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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A failure of the democratic process.

Exhausted votes are a failure of the democratic process - but you will not find an elected Politician who agrees with me.

Many people criticise others who vote informally, or "spoil their ballot papers", but there were only 890 of them. A far greater proportion of people cast votes which are equally meaningless, and futile. But I suspect that most of them do not realise that they may as well have stayed at home - for the way in which they voted counted for nothing. The situation as at Wednesday evening, 29 March is that, in the Seat of Goulburn, 5345 people who voted formally (legitimately) for a candidate, did not bother to vote "down the ticket" to tick a second or a third preference. Their votes are officially worthless, and discarded - in the name of democracy.

The Greens Party had recommended to their supporters that they give their second preference to Paul Stephenson. The Labor party did the same. If all the voters for those parties had followed that suggestion, then Paul Stephenson would be the new Member for Goulburn today. Instead, Pru Goward is ahead by a very slender margin. Now that is a legitimate result (although it is not yet a "final result") - but is it the result intended by the voters?

My point is, that it is not the outcome which would have occurred, if people had understood the desirability of completing their ballot papers at least to the extent of a second, or a third preference, in order for their votes to mean anything. In other words, if people, having bothered to turn up to vote, had completed their ballot papers to the extend of ticking two or three boxes, not just the bare minimum of one box, then their votes would mean something. As it is, these 5345 voters wasted their time and effort. How hard is it to tick two or even three boxes?

On paper, Stephenson's primary vote, plus greens, plus ALP should have given him 18536, in which case he would be the new Member for Goulburn, with a comfortable majority of 53.85%. As it is, Pru Goward, for the Liberals stands ready to be elected on a mere 16612 votes. Stephenson is languishing behind on16290 votes - some 2246 votes less than he ought have tallied, if people had bothered to vote "competently". A mere 322 votes stand between them. But one single vote is enough to decide the future of this seat.

Those 5345 people might as well not have voted - for their votes for minor parties have been wasted, discarded, in the name of democracy.

As this cartoon suggests, this process is so good we kill people to demonstrate how good it is to have the right to vote. The caption is in French, but it is easy to work out.
Examine the drawing in detail and you will get the point.
(Click on the image to enlarge it).


Vive la démocratie.


Miss Eagle said...

The solution to your gripe would be to emulate Peter Beattie in Qld and introduce optional preferential voting. You can just tick one box in Qld state elections and your vote is valid. You can express a preference if you wish. Surprising though is the number of Labor voters voting Green and only ticking one box!

Anonymous said...

i take it your guy did not get up.

australia is not a democracy. there are no democractic processes here.

the processes of democracy are three:

direct election of officers.
public conduct of public business
primacy of citizen initiated referendum.

these processes arise from the meaning of 'democracy': the people rule. the processes are necessary to the rule of the people.

none of this happens here.

consequently, when ozzies say "undemocratic", i respond: "of course,how could it be otherwise?"

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Brigid
Unfortunately, you missed my point. We do have optional preferential voting, and that serves the big parties, by making it easy for the preferences of the voters for the small parties and independents to fall by the wayside. Which is what happened. Goward got elected because the Greens and Labor did not bother to vote down the ticket.

As for the second comment (by Anonymous) you are probably correct about your assessment of the lack of democracy in Australia. However, I am wary of the "citizen intiated referendum" issue, simply because it has been championed in Australia by far-right groups, who are often anti-democratic (in practice), while championing what sounds like a democratic cause. As I say, I am wary of the issue, while it sounds good in principle.
Thanks for the comments.