No wonder so many people scribble penises on their ballots instead of actually voting for someone. They’re too big - as big as tablecloths (just splattered with the taste of democracy).
At the 2010 federal election, the NSW Senate ballot paper was just over a metre long. There were 84 candidates… but good luck finding them. The font size was just 8.5 point, much smaller than what you’re reading right now.
Millions had to contend with the unwieldy papers at that election. But things should be easier at the September 14 vote. The Government has quietly dealt with the issue.
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I’ve always thought compulsory voting was okay, because the government is going to raise money somehow and the fine for not voting is one of few revenue raising activities I know I can avoid.
I was surprised by the criticism of the Queensland Government’s discussion paper opening up the possibility of, amongst ten other possible reforms, voluntary voting. I had no idea how dearly so much of the Australian population treasured being forced to trundle down to the local school 3 times every 3-4 years to stuff a ballot box.
Granted, I had no hard statistical data to back my theory up. My hypothesis of the public’s opinion was merely a concoction of anecdotal evidence.
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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.
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Lined up at the voting booths before the last federal election, a guy in front of me loudly announced to his mate: “I’m just going to draw a gigantic cock on the paper.”
Opponents of compulsory voting tend to argue that’s not the only way people makes dicks of themselves with their ballot papers. You often hear people argue that compulsory voting forces people uninterested in politics to donkey vote or vote for who they like the most, rather than a party’s policies.
People like Anders Holmdahl, a South Australian resident who took his quibble with compulsory voting to the SA Supreme Court yesterday, have a problem with the fact that voting is defined as both a right and a duty in different parts of Australian law.
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In less than two weeks time, while the majority of Australians flock to the polls and cast their ballots, young people across the country will sit in silence, stripped of their democratic rights by our cumbersome and anachronistic electoral system.
Last Friday, the High Court overturned the Howard government’s 2006 changes to the Electoral Act. The amendments had resulted in the electoral roll being closed a matter of hours after the writs were issued.
In an action brought by political advocacy group GetUp!, the court held these changes to be unconstitutional, thereby restoring the original seven day grace period in which individuals may place themselves on the roll.
As a consequence, an estimated 100,000 additional Australians, predominately youth, are now able to take part in this year’s election.
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Rugby League star Jarryd Hayne made an interesting admission in this morning’s Daily Telegraph. Not only has the 22-year-old never voted, he did not know Kevin Rudd represented the Labor Party.
Hayne was spruiking a new campaign by the Australian Electoral Commission to get young people to enrol to vote, but he may have just done a big favour for the voluntary-voting brigade.
There were immediate suggestions on radio this morning that Hayne’s ignorance was simply indicative of his generation, and people who know and care so little don’t add much to our democracy by their forced participation. But that’s a cop out.
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Last year I had the honour of being elected to the Australian Parliament by the people of Mayo in South Australia. I was elected at a by-election following the retirement of Alexander Downer who had represented Mayo since its inception in 1984.
The by-election was hard fought with ten other candidates representing all political parties and a range of independent (with the exception being the Labor Party who chose not to run a candidate presumably because it is so ashamed of how it has treated the Lower Lakes, but that is another story…)
Something struck me during and following the campaign that I did not expect and that was the genuine lack of interest in participating in the election.
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