What if you held an election and nobody came?
So some of the more optimistic supporters of the ALP are clinging on to Labor’s narrow victory in the state by-election in Melbourne at the weekend as evidence things for the party are not as bad as they could be.
The Greens, on the other hand, are crowing about their primary vote, claiming a moral victory even if Labor pulled through on preferences. They can argue it out among themselves - because it seems the rest of us are not listening.
In fact even the prospect of a $70 fine wasn’t enough to persuade one third of registered voters in Melbourne to bother turning up. So much for compulsory voting.
While voter turn-out in by-elections is historically slightly lower than in general polls, the 66 per cent turnout (possibly 68 per cent by the time all the postals are accounted for) is incredibly low.
A futher 8.4 per cent of the people who did bother having their name ticked off the rolls voted informally. Again, uncommon.
The Victorian Electoral Commission’s records are only digitised as far back as a decade, but a spokesman for the VEC told The Punch this weekend’s turn out “is on the low side, and we will be conducting thorough research” as to why.
It’s not like nobody knew it was on. Both the ALP and the Greens bombarded the electorate with reading material. The Sex Party managed to get itself plenty of coverage.
The VEC did a huge awareness campaign. And media outlets all over the country covered the event as being relevant to the fortunes of the Prime Minister.
Some might blame the Liberal Party for failing to field a candidate. With Labor’s political fortunes in Canberra so publicly tied up with the Greens, any voter wishing to register a protest might have wondered how that was possible without a Coalition box to number 1.
Regardless it’s a dire situation for the ALP.
Given Labor had a lot to prove by retaining the seat and the Greens were very keen to win their first seat in the Victorian lower House, you would have thought their supporters would have turned up.
Based on the number of registered voters in Melbourne, the ALP managed to entice just 20% and the Greens 22% - numbers not too different to pretty much every opinion poll in the country right now.
Once people are given a real choice those keen to give the Government a kicking will be the ones more motivated to turn up at their local primary school on polling day.
Apathy will not be Labor’s friend.
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