Informal voting:

David Havyatt writes: Re. “Possum Comitatus: analysing the informal vote” (yesterday, item 4). It is claimed that “Over the last 30 years or so, probably longer, the size and distribution of the informal vote that we see at every election can be largely explained by a handful of variables.”

The model provided has an R-squared of merely 0.546340. In other words only a bit over half the variation is explained by these variables. And this only explains the variation between seats, not between elections.

It may be a useful model to normalize the data before making inter year comparisons, but doesn’t really explain the vote this time.

Robyn Deane writes: Re. “Crikey Clarifier: the history of the informal vote in Australia” (yesterday, item 12). One thing not mentioned is the literacy rate in Australia. I heard a commentator on Brisbane’s ABC radio yesterday morning say 14% were functionally illiterate.

I may have misheard, but if that is so, it is a wonder the informal vote isn’t higher. I am in favour of optional preferential voting, especially when there are a lot of candidates.

There is then less likely to be errors made and some voters prefer not to vote for certain candidates, be they from a major party or not.

Chris Heath writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey published:

“I worked at a polling booth for the 2004 federal election and again on the weekend. Difference in the informals: 2004 was mostly donkey votes, while this year was mostly blank papers.”

Your tipster claims that in 2004 most informals were donkey votes, but in 2010 most were blank ballot papers … problem here is a donkey vote is a FORMAL vote (i.e. a vote where the boxes are marked consecutively down the page).

I don’t know what he/she is meaning but it is not a donkey vote. (Incidentally most informal votes in my polling booth at this election were blank ballot papers also, but that’s most often the case.)

I am getting more than a little frustrated by the MSM not understanding our voting system either – reference all the MSM outlets that advertised “Latham calls for donkey vote”, far too many people in powerful positions don’t understand basic electoral terminology…

Monash Student Association:

Sean Gleeson writes: Re. “Monash student politicians turn feral over dirty tactics” (yesterday, item 14).  In 2009 I was an office-bearer at the Monash Student Association, elected to edit Lot’s Wife.

As invariably happens in student politics, my year ended in acrimony and bruised egos. I can’t say there’s any love lost between me and Go!, the firmly entrenched Labor Left clique that helped me get elected in the first place — something Ms. O’Dwyer will confirm if she chooses to respond to your article.

That said, I can’t abide Mr. Kunstler’s righteous indignation over the misuse of feeder tickets in the forthcoming MSA election. Mr. Kunstler may recall that his Liberal/Labor Unity marriage of convenience, Connect, tried to maximise their National Union of Students delegate vote in last year’s elections through the use of such sterling feeder tickets as “F-ck Off Malcolm Turnbull”, “F-ck Off Kevin Rudd”, and even the “Free Parking” ticket which Crook now deems part of “an attempt to dupe voters via a preference scam”.

Crook notes Gavin Ryan’s involvement as Returning Officer and suggests insidious reasons for the replacement of the estimable Greens psephologist Steve Luntz. From memory, Steve Luntz’s company Above Quota Elections tendered significantly higher to run the 2009 MSA elections than the $32k that Ryan has asked for. It would be reasonable to assume that for an organisation struggling with finances after the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism, any attempts to cut overhead would be welcomed.

While we’ve got our Occam’s Razor out, note that Crook suggests a conflict of interest regarding Ryan’s Labor Left affiliations but makes no mention of the fact that the last MSA election which Mr. Luntz presided over had Greens candidates, nor does he postulate that Mr. Luntz may have been too busy with the Federal election to act as the MSA’s Returning Officer.

As ever, I’m dismayed that union officials are too busy playing silly buggers to serve the students they were elected to represent, and that federal politicians have nothing better to do than act as their enablers. Nonetheless, no-one who has had even a fleeting involvement with student politics will be the least bit surprised. If Mr. Kunstler really thinks he and his ilk can do better, he might try putting together a sharper campaign pitch than opening a Nando’s in the Campus Centre this time round. I hear “Axe the Tax” tested well with the Commerce students.

Social networks:

Tim Deyzel writes: Re. “Come in Spinner: the next big thing” (yesterday, item 18). In yesterday’s edition Noel Turnbull refers to “The Tipping Point, Duncan Watts’ work on social networks”. He’s garbled his books. The Tipping Point is by Malcolm Gladwell. Watts’ defining tome is Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age.