Everybody agrees: there are likely to be changes to the Electoral Act when the Government takes control of both houses. But what – and why? Perhaps the parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters should be reading Crikey as well as the submissions it’s received as part of its inquiry into the last election.

Our coverage of Antony Green’s musings on the reasons for the high informal vote (here ) continues to draw a response – because whether they care or not, informal voters could swing elections. One correspondent says the Parliamentary Library’s paper on the election shows a 5.2% national informal vote – and the high informal vote is being used by some politicians as an argument for the abolition of compulsory voting.

“What is it that suggests a high(er) informal vote demands such an abolition,” one subscriber writes. “Perhaps one should be somewhat sceptical of politicians who advocate the potential (voluntary) exclusion of voters? Who are they expecting not to vote? What benefit do they see in such an exclusion?” And goes on:

The rate of informal voting – and its recent apparent increase – could actually signal a number of possibilities such as a greater discrimination among voters who are no longer simply content to cast their vote for the usual mob. Or it could be indicative of the way in which the political parties are failing to connect with the electorate. We need to know more about the geography of informal voting – where and why are people not voting formally – before making such assertions. Are they (un)motivated by ignorance, apathy or antipathy?

Such a rate of informal voting should be a major concern to the political parties. Significantly, the proportion of the electorate casting informal votes is larger than many of the margins that have separated winning and losing in federal and state elections. These people could well have decided many elections had they actually made it to the polls and cast a valid vote. However, to counteract this rate of informal voting requires an understanding how it has come about – for what reasons are people not voting properly? A geography of informal voting could readily be mapped from these data, with the resulting patterns proving instructive.

Interesting idea. Any willing wonks out there?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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