I use this blog as a soap box to preach (ahem... to talk :-) about subjects that interest me.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Australian Federal Elections

This morning I went to vote.

The Australian Federal Parliament consists of two houses: the House of Representative, with 150 members, and the Senate, with 76 members.

There are two major political blocks, the Australian Labor Party (the ALP) and the coalition of two conservative parties (the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia, which in Queensland have actually merged into the Liberal National Party of Queensland).  The third largest party is The Australian Greens.

As the Representatives are elected for three years in 150 electoral divisions, it is difficult for members of groupings other the ALP and the Coalition to get elected.  In 2010, at the last elections, only five independents and one Green were elected to the House of Representatives.

The things are more complicated with the Senate.  There are twelve Senators for each state elected every six years, plus two senators for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and two for the Northern Territory elected every three years.  Half of the six-year senators plus the four three-year senators are elected together with the representatives.  Because of the size of the electorates, the minor parties and the independents can more easily get elected than in the House of Representatives.  In the current Senate, there are nine Greens senators and three senators not belonging to either of the two major groupings.

I live in the ACT in the electoral division of Fraser.

The ballot paper to elect my Representative for the next three years had a list of seven candidates.  To vote, I had to number all the candidates in order of preference, from 1 to 7.  That was no so bad.

But the ballot paper to elect my two senators for the next three years had a list of 27 (yes, 27) names, with 13 parties with two names each plus one independent. Now, you can vote for the Senate in two ways: either you write a 1 beside your preferred party or you "grade" all candidates.

This is not nice.  I would have liked to be able to give my preference to more than one party but deny my preference to some of the parties.  Unreasonably, this is not possible when voting for the Australian Senate: either you choose one party (and that party passes it on to parties of their choice if they cannot use it) or you give a preference to all candidates (including the parties you hate, which might then get your preference).

My best solution was to give the top four preferences to the Greens and the ALP and my bottom two preferences to the Liberals (with the last one, number 27, to the top Liberal candidate).  Then, I assigned the preferences 5 to 25 to the remaining candidated from left to right and from top to bottom, without even checking who they were.  After all, I know that the two senators will be elected among the top candidates of Greens, ALP, and Liberals.  The ALP candidate, Kate Lundy, most likely, and the Greens candidate, Simon Sheikh, hopefully.  Simon has a chance, although both the ALP and the Liberals have advised their voters to place the Greens below their main opponent, which is nonsensical, especially for the ALP.

Ther other thing that I don't like in the Australian elections is that no proper identification of the voters is done.  Imagine: you are not asked to show any form of identification!  When you go to collect the ballot paper, you state your name and address.  If that combination is in the big book containing the list of all registered voters, you are asked whether you have already voted somewhere else.  If you answer "no", you get your ballot paper and vote.

This is simply ridiculous.  I don't suggest that we dip a finger in indelible ink like in many thirld-world countries, but, at the very least, we should show our driver's licence.

In any case, even if we were required to prove our identity, who's going to check whether our name was ticked in two different big books (actually, I'm not even sure that they tick anything)?  What would prevent me to go several times to vote in different voting places?  In this day and age (don't you just love clich├ęs?), anything short of flagging your name in a centralised database and in real time is simply not good enough.

And why do we still have to use pencil and paper?  When are we going to vote electronically at the federal elections?  Actually, I would like to be able to vote from home, with my identity proven via an electronic certificate.  Come on!

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