vote. Some of these people cannot read or write, others can but don't understand the voting process, others have a partial understanding, and so on. Whether all of them should be required to vote is another issue.

What confused almost all of them is the "how" of voting. Some of them knew "who" they wanted to put first on the ballot paper. As to "why" they should choose another and another until all the boxes had been marked on the green paper was beyond them.

"But I only want that one!" and "I don't want anyone else" were common bewildered statements. I tried to explain but some votes went into the envelopes with the person effectively disenfranchised because they would not make any further decisions. This is the outcome of having to mark every box on the ballot paper in order of preference.

Inevitably this was a topic of discussion with other people too. I have found out that other people also object to having to mark every box on the ballot paper.

"Tell me why I should help to get any other bastard over the line," someone told me.

Another told me, "How can I preference anyone else when I think even my first choice is barely worthy of my vote?"

Yes, we have a problem. Preferences may have some merit - although not in quite the way we handle them. Compulsory preferences are a different thing altogether. What can happen - and does happen - is that a person with fewer first preference votes can end up being elected. They get in on preferences - compulsory preferences.  They would have lost were it not for those compulsory preferences. 

Compulsory preferential voting allows for a manipulation of the system. There are a range of "independent" and "minor party" candidates in play. They have the support of the major parties - and indirect funding from them. They may be "one issue" people or "popular issues" people. They will subtly "encourage" you to vote for a major party.

All major parties do this. It only pays them to do it because of the compulsory nature of preferential voting. Without that there would be no need. 

The ideas that this is somehow "democratic" or "encourages diversity" need to be hit on the head - and hit hard. This is how we now have a government that is the first choice of less than a third of the country. Yes, we can argue that the second, third, fourth etc preferences are ours and ours alone, that nobody can tell us how to vote. That is not the problem. The problem is being required to vote for those choices when we may find their policies abhorrent - and then find they get in on those preferences. It is time to acknowledge that and change the way we vote.   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The system certainly needs an overhaul. I hate having to vote for people whose policies I want nothing to do with.

Still, yesterday it was vote “six above the line, at least twelve below the line”. A great improvement on grading one hundred and sixteen candidates. (And probably fewer mistakes resulting in invalid votes.)

“Corrupt” is a harsh word, but it springs to mind when changes are either not made or are less open.