[EM] Re: Election-methods Digest, Vol 2, Issue 44

Chris Benham chrisbenham at bigpond.com
Mon Aug 30 10:40:45 PDT 2004

James Gilmour,
You  wrote (answering a question from  Alex Small about  PR  in 
 Australia)  on  Sun.Aug.29:

>Alex Small  > Sent: Sunday, August 29, 2004 9:34 PM
>> Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that people 
>> have the option of voting either their own preference order, 
>> or else a preference order that a party decided upon in 
>> advance.
>This is correct, but the overwhelming majority of voters take the party option  - for reasons
>explained in response to your next comment.
>>  I was under the impression that it was a response 
>> to the complexity of the system.
>Yes, but only because the Australians made it complex.  They made voting compulsory, so even those
>who had no preferences had to participate, under legal penalty.  Then they made the voters mark a
>preference against every candidate on the paper, else the vote would be declared "informal" (=
>invalid) and therefore be rejected.  So the Australian complexity arose from two unnecessary and
>fundamentally anti-democratic requirements they imposed on the voting system.  Add to these, the
>desire of the political parties to exert more power over their supporters (to make sure they voted
>"the right way") and they had the perfect "justification" to introduce block party voting.
CB: I  am an  Australian  citizen/voter,  and  I strongly disagree that 
 "compulsory voting"  is  "fundamentally undemocratic".
What is called  "compulsory voting" is in reality just compulsory 
polling-booth attendance,  and  I  see it as  something which
in an otherwise perfect world might be counted as a miniscule evil, but 
in this one it safeguards against  potential far greater
evils. This view of mine is near-universal in Australia.   It  is widely 
accepted that  voluntary voting would  favour  the  conservative
parties over  the  Labor party,  and  on the very rare occasion that 
someone proposes voluntary voting, it is seen as  a squalid partisan
attempt by the conservatives  to gain a permanent unfair advantage.

I agree with you about  compulsory preferences and  whats here called 
 "above- the- line  voting" (where the voter just votes for a party).
The worse thing about it is that voter usually doesn't  even know how 
his preferences are directed. There is the potential  for small
fake parties which have no chance of winning a seat, but are set up just 
to funnel prefernces to one of the major parties, perhaps not
the one that the voter  would expect, or  would have voted for if  the 
small party hadn't  been on the ballot.

Chris  Benham

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