Langer vote

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A Langer vote is a vote in the Australian electoral system designed to avoid allocating preferences to unwanted candidates. It was widely publicised by Albert Langer,[1] an Australian political activist, as a means of limiting votes to the voter's preferred parties, and thus avoiding the statutory instruction to mark the ballot paper by indicating a valid ranking of preferences to all other parties and candidates.

Voters were advised to mark 1, 2, . .n, for favoured candidates, but to mark a repetition of the next digit against each of the remaining candidates. For example, a vote would be marked 1, 2, 3, 3, 3. The votes for the first and second candidates would be counted but the remaining candidates would then not receive preferences. At the time, this was widely understood to constitute a valid vote.[2] Had this view been upheld, voters could avail themselves de facto of Optional Preferential Voting, which the prevailing system was designed to exclude.

The Langer voting method was made invalid by amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act on July 17, 1998. A Langer vote is now classed as an "informal" (invalid) vote.

The treatment of ‘Langer-style’ votes changed in 1998. Langer-style ballots are typically numbered so that, at a point chosen by the elector, the preferences stop or begin to repeat (for example, 1, 2, 3, 3, 3. . .). Before 1998, such ballots were counted up to the point that the numbering stopped or became non-consecutive, and were then classified as exhausted. Until 1993, the number of Langer-style votes was small, but in 1996 there was a considerable increase. It is possible this was due to the well-publicised court action against Albert Langer. Since legislative change in 1998, Langer-style votes have been counted as informal, and their number has declined considerably.[3]

Vote saving[edit]

In order to "save" votes, a small number of errors are permitted on the larger Senate ballot papers.[4] Paragraph 21 notes that:

An example would be a ballot paper with 18 candidates on which the voter numbers all of the squares but repeats the number 16 or leaves out the number 16. In this case, the ballot paper will not be informal (that is, it will not be rejected from the scrutiny entirely), but only the preferences from 1 to 15 can be used in the scrutiny.

Provided that Section 270 of the act[5] is complied with, a voter can number all squares (or all squares but one), starting with 1, containing a minor error that will limit the allocation of preferences but not render the ballot informal. This allows a person to effect a Langer-style vote by numbering the ballot paper (say) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10... (5, 6, 7 replaced by 5, 5, 7). In this case, the voter's preferences up to position 4 would be distributed before the vote was exhausted.

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