Talk:Electoral system of Australia

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Section Nominations[edit]

In section Nominations, there is a mistake in the Senate candidates deposit. The deposit amount for senate candidates is $1000, and not $100 as is written on the page. I will leave it up to the author who edits the page to correct it.

--Tmsener (talk) 10:46, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

Compulsary voting[edit]

I heard that in order to avoid voting with the compulsary voting system is to simply spoil one's ballot - that way your name is crossed off, you place your ballot in the box, but you haven't voted. Is this true? Otherwise it would seem to me that checking someone has: 1) had their name crossed off the register, 2) placed their ballot in the box , 3) placed an 'x' in a given box; means that their vote would not be secret.

Answer to above anonymous question: A spoiled vote, as you describe above is what's called an informal vote, and of course does not count towards any candidates votes, but does get the voter off the hook so far as their voting obligations goes. In Australia we have secret voting. Once a voters name and details is found on the roll, they're given two voting papers (ballots). One a green smaller paper with the divisional candidates, and another white long sheet of paper with the senate candidates. The voter then takes these with him/her to a booth where s/he can secretly number the candidates according to their preference. Or, as you suggested, spoil the vote. Every year, about 5% of voters either mistakenly, or deliberately cast informal votes.

--Tmsener (talk) 10:46, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:05, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

the desciption of the counting process is far too simple to give an accurate description.

Given the amount of polling booths in each electorate, there may be the perception that the following 'The count is conducted by officers of the Australian Electoral Commission, watched by nominated volunteer observers from the political parties, called scrutineers. If one of the candidates has more than 50% of the vote, then she or he is declared elected' can mean that a declaration of a winner is possible by this group Andrewseyfang 03:20, 11 September 2007 (UTC)andrewseyfang

An excellent entry, Adam: clear, precise, unbiased and readable. I look forward to seeing it completed. Tannin

"The voter is also free to place the ballot paper in the ballot box unmarked, or with a rude remark written on it. This is called informal voting."

Writing rude remarks do not make votes informal.

I meant to convey that the vote is informal if only a rude remark is written on it. Dr Adam Carr 07:04, 23 Sep 2003 (UTC)
A vote is also informal if the presiding officer believes the writing on it could identify the voter, e.g. name, address, phone, email, etc. --ajdlinux 22:39, 7 January 2006 (UTC)

I think a campaign to write "NO DAMS" on ballots at a Tasmanian (Bass?) bielection in the early 80's help convince the ALP to adopt a policy of preventing the Franklin Dam and that these votes were still counted.

Pwd 06:24, 23 Sep 2003 (UTC)

This tactic was used twice:

1. At the 1981 (I think) referendum held by the Tasmanian government which asked the voters to choose between two dams. Those who didn't want either dam wrote NO DAMS. These votes were informal because the voters refused to express a choice between the two options given. 2. At the 1983 federal election the No Dams people urged their supporters to write NO DAMS on their ballots. These votes were formal provided the numbers were filled in correctly. Dr Adam Carr 07:04, 23 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Could you change the wording so it is clear that writing on ballot papers does not make them informal?

This is getting of the topic, but according to the [parlimentary website] many of the referendum ballots with NO DAMS written on them still expressed a preference. These were initially deemed informal, but then counted as formal after legal advice!

I looked at your website, Dr Adam Carr, and I see that the Bass Bielection was in 1975! What was I thinking?

Pwd 23:59, 23 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Preferential voting is the Australian expression for what is called elsewhere the single transferable vote (STV) or instant runoff voting (IRV). These terms are not widely known by Australians, who tend to assume that Australia is the only country in the world where this voting method is known, let alone used.

I love this dig at Australian ignorance :) PMA 10:28, Dec 23, 2003 (UTC)

Very nice page[edit]

I hope I wasn't being presumptuous in making a couple of changes (I was surprised they worked!)- Wills byelection was in 1992 (Hawke got the flick in December 1991) and preferential voting first used in 1919 (100% sure about first but only 90% on second).

Presumptuous? Indeed not! Being able to update pages in wikipedia is part of the whole point. Please help us correct and improve wikipedia whenever and whereever you can. Thanks! --Lexor|Talk 02:53, 17 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Great article! Al

Terminology of Preferential Voting.[edit]

A new heading is required to explain such things as "Two-party preferred", "How-to-vote card", "Distribution of preferences", etc. 00:55, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

No it isn't. All the terms which are relevant to the topic are already explained in the text. Terms such as "protest vote" are not relevant to the topic, they are political not electoral. I have deleted the section and clarified some of the terms in the text. Adam 12:14, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Compulsory to be marked off, or compulsory to vote?[edit]

I've heard "it's not compulsory to vote, only to get your name checked off the electoral roll" from many people. However, none of them so far have offered a cite for this claim; "hard to prosecute" doesn't mean "legal".

The Electoral Act[1] is quite clear: "It shall be the duty of every elector to vote at each election." It repeatedly refers thereafter to "failure to vote" in the regulations concerning punishment for non-voting.

AFAICT, the confusion arises from other portions of the Act which note that failure to get marked off the rolls can be considered as evidence of failure to vote (and in practice, that's the usual form of evidence). However, I'm yet to see anything saying that this is the *only* form of evidence that would be accepted.

If I walk in, get my name checked off, tear up the ballot I'm given in front of the officials and other witnesses, then sign a stat dec. confirming that I did not vote... it seems to me that I could well and truly be fined under section 245. --Calair 02:44, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

The counter example to this claim would be the electoral system in the ACT - specifically electronic voting. You are allowed by the computer programme to cast an invalid vote, or even submit a "blank" ballot (ie no vote cast), although it will apparently try to gently persuade you to actually vote formal. This would suggest something greater than mere acceptance of something that is hard to prevent, and at least a pseudo-legality to informal voting in the ACT.

--Jlsa 14:05, 12 May 2005 (UTC)

There is no system in place for people who have their names marked off the roll and then tear up the ballot paper. If such a thing was witnessed by an electoral officer, the persons name would not then be "unmarked' from the roll (if they could even remember the persons name by that point, given thousands of people move through each polling booth), therefore they would not receive a Failure to Vote notice. - drewga —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:29, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

If you take the effort to get your name marked off, they do not care if you voted or not. plus there would be no eveidence that you put in a blank ballot, except someones word, somehow i dont think they care enough to prosecute with such flimsy evidence. Phil Ian Manning (talk) 01:14, 11 February 2011 (UTC)

Ballot Access?[edit]

When did we start using the term "ballot access" in Australia? - Aaron Hill 02:12, Oct 8, 2004 (UTC)

  • Never, and I have been reverting the use of this term as often as it appears.
  • On the above discussion, the law is quite clear that it is compulsory to vote, not just to turn up at a polling station. The polling officials cannot prevent people casting blank ballots, and probably cannot stop a person putting the ballot in the bin rather than in the ballot box. But they would probably mark such a person as having not voted. Adam 07:08, 8 Oct 2004 (UTC)
How would they know who that person was ?Eregli bob (talk) 02:01, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

Abolition of compulsory voting[edit]

"Occasionally conservative politicians or libertarian intellectuals argue for the abolition of compulsory voting on philosophical grounds, but no government has ever attempted to abolish it."

I thought I remember being pleased the Australian Democrats voted with the opposition to block something like this during the Howard government. I'll do a Google and Hansard search soonish... Mark Hurd 02:44, 9 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I am pretty certain that no government has ever introduced a bill to abolish compulsory voting. I am quite certain that the Howard government has not done so. Adam 06:25, 9 Oct 2004 (UTC)

(18 months later) It was in SA:
See here after Table 3:
"In 1994, Liberal Government legislation was blocked in the Legislative Council by the Labor and Australian Democrat parties."
The House of Assembly accepts it (Adjourned debate continues from 1/3rd down the page to the end of the page -- corresponding to 10:43PM!)
The Legislative Council rejects it (PDF->HTML via Google) (on page 84)
Mark Hurd 06:08, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

"I am pretty certain that no government has ever introduced a bill to abolish compulsory voting" I consider this highly innapropriate. I hate John Howard and beleive that "the People of Ausralia" should do so. Within Australian borders, I take offense to opposion of compulsory voting. For a good example, if I were a school teacher and a student made such comments about the law, I would send them straight to their head of year (there is no Article by this name, there probaly should be). Since the Australian Constitution does not guarantee 'free speech' (especially not in its American form), I feel I have a right to this. Myrtone (the strict Australian wikipedian)

Wikipedia isn't here to tell people how things *should* work, though, only how they *do*. --Calair 02:42, 20 February 2006 (UTC)
Neither is it here to tell people who they should hate, whether they are Australians or not. Neither is it "within Australian borders"; its servers are in several places, but primarily in Florida, USA; its editors are all over the world. And I'm glad I never attended a school where I was subject to discipline for my political beliefs, as you apparently think it's proper for schoolteachers to do. *Dan T.* 22:00, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

"Wikipedia isn't here to tell people how things *should* work, though, only how they *do*" I have always thought of that as applying to "articles." But this is not an "article" but a discussion on it, I have often assumend that many policys that apply to "articles" do no apply to 'talks'.Myrtone (the strict Australian wikipedian)(talk) | test | contributions|

Failed FAC nomination[edit]

Quoting Ta bu shi da yu: "Basically, this is an excellent piece of writing. It was written from a highly accomplished author, Adam Carr, and is quite NPOV". It's also relevant considering the recent Australian election, which is nominated for featured status below. - Aaron Hill 08:34, Oct 15, 2004 (UTC)

  • Object for now. The lead section should summarise in broad terms the content of the article and references need to be made explicit. Filiocht 11:03, Oct 15, 2004 (UTC)
  • Object 1) Lead section too short, not a summary. 2) No references. 3) The image has no source/usage info. 4) Use tables instead of typewriter parts. 5) While not necessarily bad, there is a lot of explanation of the voting systems themselves (apart from how they are implemented in Australia). Something needs to be explained (for ease of reading), but I feel this much is not really necessary. 6) Voting is compulsory. Is this enforced? How? 7) A map of the electorates (the Australian_electorates is just a stub) would be useful, since it is not very clear what the electorates are. Jeronimo 07:13, 18 Oct 2004 (UTC)
  • Object. Compares poorly to Antony Green's history on or that on Littered with nationalist NPOV "It was felt that since 60,000 Australians had died in the first world war defending freedom, Australians had a duty to use the freedoms so dearly bought." Nothing on classwar and the history of the electoral system (ALP for goodness' sake). Nothing on the anti-democratic tendencies in the Australian electoral system (I'm thinking the fight for franchise in the 19th C in the state systems, the development of the party system under ALP pressure.). Littered with Americanisms "Ballot Access". Rework, historicise, remove Americanisms, need more on 19th Century and the party system.Fifelfoo 05:20, 19 Oct 2004 (UTC)

One, Two, Three, Three ...[edit]

Forgive me, I'm a lawyer, and I tend to remember things mostly if they generated interesting litigation, but what about Albert Langer and his bizarre campaign (whenever it was; 1993? 1996?) to promote the option of voting validly but without distributing preferences between whichever candidates you consider to be the equal worst. There was a prosecution, and some legislative amendments. I'm sure I can dig out some references if it's thought that this might be included, but I won't bother if it's thought to be not worth including.--SilasM 10:30, 28 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I thought it was 2004. --ajdlinux 22:35, 7 January 2006 (UTC)

Langer's "vote 1, 2, 2, 2" campaign & prosecution for it were 1996 - see here and here, for instance. He may well have been active on some front during the most recent election, but I'm pretty sure that particular loophole was plugged shortly after Langer's prosecution (in which he received a ten-week sentence for advocating what was, at the time, a legal and valid vote). --Calair 23:07, 8 January 2006 (UTC)

Informal voting[edit]

The article suggests that failure to fill out all the boxes on a ballot paper renders a vote informal. However, it then goes on to discuss an actual election result (Helen Caldicott's attempt on parliament). In those tables refererence is made to "exhausted" votes. These are votes that have run out of preferences - that is, did not have any more votes beyond the person just eliminated (or only included preferences for other eliminated candidates). It is claimed that the Electoral Act has been changed since it would nice to have a date. I helped scrutinise at the 2000 ACT election and virtually any sort of vote was allowed (even ones with additional "made up" candidates added to the ballot paper and then included in the preferences). Maybe this is just a Canberra thing.

The AEC link provided is slightly vague (while seeming to confirm the statement through its definition of a formal vote, the definition of what is an informal vote does not include a failure to fill all the squares, just a duplication or uncertainty about the voter's intention - although there is another page with a summary of types of "informal" votes including the ones otulined above).

The claim that (Under ss.240 and 245(1) "in scrutinising ballot papers for formality the franchise will be favoured" suggests that a vote is formal as long as the voter's intention is clear. Filling out the form with 1,3,4,5 is valid because the intention of order is clear. Similarly filling out a ballot with 1,2,3,3,4 will be formal as long as the vote is not attempted to be transfered beyond the second preference (as up to this point the voter's intention is clear).

Even the used of X is accepted. Voting X,2,3,4 will usually be accepted by scrutineers as a valid vote for the candidate with the X first and the preferences following.

Maybe there is a difference between "informal" and "disenfranchised" here. There appear to be contradictions in the AEC stuff, general knowledge and practical application here. --Jlsa

IIUC electoral law is entirely a matter handled by the jurisdiction in question and there are often subtle differences in the rules on informals. What you're referring to sound like Langer votes which were federally allowed as formal under the law between 1983(?) & 1998 and I think are still formal in some of the compulsory preference states/territory. Initially they were just errors in filling out the ballot paper but after the campaign to use them to backdoor optionally preference the federal law was changed to remove the provision. Timrollpickering (talk) 23:45, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

The how to vote image[edit]

The how-to-vote card is Liberal. NPOV, anyone? --ajdlinux 22:36, 7 January 2006 (UTC)

Whereas one from the Australian Greens would be NPOV. :P I didn't upload the image, but I think it's better to use a real HTV rather than an imaginary one. Andjam 23:02, 7 January 2006 (UTC)
Perhaps it should be moved to the House of Reps section of the article, where HTVs are first discussed? I'm not particularly fussed by its inclusion in the article (I agree that it's better to use a real HTV, and the Liberal one is as appropriate as any other) but moving it there would put it more firmly in its intended context as an example. If we need an image for the intro, perhaps a blank ballot paper instead?
Come to think of it, a blank ballot and a HTV for the same election would complement one another nicely, if anybody can dig those up? --Calair 23:07, 8 January 2006 (UTC)

I deliberately uploaded a Liberal HTV so that I (an ALP member) would not be accused of POV. You can't win :) Adam 02:48, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

Where's a Marijuana Smokers Party HTV card when you need one! Georgeslegloupier 15:23, 17 March 2006 (UTC)

Informal voting is illegal?[edit]

Blimey! Now they tell me, after all these years... My grandmother used to give them all a tick, to be fair to everyone...

On a more serious note, can anyone tell me WHERE it says informal voting is illegal? Because that is what the article is suggesting:

In practice, while illegal, informal voting - going through the motions of voting without actually filling in a valid ballot - is near-impossible to prosecute, given the secret nature of the ballot.

The legislation cited seems to make not voting illegal. But informal voting is still voting, wouldn't it be called something like "informal non-voting"? I think maybe someone has misinterpreted the legislation cited here. Or confused "informal voting" with "advocating informal voting". Georgeslegloupier 15:06, 17 March 2006 (UTC)

The legislation doesn't say it is every elector's "duty to attempt to vote". It's clearly a pedantic point, but I believe we need a lawyer's opinion to suggest an informal vote is legal, as compared to an unenforceable illegality. Mark Hurd 05:28, 18 March 2006 (UTC)

I found this a little while ago that states that voting informal is legal:

"A few years ago all the major parties passed an amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act making it illegal to encourage people to vote informal or in any other way not specified by the Act. Maximum penalty: imprisonment for six months. Although it is quite legal to actually vote informal, it is now a crime to advocate doing so." [2] Georgeslegloupier 16:11, 17 March 2006 (UTC)

In today's SA state election the Legislative Assembly ballot paper says "You are not obligated to mark this paper." or words to that effect. Mark Hurd 03:51, 18 March 2006 (UTC)

And the reason is that the SA legislation has the same wording as the Federal one mentioned in the article (and above), but point (2) is added to explicitly allow blank ballot papers. See SA ELECTORAL ACT 1985 - SECT 85. Mark Hurd 05:07, 18 March 2006 (UTC)
Anthony Green (election analyst) describes this and other unique SA electoral matters here: [3] Mark Hurd 02:26, 19 March 2006 (UTC)
IIRC, that "voting informal is illegal" was my edit. Looking back at it, I think I mentally amalgamated "voting informal" with "not voting", which I shouldn't have. It's clear that "not voting" is an offence - see refs in the preceding paragraph - but not so clear (to me, at least) whether an informal ballot would count as "not voting". (While we might refer to it as an 'informal vote', that doesn't necessarily mean it's a 'vote' in legal terms; I don't have a Macquarie handy, but defines a vote as a "formal expression of preference", and I'm not convinced an informal vote counts as either 'formal' or an 'expression of preference'.)
But I'm not a lawyer and looking back on it, I don't think I had good grounds for including that claim, so I've removed it. The article could do with something on the illegality of advocating informal votes, but that's a separate issue (and wasn't the basis for my claim that voting informal is illegal). --Calair 08:32, 18 March 2006 (UTC)

Norfolk Island[edit]

The article says the population of NI is not represented in the Federal Parliament. This is not entirely true. NI as a whole is certainly not represented, but this makes it clear that NI residents can enrol in any state-based Federal electorate, or Solomon (NT) or Canberra (ACT). I'm not sure how this information should be presented, which is why I'm raising it here. JackofOz 12:42, 3 June 2006 (UTC)

"Authorised by..."[edit]

I just edited I approve this message (see section "Other countries"), adding a reference to the Australian electoral system's use of "Authorised by..." at the end of ads. Could someone please check it and make sure I've got my facts right?

Perhaps it also deserves a mention in this article. It also relates to controversies over allegedly deceptive conduct, such as that by Exclusive Brethren supporting the Liberal party (recent SMH article by David Marr) and Liberal party flyers made up to look like Greens promo, except that they actually criticised the Greens, making what the Greens considered false claims. Just a suggestion - I don't know this area very well, and don't have the links... --Singkong2005 (t - c - WPID) 03:13, 11 July 2006 (UTC)

The fake Greens how-to-vote cards? Try this report for a start. It goes much deeper of course, but I don't know how article-worthy the Australian blogosphere is. --bainer (talk) 03:56, 11 July 2006 (UTC)

Very common misunderstanding about "Preference Deals"[edit]

Is it worth noting or even clarifying the point that quite a few Australians believe that "preference deals" are given to other parties automatically without the voter's consent? As an Example: In QLD I vote (optional preferential system) 1 for the Fishing Party without voting for anyone else, once the vote has been counted it has been exhausted, but quite a few people think that because the Fishing Party did a "preference deal" with the Cotton Underwear party, my vote than goes to that party (in a close count). This seems to be perpetuated by the Australian media quite a bit, when the real meaning of "preference deals" is that a party will "direct" someone to vote in a certain way via a How-to-Vote card, but there is no automatic mechanism that makes it happen unless the voter willingly follows the How-to-vote card.-- 15:32, 2 August 2006 (UTC)Lucas

The situation in the Senate is rather different, because there we have compulsory full preferential voting - the voter must either vote above the line, in which case their preferences are allocated as their party has directed, or vote below the line, in which case they must fill in every square themselves. In practice more than 95% of voters vote above the line, which means that a preference deal between (say) Family First and the ALP will result in the overwhelming majority of preferences being allocated according to the terms of that deal - which is how Steve Fielding got elected, and also how various obscure people got elected to the NSW Legislative Council despite getting hardly any first preference votes. Adam 05:16, 3 August 2006 (UTC)

Federal Electorates[edit]

Technically, they are called Divisions.

Double Dissolution terms for Senators[edit]

After a Double Dissolution election has been held, which Senators (other than than the ones coming from the territories) will have 3 year terms instead of 6? User:Jleonau 22:06, 17 October 2006 (UTC)

None of them. All Senators have a 6-year term, that's provided by the Australian Constitution. Senators do not actually have a 3-year term. When we elect half of the Senate every 3 years in a General Election, we are electing the half of the Senate whose 6 year terms are expiring. With a double dissolution election, it's usually followed by a General Election to force one half of the Senate to be re-elected. The other half is then re-elected in 3 years time, and then it's back to normal, I think. LudBob 09:56, 8 November 2007 (UTC)

Sorry I'm very confused by this. How exactly is it determined which half of the Senate is forced to be re-elected? Timrollpickering 03:14, 15 November 2007 (UTC)
The rotation of senators stems from section 13 of the Constitution, wherein it is provided that after the first meeting of the Senate in 1901, and again after each first meeting of the Senate following a dissolution thereof, the Senate shall divide the senators chosen into two classes, senators of the first class holding their seats for 3 years and senators of the second class holding their seats for 6 years —Odgers J. R., Australian Senate Practice, 5th Edn 1976. The 6-year terms are given to the 3 senators in each state returned by the highest number of votes and the 3-year terms to the 3 lowest on the poll. The terms are all fixed to commence on 1 July and end on 30 June. Where necessary to meet this condition after a dissolution, the commencement date is artificially backdated. Bjenks (talk) 16:25, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
I wouldn't call it "artificial"; it's a constitutional provision. Para 3 of s.13 says: "For the purposes of this section, the term of service of a senator shall be taken to begin on the first day of July following the day of his election, except in the case of the first election and of the election next after any dissolution of the Senate, when it shall be taken to begin on the first day of July preceding the day of his election". So, the backdating occurs after every double dissolution, because those are the only occasions when the Senate is dissolved. It's otherwise continuous, unlike the House of Reps. -- JackofOz (talk) 00:17, 16 December 2007 (UTC)
No, that is wrong. In a normal "half-senate" election, all the persons elected get a six year term. When there is a double-dissolution election, there are 12 senators elected in each state. Half of those 12 ( i.e. 6 senators not three as stated above ), are in the first class which get a six year term. The other half of the 12 ( the other six ) are in the second class which only hold office until the subsequent half-senate election ( i.e. normally a three year term ) , unless there is another double dissolution election of course.Eregli bob (talk) 04:57, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Joint Sittings[edit]

There seems to be a gap in Wikipedia's coverage of joint sittings of the House and Senate. One would come to the conclusion that the only time a joint sitting could ever be held is under s.57, following a double dissolution. However, casual vacancies in the representation of the ACT in the Senate (and presumably of the NT as well), are filled not by nomination by the relevant "state" parliament (the ACT or NT Legislative Assembly), but by a joint sitting of the Federal Parliament. This is precisely how Margaret Reid was chosen to replace John Knight. As far as I can see there is absolutely nothing about this in any article at present. Indeed, there seems to be nothing about how casual vacancies in either house of parliament are filled. JackofOz 13:00, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

The Margaret Reid article states This was the first of only two occasions on which a Senate casual vacancy was filled in this manner, as the law was later changed to provide for the relevant territory (ACT or NT) legislative assembly to appoint a replacement senator. Bjenks (talk) 16:54, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
Yep, thanks. Those words were actually mine. My initial post above was a little flawed, and since then I've done a lot of work on the Casual vacancy article. Feel free to improve it. Cheers. -- JackofOz (talk) 00:22, 16 December 2007 (UTC)
Looks pretty good to me. When next you edit, you might consider using uniform lower case for 'parliament', 'state' and 'territory', etc, where not used as part of a proper noun. Cheers Bjenks (talk) 03:20, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

Defending freedom?[edit]

I think the reasons for Australia adopting Compulsory Voting could be looked into a little more than "a duty to defend freedoms so dearly bought". Writing that 60,000 Australians died "defending freedom" seems a bit of a generalisation.

Well the fact is that was the rationale used at the time. Rocksong 01:15, 13 November 2006 (UTC)


This seems slightly POV to me: "In reality the practice benefits all political parties, as they are saved from the need to persuade people to vote." (from the section on compulsary voting. What do other people think? Soaringgoldeneagle 15:56, 14 May 2007 (UTC)

Yeah, either POV or OR. It can just as easily be argued that some political parties would be better off without compulsory voting, since their opponents would lose more votes than they would. In fact, the whole paragraph looks like OR to me; the arguments it gives really need to be attributed to somebody more specific than "many observers". --Calair 01:02, 15 May 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. Can I also draw attention to the following passage:
"The fact that compulsory voting has lasted through many changes of government indicates to many observers[citation needed] that the party that benefits most from it is the party in power, who are the ones that would have to change it. The reason for this belief is that despite its best efforts no government can avoid occasionally annoying its own supporters. These voters would never vote for the opposition, but if voting were voluntary and they were sufficiently annoyed they could just stay at home."
I don't know the observers being referred to, but the first sentence contains a logical fallacy, since governments frequently do change hands.
I'm not familiar with the evidence, but there is no reason to believe that the abolition of compulsory voting would have a proportional effect on all parties.
I think the second and third sentences need to be reworded to convey the notion that (1) compulsory voting gives greater influence to voters with weaker preferences than voluntary voting and that (2) the stability of turnout from election to election that compulsory voting engenders actually bolsters the phenomenon of 'safe' and 'marginal' electorates.
Simon Thackrah 14:57, 8 August 2007 (UTC)
I'm not so sure that "governments frequently do change hands", at least at Commonwealth level. Since 1949 there have been 9 successive Coalition victories, then 2 successive Labor victories, 3 Coalition, 5 Labor and 4 Coalition, or else just 6 changes of power since the Second World War, and that doesn't seem to be quite as frequent as some, particularly as Australia has more frequent elections than many other countries. Compare that to Ireland which has had 12 changes of ruling party in the same period, New Zeland with 8 and the UK & Canada both with 7. Okay the numbers are close, but Australia has had 25 federal elections in the period, so the incumbant re-election rate is over 75%. Ireland has had 18 - a re-election rate of just 33%. New Zealand 20 - 60%. The UK 17 - 58%. Canada 20 - 65%.
I think the root of the confusion for that sentence is that in places where voting is not compulsory the only thing uniting all the non-voters is that they don't vote. Some don't vote because they don't care about politics at all. Others don't because they think it won't make a difference. Others won't because they've been alienated from their normal party but won't vote for the oppoition for one reason or another (sometimes social, economic or religious factors). Plus some might vote for a particular protest party if a candidate stands locally, but otherwise not. Compulsory voting (and in the last case compulsory preferencing) removes this alternative that parties are competing with.
You forgot the people who have to work on Saturdays.Eregli bob (talk) 01:53, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
I don't know how you reach the idea "that compulsory voting engenders actually bolsters the phenomenon of 'safe' and 'marginal' electorates" - safe and marginal seats exist in many non compulsory systems and indeed changing levels of turnout can sometimes decide the outcome in razor-edge marginals. Timrollpickering (talk) 00:02, 16 December 2007 (UTC)


Shouldn't there be mention of the advertising restrictions on our system? I believe these are largely unique to our electoral process. For example, the news blackouts, candidates advertising posters restricted to certain time periods, candidates fined if they don't remove election posters and campaign fund restrictions etc. Wayne 19:04, 19 May 2007 (UTC)

Senate: surplus votes[edit]

"Their surplus votes were then distributed. The surplus is the candidate's vote minus the quota. Hutchins's surplus was thus 1,446,231 minus 536,533, or 909,698. These votes were distributed to whichever candidates received the no 2 votes on Hutchins's ballots."

But which surplus votes? Is there a statistical application of the number twos in all of the votes, both those that go towards making the quota and those left over? It needs to be clarified. Tony 00:24, 22 May 2007 (UTC)

That's answered further on in the same section. --Calair 01:33, 22 May 2007 (UTC)

Section Preferential Voting[edit]

I thought that the second part of this section was rather unclear. Namely the two paragraphs quoted below.

As a starting point, I am proposing the following. (My additions are in bold, and deletion are in strikeout)

Preferential voting has gradually extended to both upper and lower houses, in the federal, state and territory legislatures, and is also used in municipal elections, and most other kinds of elections as well, such as internal political party elections, trade union elections, church elections, elections to company boards and elections in voluntary bodies such as football clubs. It is common for candidates to recommend a particular distribution of preferences to voters, the so called how to vote cards. Negotiations for these disposition distribution of preference recommendations to voters are taken very seriously by candidates owing to the fact that transferred preferences carry the same weight as primary votes. A voter wishing to accept a particular candidates recommended distribution of preferences would simply copy the numbering from that candidate's how to vote card onto their ballot. However, due to the large number of candidates standing for election in each division, the The federal Senate electoral system and those for some state legislatures now provide for simultaneous registration of party-listed candidates and party-determined orders of voting preference distribution of preferences, known as 'group voting tickets'.

Under this system, the ballot paper is divided into two section, the first containing the names of each candidate grouped according to their party, and the second containing some reference to each party's recommended distribution of preferences. Voters voters can opt to either 'vote above the line' simply by placing the number '1' in a single box next to the recommended distribution of preferences they wish to accept or to 'vote below the line' by numbering a large number of the many individual candidate's boxes in the order of their own preference. In the latter option, there is a risk that the vote will be declared invalid ('informal') if any number in the sequence is inadvertently duplicated or omitted. However, an estimated 95% of all votes are cast 'above the line', meaning that the precise valuation of those votes is passed to the control of the party receiving the single primary vote. The electoral authority automatically allocates preferences, or votes, in the predetermined order outlined in as if every candidate had been numbered according to the group voting ticket. Each party or group can register up to three group voting tickets. This highly complex system has potential for unexpected outcomes, including the possible election of a candidate who may have initially received an insignificant primary vote tally.

Unless I have misunderstood entirely what these paragraphs are trying to say.

--RegularPaul (talk) 09:10, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

I think it needs a bigger reworking and possibly some relaying out because on first reading it's not 100% clear that it's referring to only the Senate ballot paper and can give the impression that's it's possible to cast an above the line vote for the House (indeed isn't this confusion thought to be one of the reasons for the Senate ballot usually have significantly fewer informals than the House in the same constituency?). "the same weight as primary votes" is also confusing because whilst this is true in a single member system, in multi-member STV the surplus is of a smaller value than a full vote. As for complexity, I'm not sure this is the fault of the system - other countries and organisations who use STV generally don't have many problems once people are used to preferencing their ballot - but rather the scale (6 or 12 members elected in a constituency of millions with getting on for 80 candidates is at least at the upper ends of tolerance), the fact that voting below the line requires far more of an effort than above the line and the limited attention given to the order of tickets. Above the line voting itself is rare in STV but is really nothing more than opting to follow a HTV card, albeit skipping the actual copying stage. Timrollpickering (talk) 12:41, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

"This highly complex system has potential for unexpected outcomes, including the possible election of a candidate who may have initially received an insignificant primary vote tally." "Highly complex" is not neutral. "Unexpected outcomes" is vague. "Insignificant primary vote tally" is false, since the winning candidate must get more primary votes than at least one other candidate. I suggest: "This system can result to a candidate being elected who is not the first choice of the most voters." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:12, 19 August 2012 (UTC)

I'm not sure, but I *think* the example of how to calculate transfer factors may be wrong. The article says that it is calculated as surplus/(total votes for candidate), whereas according to is is (surplus/(total *ballots* received). --Rjmatthews62 (talk) 23:55, 11 August 2013 (UTC)

Compulsory voting favouring Labor?[edit]

Some political scientists believe that compulsory voting benefits the Australian Labor Party, while others dispute this. It is argued that most of the social groups who would tend not to vote if voting were voluntary are more inclined to vote Labor (people from the ethnic and immigrant communities, indigenous Australians, and people with lower levels of education). Occasionally conservative politicians or libertarian intellectuals argue for the abolition of compulsory voting on philosophical grounds, but no government has ever attempted to abolish it.

This is something I've never heard, and wouldn't mind seeing some sources. Trampoline Man (talk) 03:14, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

There are passing references to it at and . But they're both Liberals saying that's what Labor thinks, rather than the opinions of political scientists. Peter Ballard (talk) 03:26, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
I wouldn't mind betting that non-compulsory voting would benefit the Coalition more then the ALP the latter tends to have a broader member base and more established links to outside organisations. I also think that this statement reeks of POV given it alludes to the fact that Indigenous Australians, immigrants and working class Australians are less likely to vote when this I don't believe is an established fact. Additionally, all 3 of these groups are regular targetted by the extreme right and to a more subtle degree by the Coalition. Maybe thats all this statement is. Another attempt at an attack on these groups.-- (talk) 08:23, 5 January 2010 (UTC)

Howard HTV card[edit]

Methinks this graphic needs replacing—it has a white 'dag' obscuring text just over the Lib logo. Cheers Bjenks (talk) 09:50, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

Question about compulsory/optional preference systems[edit]

Please excuse me if I make a mistake here - I'm not Australian, and the terminology is largely unfamiliar to me - but as I understand it, in a federal election one must complete all the boxes for a House or "below the line" Senate vote to be valid, whereas in (most?) state elections it's okay to fill in just 1, 2, 3 or whatever. What I'd like to know, and doesn't seem to be in the article, is why federal elections have not moved over to an optional-preference system? What is the defence against the argument that for an election with 10, 20 or (in the Senate's case) even many more candidates, requiring the voter to rank all the way down is simply going to lead to random and/or "donkey" choices or (in the Senate's case) choosing the "above the line" option and thus effectively (given the overwhelming choice of voters to do this) reducing the Senate elections to a closed party list system? Loganberry (Talk) 15:17, 25 May 2009 (UTC)

My guess (not being Australian either) is that it's an extension of the principle of compulsory participation in voting to compulsory participation in all stages. I think the switches between compulsory and optional full preferencing in state elections have not been devoid of partisan advantage - the Coalition benefits from full preferencing because it allows the two parties to run without risking losing votes for one that don't transfer to the other, Labor benefits from optional because it can increase pressure on Coalition tensions. Look at the history of the Coalition in Queensland, under optional preferencing, with the two parties eventually going for a merger to end the problems.
There's also the issue of which significant minor parties are about and doing what - leaving the Coalition aside, roughly from 1918 to the mid 1950s preferencing made little difference federally, then from the mid 1950s to the early 1970s preferencing (from the Democratic Labor Party) benefited the Coalition, then in the mid 1970s it was back to not much influence, then from the late 1970s the Australian Democrats generally sat on the fence and issued multiple How To Vote cards, but from the early 1990s onward preferencing (from the Greens) has benefited Labor. Timrollpickering (talk) 17:14, 25 May 2009 (UTC)
This is a debatable subject, I guess, but the underlying philosophy for compulsory voting is that the elected leaders can claim support from a majority of the population. Preferential voting is in theory equivalent to a series of elections, the last of which is between two candidates and the winner requires support of 50%+1 of the population to win. Under voluntary voting systems, a candidate can win with much less than 50%+1 support from the population (they only require 50%+1 of the vote). Expressing preferences is serious stuff - the Albert Langer article is worth a read if you are interested in this topic - Langer got jailed for encouraging voters to vote in such a way that their preferences exhausted. --Surturz (talk) 23:34, 25 May 2009 (UTC)
A point argued by Langer and others is that the 50%+1 arrived at is not really "support" when votes are dragooned in this way from people who would not otherwise dream of supporting a candidate who may get their last-but-one or effective pref. vote. Cheers Bjenks (talk) 09:03, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
I am not aware of any philosophical rationale for it (and I am Australian and incidentally a habitual Labor voter). Whether it was introduced for this reason or not, optional preferential voting makes it possible to deals with a voting paper with dozens (84 at the 2010 election) of unfamiliar names and parties on it in a sensible manner. In the 1980's the Labor Government (Mick Young to be exact) what tasked to find a way to make voting in the Senate, with it's huge ballot paper, a more practical proposition. Rather than introduce Optional Preferential Voting, as existed in some States (where it worked well), they instituted the "Above the Line"/"Below the Line" system. You could vote for a predetermined distribution of preference (as nominated by each party) by putting '1' in one box (above the line), or you had to number sequentialy every single candidate (below the line).
My impression (anyone care to disagree?) is that optional preferential voting was ignored because it leaves the possibility that people may vote for a independent or minor party candidate and not give any preference between the two major parties. This would mean that big parties (like the Labor Party or the Liberal Party) would not benefit from the vote of people who really didn't like any of them. As it is after voting Communist, Socialist alliance, Christian Democrat, and Sex Party, eventually everyone has to ultimately make a decision, preference Labor before Liberal, or vice-versa. In all likelyhood the minor parties will get few votes, be eliminated, passed on to a slightly less minor party, who will still have too few votes and also be eliminated and ultimately passed on to one of those two parties. Also it makes it easier for parties good at making deals (no I didn't say LABOR), to benefit from preferences. 95% of people vote above the line so 95% of preferences flow in exactly the way the party nominates.
The objection to being forced to number all the squares, is because some people believe that they should not have to be forced to vote for parties they absolutely don't like. For example, if there are 8 candidates, and you hate both major parties, you are still forced to number them 7 and 8, and you choice of which is 7 and which is 8 will determine how your preference is allocated, in a close election, where all 6 of the minor party or independent candidates that you prefered, has been eliminated.
There is also the folly of having to number 100 or more squares on the paper correctly.
The result is that in some State elections, a partially completed numbering process is a valid vote, but the same vote in a Federal election would be invalid.
The parties support the current Senate voting scheme because it allows them to make dodgy deals, by making it almost impractical for anyone but the most determined voter to actually vote for parties in the order of their preference.Eregli bob (talk) 08:56, 17 October 2012 (UTC)

Municipal elections[edit]

In some states, voting at municipal elections is not compulsory in most states.

Er, can anyone else see a problem with this sentence? I'd fix it but I don't know which way it's supposed to fall. -- JackofOz (talk) 13:27, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

Arguments for and against compulsory voting- unsourced material[edit]

The first paragraph of this section is not sourced, and is highly dubious. I'm going to remove it unless there are sources added (that go beyond a radio interview). Ninahexan (talk) 04:25, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

Um no? How about you raise individual issues here first. Timeshift (talk) 05:08, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

"Some political scientists believe that compulsory voting benefits the Australian Labor Party, while others dispute this. It is argued that most of the social groups who would tend not to vote if voting were voluntary are more inclined to vote Labor (people from the ethnic and immigrant communities, indigenous Australians, and people with lower levels of education)" All of this is unsourced, and may indeed be totally fabricated. I have already spent time trying to find any supporting evidence for these assertions, found none, and rather than delete it I asked for others to provide sources. The sources should have been put in when it was written, or it should not have been included at all. "Some political scientists believe..." is bordering on weasel wording, by the way. Do you have an issue with my asking for sources on the claims put forth? Ninahexan (talk) 00:45, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

That particular bit I have no qualms with you removing. Timeshift (talk) 00:52, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

I will wait a few days to see if either the original author or anyone else has sources before I remove it. Ninahexan (talk) 00:54, 10 August 2010 (UTC)


Whoever wrote that section, either through ignorance or malice, chose not to attribute any blame for the Playmander to the LCL, instead wholely handing it to the constitution. Reason? Timeshift (talk) 02:26, 26 September 2010 (UTC)

The Playmander article is equally confused, stating the 2:1 ratio was set by the 1856 constitution but then reached as the result of an increase in the 1930s.
I think the text of the 1856 constitution is available at Documenting Democracy and it doesn't say anything about rural:urban ratios for either House. Timrollpickering (talk) 02:13, 24 January 2011 (UTC)

Technically compulsory to vote, but only if you (voluntarily) register to vote[edit]

Hi - I just wanted to clarify something with regards to compulsory voting in Australia. Voting is compulsory if you are *registered to vote*. Australian citizens may register to vote just before they turn eighteen. It is not, however, compulsory to register to vote (though you will never be told this, and certainly are lead to believe that you must enrol). Moreover, for a limited number of reasons, the Electoral Commission can remove you from the electoral register (i.e. if they believe you have migrated overseas). In fact, if you are not on the electoral register (i.e. registered to vote), you are not permitted to vote at all. In my twenties, the Electoral Commission removed me from the voting register TWICE, because I went backpacking overseas and failed to notify them. Upon my return (the first time), I attempted to vote as usual (I had been voting for as long as I was legally allowed to) but was no longer listed. When I contacted the Electoral Commission, they told me that I had been removed from the register. When I queried how that was possible (given we have compulsory voting) I was informed of the info above. I then re-registered, only to be taken off again the next time I went overseas without letting them know I would be away and returning. Cheers (Jessica Evans)

It's true that only people who are enrolled are entitled to vote. But that's a different thing from whether you're required to enrol in the first place, and all the info on the AEC's website says quite plainly that is compulsory to enrol, and having enrolled, it is then compulsory to vote.
It's an odd quirk that the AEC can remove your name from the electoral roll in some circumstances. It's hardly a punishment, but a relief for those who didn't want to vote in the first place. If only the Tax Office would remove from me the right to pay tax, as a punishment for not paying my taxes. -- Jack of Oz [your turn] 10:22, 8 April 2011 (UTC)

My understanding is that it is "compulsory" to enrol to vote, but the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 specifically protects citizens from prosecution for failing to enrol. In light of this, I am unsure of whether the terms "compulsory" or "mandatory" should be used in regards to the responsibility to enrol. Well, clearly the former term is used by the AEC, but does that mean it should be used here? Because I think it muddies the issue. +|||||||||||||||||||||||||+ (talk) 04:52, 13 January 2012 (UTC)

The protection from prosecution is only for people who have commenced the enrolling process, i.e.: if the AEC catches you as being illegally un-enrolled, they can prosecute, but as soon as you submit an application they can't prosecute you anymore Part VII section 101, subsections 7 & 8 Nathan (talk) 16:56, 2 May 2015 (UTC)

A hypothetical question: in Australia I think high school students are added automatically to the role by their school when they turn 18 or upon graduation, I forget which. Could you technically or legally stop this from happening? Would you have legal recourse if were added to the role against your will? My guess is no on both counts?+|||||||||||||||||||||||||+ (talk) 04:57, 13 January 2012 (UTC)

From recollection at least one of the states has pulled out of the joint Commonwealth/State electoral rolls and instead operates its own system of automatically enrolling people based on various information held by government agencies, including high school records. Voters can object to being added to the roll or to the place they're put on for various reasons - examples include high school leavers moving to different states, people with cars registered at their work instead of home address, people who mainly live & work in another state or territory but have weekend homes and so forth, but not a more general objection to voting. I'm not sure of the mechanics of the objection but presume it would have to be lodged within a limited period of time. Timrollpickering (talk) 13:31, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
Enrolled voters who don't turn up to vote often get a fine. But are people who are not enrolled ever fined ? I've never heard of it happening.Eregli bob (talk) 01:41, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
Victoria at least began to enrol former VCE students around 2010--2011 using their details from their Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority applications. They haven't pulled out of the joint roll so much as they are able to add those automatically enrolled students to the Victorian roll but not the federal roll. Normal written applications still work the same way. There is no provision to object to being enrolled or prevent it though---they only inform you after it's been done. From that point, the only way to change the enrolment is to enrol with the AEC (who will then update the Victorian roll with the details you provide) or to change your details with the VEC. I'm unsure of whether that would then propagate from the VEC to the federal roll though. Nathan (talk) 16:56, 2 May 2015 (UTC)

Is this information up to date ?[edit]

"Voters can vote for the Senate in one of two ways. They can number all the candidates, as they would with a House of Representatives ballot: but since there may be 50 or 60 candidates on the ballot paper, few voters do this. This is called below the line voting. Or they can simply write "1" in a box indicating the party for which they wish to vote. This is called above the line voting. More than 95% of voters cast their votes above the line."

Is this information up-to-date ? Isn't it also now possible to number the groups "above the line", in order of the voter's preference for the various parties? Eregli bob (talk) 08:43, 17 October 2012 (UTC)

As far as i'm aware, and, no it isn't. I don't know on what basis you decided to ask this here (ie: reading something to the contrary), but i'm not sure if talkpages are the place for these sorts of general educational questions. Timeshift (talk) 12:29, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
It sounds like Eregli bob is confusing the Senate with the New South Wales Legislative Council which (from the voter's point of view) made the above change a decade ago. Timrollpickering (talk) 13:26, 19 October 2012 (UTC)

Another instance of out of date information is in the section for "Alternative allocation methods for Senate". The second paragraph ends with "An estimated 95% of all votes are cast 'above the line'.[23]" The citation #23 is no longer valid, "23. Your vote and the Senate: The Big Switch". The link is to a now defunct website, a page loads but it has nothing to do with what is being cited. -- (talk) 22:52, 7 January 2016 (UTC)

Controversy of compulsory voting[edit]

Firstly this section needs splitting between the philosophical debate about whether the law should require citizens to go to their polling station & do something, and the legal debate about just what they have to do.

Secondly the latter section is confused and at times presenting one opinion as gospel. It's also not clear if "Barwick's opinions" are from the judgement in an unspecified case or if this was the personal opinion of someone, even if they did happen to be the Chief Justice. If they are from cases then can we have them cited please?

The latest I've seen is that it's a requirement to actually cast a valid vote but it's impossible to enforce unless somebody makes a huge fuss and shows their blank ballot; however any move to electronic voting machines will require a clarification (and with nine jurisdictions the law varies between them). Timrollpickering (talk) 11:55, 14 June 2013 (UTC)

In the course of copyediting, I decided to remove some content which depended on the citation of this defunct (Fairfax newspaper) link. It should go without saying that it is a waste of our time to rely on comparatively trivial web content which is either of short life or available only on a pay-per view basis. (I accept that pay-per-view may be better than nothing in cases where the source is of significant importance and not matched by any accessible alternative.) If we cite such a newspaper, we need to include both the date of issue and the page number to allow future users to look for the reference in hard copies or reliable online versions as and when they eventuate. I also note that this particular subsection points to a main article, Compulsory voting, which would surely be the preferred repository for well-sourced and notable detailed material. Bjenks (talk) 07:11, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

Just jumping in to say that this section should be deleted. The controversy does not exist, at least not beyond a few politicians who were particularly bad losers (namely Mark Latham). Every reliable survey (first among them being the 2013 Australian Election Study: has found overwhelming public support for compulsory voting, and suggestions to abolish it have invariably been condemned (eg: The idea that there is any controversy is an illusion - probably one created by non-Australians who don't fully understand it and who's concerns belong on the main compulsory voting article. Controversy about compulsory voting is not a notable phenomenon in Australia, and this section should not be in the article. (talk) 11:15, 7 August 2014 (UTC)

Australia votes (excepting those who dissent)[edit]

Stripping all the spin, here's what was to be found on the AEC's first preference site this morning. The totals will, of course change as counting proceeds--but the percentages are pretty well set in concrete.

The most significant swing was one of 16.74%--of the enrolled voters who decided to give the election a miss altogether.

This is a list of national first-preference totals and percentages of enrolled electors:

Enrolled electors 14,705,522, 100%
Did not vote 3,471,271, 23.61%
Voted Informal 662,397, 4.50%
Voted for Politicians 10,571,854, 71.89%

Or, for fans of the 2-party régime,

Voted for the Liberal Party 3,351,326, 22.79%
Voted for Lib/Nationals 1,450,907 9.87%
Voted for the Labor Party 3,578,223, 24.33%
Voted for others 2,191,398, 14.90%
Gave the raspberry to all of the above: 4,133,668, 28.11%

Clearly tells us why forced "preferential" transfers are needed to give a phoney appearance of legitimacy to the Australian voting system! Bjenks (talk) 02:46, 8 September 2013 (UTC)

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