An analysis of the informal vote around the country using the figures published in The Sunday Age:

Generally ALP held seats (often safe seats) have the highest proportion of informal votes. Seats such as Chifley (NSW), Prospect (NSW), Reid (NSW), Watson (NSW), Werriwa (NSW) and Port Adelaide (SA) seem to have a chronic informal voting affliction. More on why later.

Informal votes are of two types. Deliberate and erroneous. Deliberate informal voting is a protest. There were clear spikes this year in informal voting in Kingsford-Smith – a protest against the Peter – and another in Parramatta – a protest against the Poker!

And Greenway … my brother and his wife live in that seat. I know it well. I remember the Windsor Road when it was a thin ribbon of pot-holed asphalt. I played under 7s for the Hills Bulls well before Crestwood Oval was surrounded by McMansions. Now my brother owns not one but two of these overblown doll’s houses and he rents one to five Hillsong ‘students’. Yet I’m confident he’d never vote for a religious fruitcake, even in Liberal colours. He’d make money from them sure, but give them power – never. How many would have felt this way? Well, at least 10% of the votes might have, and yet couldn’t bring themselves to vote ALP (probably for racist anti-Muslim reasons, sad to say). So this 10% voted 1 for informal and 2 for informal etc etc.

There are many reasons for erroneous completion of the ballot paper, chief among these are illiteracy and confusion. Part of the issue is high ESL populations in these seats.

I think the ALP has not done enough to present the options to these populations in a language and manner that resonates with them. The ALP probably doesn’t worry too much about these folk because the seat is usually safe even without their vote, but in Reid it is more than 10% of the total voting population.

On the other hand, the lowest proportions of informal vote seem to come from ‘sophisticated’ seats (with a city based, more highly educated population or a regional population highly mobilised by an exceptional sitting member).

By the way I think that this election’s drop in Democrat vote roughly translates to the rise in Green vote and some of the rise in the Liberal vote. The drop in One Nation vote translates almost directly to Family First. Some Labor voters swung to Greens and a small number (fearful in their McMansions) swung to the Liberals.

Some other Labor voters clearly protested with an informal vote.

There is time now (three or fours years) to knock on doors and help people take a formal role in the next election. Who will knock first?


Reader feedback:

Read with interest Craig Rowley’s article of 12 October about informal voting around the country. Could the fact that the ten seats with the highest level of informal voting were all in NSW be a result of NSW State elections using optional preferential voting (where every box does not havve to be numbered)? Maybe voters think they can just number the first few candidates in Federal elections, as per the State.

Ryan in Perth


Optional and preferential voting in NSW is obviously causing confusion. In the booth I scutineered in Woolgoolga- seat of Cowper- 149 informal votes- 45 were marked 1 only for the Nationals candidate and 23 for the Labor candidate. Is this a growing trend with State campaign increasingly favouring vote 1 strategy- how many are being disenfranchised?

Melinda Pavey MLC