Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why leave it blank?

In his 60 Minutes piece, Mark Latham has urged voters to vote informal, saying;

When it comes to good ideas for Australia's future, Gillard and Abbott have given the voters a blank piece of paper. I say let's give them a blank piece of paper in return. They say voting is compulsory in Australia, but it's not compulsory to fill out the ballot paper. You can put it straight into the ballot box totally blank - that's what I'll be doing next Saturday, and I urge you to do the same. It's the ultimate protest vote.

His critique of the election and how the parties and the leaders have presented themselves has some merit. However, his solution is deficient and devoid of logic.

Firstly, if you want to encourage an informal vote encourage people to number the squares incorrectly not leave it blank. Thankfully in most polling booths where it matters there are enough party scrutineers to ensure that an unscrupulous polling official couldn't put numbers on an otherwise blank ballot paper - but why leave the opportunity?

Secondly, there is no way for the major parties to interpret an informal vote as a protest vote. A real protest vote would number every square to make a formal vote and put the major parties last.

Thirdly, as some commentators have rightly noted, once you decide to vote informal you should bloody well shut up for the next three years - you've lost your right to complain about it

Finally, the real correct response is to get active, a point well made by Natasha Stott-Despoja.. Go join a political party and try to make a difference. Don't come complaining that they are dominated by unions/factions/big business or anything else. There is always an option for action. And narrow single issue parties like the sex/pirate/greens just don't cut it. Worse is to imagine that involvement with lobby groups like "GetUp" make a difference.

Note: Encouraging people to vote wisely is not helped by commentators like Paul Sheehan who display their own inadequate understanding of our voting system. He wrote as one of "six gut issues working for Labor":

The Greens. As if the Greens would ever do a preference deal with the Liberals. The Greens' preference agreement with Labor, plus compulsory preferential voting, means a vote for the Greens in an election for the House of Representatives can serve as a protest vote against Labor but still end up as a vote for Labor.

Preference deals have some meaning in the Senate where the above the line vote follows the registered party ticket. But in the HoR the voter still has to number every square. And most Green voters don't see a poll worker handing out an HTV anyway! The reson most Greens voters will preference Labor has nothing to do with preference deals - how could a person vote Green - presumably believing in anthropogenic climate change - preference a party whose leader says it is "crap" and is singly most identified with his opposition to putting a price on carbon?

For anyone voting just remember the bulk of your preferences really don't matter - what counts is the order you put the coalition and the ALP on your ballot.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The other thing to do is to vote strategically - whatever party is likely to win your seat, vote for the other guy - make your seat more marginal - i.e. more valuable ...