How does Australia’s voting system work?


Praxius
Free Thinker
#1
How does Australia’s voting system work? | World news | theguardian.com (external - login to view)

Quote:

....To vote for an MP in your seat, you must fill out your ballot paper by numbering all the candidates in order of preference.

If you like the Labor candidate best, write 1 in their box. If you like the Greens second best, put them as no 2. You must number every candidate; if you do not, the vote becomes “informal” (spoiled) and does not count.

The major political parties produce “how to vote” cards recommending the order in which they think you should list the candidates. For example at this election the Liberal party have said they will advise their voters to put the Greens last. Voters do not have to follow these cards, but many do.

If any candidate gets 50% of the primary vote (the number of boxes marked 1) plus one, he or she is elected.

If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the other preferences on his or her ballot papers are redistributed to the other candidates. This continues until one candidate has 50% plus one, at which point he or she is elected for that seat.

Also, voting in Australia is Compulsory. If you do not show up to vote, you will be fined unless you have a valid reason. That doesn't mean you can't spoil your ballot though. You just need to be marked as showing up to vote.

Quote:

Voting is compulsory both at federal elections and at elections for the state and territory legislatures. In the states of South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia voting at local elections is not compulsory. About 5% of enrolled voters fail to vote at most elections. People in this situation are asked to explain their failure to vote. If no satisfactory reason is provided (for example, illness or religious prohibition), a fine of up to $170 is imposed, and failure to pay the fine may result in a court hearing.

Source:
Electoral system of Australia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (external - login to view)

Now going back to the first part of this post regarding how you vote for who and marking of preferences, etc.:

Quote:

What is the difference between two candidate preferred or two party preferred?

These are different terms, though they can often, but not always be interchanged. The term 'two candidate preferred' (TCP) refers to a distribution of preferences (votes) between two candidates who are expected to come first and second in the election. Often the two candidates for the TCP process will be from the ALP and the Coalition, but it could also be candidates from minor parties or independent candidates depending on who is expected to gain the majority of votes.

The term 'two party preferred' (TPP) refers to a distribution of preferences (votes) between the two major parties – the ALP and the Coalition (Liberal/National parties). This comparison is usually used to try to predict the possibilities of forming a government. It is a tool that examines the proportion of votes that will go to the major parties after all preferences have been taken into consideration.

Quote:

Why does the AEC conduct a full distribution of preferences where a candidate has won an absolute majority?
A distribution of preferences takes place in every division and is used to calculate the two party preferred statistics for divisions that have ALP and Coalition as the final two candidates. In divisions that do not have the ALP and Coalition as the final two candidates, a Scrutiny for Information is conducted to determine the two party preferred result. A scrutiny for Information in such cases is a notional distribution of preferences to find the results of preference flows to the ALP and Coalition candidates.

I asked my wife exactly how the hell any of this works and in a nutshell, she said that if I vote for a party that will have a minority of votes with no expected chance of winning and that party prefers one of the two main parties to win (that are expected to win) then you vote for that minority party then goes to the major party that they prefer.... which makes no damn sense to me, because that means the two main parties (Australian Labor Party & Coalition) will always win 1st and 2nd place.

It's all pretty damn convoluted for my simple Canadian brain, or am I missing something?

So for voting in Canada, you get something like this to fill out:


^ Mark in one with an X and only one.... done.

Here in Australia, you get this:


If you have to vote for a Senator:


Or if you have to vote for the Legislative Council:


So just as an outsider looking in, I figured I would share this information with other fellow outsiders and get your opinions on this democratic process.

Do you feel it is a better system than Canada's or the US's.... is it worse.... or is it about equal in pros and cons??
 
ScottM84
Republican
#2
As a political junkie that follows politics here in the U.S., in Canada, and in Australia closely, and has studied various voting systems, I'd say that first past the post and instant runoff both have advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of first past the post is that the single candidate that's preferred by the largest number of voters wins. It might not be a majority (or even close at times), but he or she is still the candidate with the largest number of "first preference" supporters.

Instant runoff has the advantage of electing the candidate who could be considered most acceptable to a majority of voters. In some cases, it may be from a fourth or fifth preference (or possibly even lower), but theoretically, the candidate is still somewhat palatable to voters.

Which is better? I don't have an answer to that. I think both are acceptable. What's not acceptable is the current Senate election procedure in Australia. Parties can work behind the scenes to manipulate preference flows in above the line voting, and few voters in the larger states are going to be willing to vote below the line. Who wants to rank 100+ candidates? To show how bad the system is, in Western Australia, a Senate candidate who got about 0.3% of first preferences was elected in last year's election. The vote was thrown out and a second vote was ordered due to missing ballots that could have swung a couple of seats, but regardless, I don't think that original vote could honestly be said to reflect the will of the people. I suspect it will be changed by the time 2016 rolls around, though.
 
WLDB
No Party Affiliation
#3
I much prefer their system and have for quite some time. FPTP was designed for two parties in the 19th century, at the very least it needs to be updated. It doesn't work well enough today. A party with as little as 38% of the vote should never get 100% of the power (whether its a party I favour or not). This system in Australia is not perfect but I think its far better than our own.
 
Praxius
Free Thinker
#4
Well I have spoken to a few people here over the last couple of years and while it seems a bit close to even, there seems to be a slight more people here who are opposed to mandatory voting, which I personally agree.

A democracy isn't a democracy when you're forced to vote in a democracy especially when none of the options thrown in your face match any of your own preferences. In a free society you should have the freedom to not voice yourself if you choose to do so.

The other problem I have is that if I did want to make a change from the main parties that are screwing things up and I want to vote for a new party to help them get closer to changing things to what I hypothetically think is for the better, if they are in the minority, my voice cast towards them is more irrelevant than it would be in Canada's system because my vote will most likely be transferred to one of the other parties I directly oppose. If I vote for a specific person or political party, I am voicing my democratic right, but then my democratic right is taken away and given to someone else I didn't want it to go to.

In the last few elections I did vote in while in Canada, with the above system, my vote for the NDP could have been shifted to the Conservatives.... or the Liberals.... which then would have meant that they continue to run things as they always have done. With Canada's current system (which still isn't perfect) the Liberals were punished in both the elections with Dion and even worse with Iggy and Layton & the NDP, for the first time, were able to reach opposition status. How would that have gone down if the Australian system was in place?

Even if the NDP get tossed back into 3rd place in the next federal election, it at least showed the Conservatives and Liberals that the same status quo won't continue to work and their positions as being 1st & 2nd are not guaranteed. At the very least, maybe they'll step up their game and try a bit harder to focus on what the people want and have some decent platforms people can vote for.

Personally speaking, it's unfortunate that we haven't been able to see what Layton could have done as opposition leader through this whole time and I fear that the NDP's chances of remaining a viable alternative died with him. He had an identity, a character, he knew how to speak to the public and hit the targets people wanted to talk about..... Mulcair just can't pull off what Layton could..... at least not in the same way.

Secondly, the main political parties influence your vote by handing out "How to Vote" cards, which basically "suggest" who you should vote for an in what order you should vote for for their best interests. Political Attack Ads and such on the radio and TV are one thing, but handing out things instructing you how you should be voting and who you should write in what order is just wrong.

As noted above:

Quote:

Voters do not have to follow these cards, but many do.

Many do, probably because most of these voters who are forced to go to the polls don't care & can't be bothered to think for themselves, so they just do as instructed in order to get it over with.

With such a system, the two main political parties would just trade back and forth between elections and have no real risk to worry about, thus can do whatever they hell they want with little risk to them losing their positions..... much like what has commonly happened in both Canada and the US with two main party systems, but this system seems to compound the problem even further.

I do like the "List the order of preferred candidates" they have going where you can put the party you hate the most at the very bottom, but the way this system works (to my understanding) kind of makes such a thing irrelevant.
Last edited by Praxius; May 20th, 2014 at 12:56 AM..
 
ScottM84
Republican
#5
I agree with you on compulsory voting. I'm not in favor of that either. I know people claim it has the advantage of reflecting the will of the entire electorate, but even if you dismiss the fact that it's taking away the right to make a statement by not voting (something I can't dismiss), is it really worth the inevitable tradeoff? Someone who is voting simply because it's mandatory isn't going to be informed. I'd never take someone's right to vote away over that, but personally, I'd rather an uninformed voter just stay home. The thought that they could cancel out my researched, informed opinion is rather disturbing.

That said, I vote every time the polls are open. I love participating in the electoral process, and I do look at it as somewhat of a civic duty, but I wouldn't like being told that I had to vote, whether I liked it or not.
 
damngrumpy
No Party Affiliation
+1
#6  Top Rated Post
Preferential balloting has been around forever we had it in BC prior to 1952 when WAC Bennett
got rid of it. The problem is you elect people you never intended to get. Plumping becomes the
order of the day. If we had that system I would plump. I would mark only one name on the ballot
That way depriving other candidates from beating the one I want.
I view and election as a civil war without guns. If I were a Tory or a Liberal or a New Democrat
why would I put a second vote on the ballot risking having someone else other than my choice
being elected?
The changing of a system will not change anything. What is needed is people who are competent
to run for office that is the solution. Secondly the voters have to be able to understand what they
are voting for all too often that is not the case
 
JLM
No Party Affiliation
#7
Quote: Originally Posted by ScottM84View Post

I agree with you on compulsory voting. I'm not in favor of that either. I know people claim it has the advantage of reflecting the will of the entire electorate, but even if you dismiss the fact that it's taking away the right to make a statement by not voting (something I can't dismiss), is it really worth the inevitable tradeoff? Someone who is voting simply because it's mandatory isn't going to be informed. I'd never take someone's right to vote away over that, but personally, I'd rather an uninformed voter just stay home. The thought that they could cancel out my researched, informed opinion is rather disturbing.

That said, I vote every time the polls are open. I love participating in the electoral process, and I do look at it as somewhat of a civic duty, but I wouldn't like being told that I had to vote, whether I liked it or not.


Compulsory voting is stupid, it's bad enough having people vote who think they know about all the candidates and issues without having those who know bloody well they are totally ignorant on the subject and don't care about it anyway vote.
 
BornRuff
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by damngrumpyView Post

I view and election as a civil war without guns. If I were a Tory or a Liberal or a New Democratwhy would I put a second vote on the ballot risking having someone else other than my choice being elected?

The idea would be that if the person you like doesn't have enough to win, you have a better chance at getting your second best option.

It also prevents people who only appeal to a portion of voters from being elected. It forces politicians to be more conciliatory and hurts those who practice divisive politics.

For example, in Toronto, Rob Ford could never be elected in a ranked ballot election, but he has some chance at getting elected under the first past the post system.
 
Praxius
Free Thinker
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by damngrumpyView Post

If we had that system I would plump. I would mark only one name on the ballot
That way depriving other candidates from beating the one I want.

The problem with that in the Australian System is that you must fill out all sections of the ballot and properly or your ballot is spoiled and not counted.... then your preferred guy doesn't get a chance to have your vote at all.

Plumping is not possible as the names of the other candidates are already noted on the ballot with a box beside each for you to mark numbers in. Doing anything beyond marking the numbers on the ballot and doing it properly will spoil the ballot.
 

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