Saturday, December 11, 2010

Optional Preferential ballot paper. VEC Instructions misleading

The instructions on Victoria's upper-house ballot paper may have mislead voters by encouraging voters to not complete all of the below the line preference data.  This may end up effecting the outcome of Western Metropolitan Region

The instructions for below-the-line voting encourages voters to just place the numbers 1-5 in the boxes below.  This minimises the effectiveness and value of the voter's ballot as many below-the-line votes will exhaust and end up on the Votes-without-value pile.

Instead of advising voters to place the number 1 to 5 to indicate the candidate of your choice the VEC should have said "Indicate in order of preference a minimum of 5 candidates of your choice.  In order to maximise your vote you should number each square sequentially in the order of your choice corresponding to each candidate" or something similar.

The instructions given give the impression that you should only number 5 boxes.

There is no logic to support placing a minimum number of five on a ballot paper.  If your going to adopt optional preferential you might as well introduce optional voting as opposed to compulsory voter registration.

Many parties, knowing that they could not elect all, nominate five candidates per group.  This not only has the effect of inflating the number of candidates but it also devalues the vote as many voters will just choose the group they wish to support and their vote will stop there and never go beyond. This has the effect of turning our preferential voting system into a de-facto party list system

If we are to continue to maintain an optional preferential ballot then we will have to consider adopting a reiterative counting system, such as the Wright system, that takes into consideration exhausted ballots and recalculates the quota on each iteration. A reiterative counting system would do way with the distortion that arises from the segmentation of the ballot and more accurately reflect the voters intentions.  On exclusion of candidates from the count the ballot is reset and votes distributed as if the excluded candidate(s) had not stood.  Each iteration will only include distribution of primary votes and surplus votes.  The process of iteration continues until all vacant positions are elected in a single iteration. One transaction per candidate. One vote one value.


jmd said...

The Ballot does not advise "voters to place the number 1 to 5", but rather correctly instructs us to "place the numbers 1 to AT LEAST 5".

The meaning is clear, and it is up to each of us to vote accordingly, or ask clarification questions at the voting booth.

If we REALLY want to improve the system to reflect each VOTER'S intention, the first thing that should go is the 'above the line' section!

OCDev said...

It would be better if it said "number each square, with a minimum of 5 in order of your preference" If you wish to maximise your vote then you should number each square, Anything that encourages a voter to only fill in 5 squares is misleading.

democracyATwork said...

I am not a great fan of above-the-line. It allows parties like Sex party to exert influence by directing voters preferences. There is justification for an option to preference all groups above the line. I had previously made a submission to this effect but the parliament failed to act on it. Others have since also made similar suggestions.

The AEC was the one that encouraged the notion of above-the-line voting mainly to assist in the counting of the ballot. Most people that voted above the line followed the party's how-to-vote. It was on this basis that they argued justified the above-the-line voting system as a means of allowing the AEC to quickly identify party votes.

I agree that the statement on the ballot paper should be more positive towards a voter numbering every square. A simple statement like "In order to maximise you vote you should number each square in order of your preference" would be beneficial. optional preferential is not a good idea.

If we did away with above-the-line voting and kept optional preferential voting then we might as well have a party list system and just choose the party of your choice was recommended by Dr William Bowie.

The Greens run five candidates but they have no hope of electing any more then two. The main reason Family First and Sex Party did not field a full list of five candidates is that they do not want to lose their deposit. The Greens do so knowing they will get it back. Not sure why the DLP ran all five.

We could abolish above the line voting and revert back to full preferential voting if we increased the nomination deposit and refunded it only on the basis of one candidates' deposit for every 4% of the vote. This would certainly reduce the number of feeder candidates/parties that run.

The other thing we must look at is implementing a reiterative counting system. It is not difficult. It would take the computer a little longer to count the result but the outcome would be more accurate.

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