The Senate-voting was a bit of a shambles. Here are three ways to improve Senate-voting procedures:
1: Do not force voters to number every square below-the-line. After 50 numbered preferences or so, the voter has made their intentions clear enough. If there are more exhausted votes towards the end of the counting, that’s ok. At least individual ballots do not end up helping parties the voter did not wish to support. (That is happening under present protocols.) This limited mandatory numbering has been used in State elections. It saves voters and counters unnecessary effort.
Last Saturday’s imposition to number all 110 boxes in correct sequence, drives voters to take the easy path, above the line.
2. End the practice of parties formally lodging preferences for their above-the-line primaries with the AEC. What percentage of the population really knows where their preferences might be headed? This is not easy transparent democracy. The final Senate make-up is determined by these deals between candidates, almost more than the numbers written down by voters. It suits the candidates, who hope to arrange deals that bolster their count. That the end-result of this horse-trading can be misleading to voters was demonstrated with crystal clarity in the election just past.
This unseemly inter-party preferencing was recently discontinued for NSW Local Government elections. Good thing too.
3. Allow optional preferential numbering above-the-line. Give The People the power to write their own simple preferences, above-the-line. This is very straightforward, saves everyone a lot of time, and is the most accurate vehicle of voter wishes.
This system has been used in elections for other tiers of government.
I could add an extra point to enhance intelligent senate-voting. If the media used a quarter of the their election coverage time on describing the many parties standing for the Senate, then voters will have some idea who they are voting for. Every election I’m dismayed that we all vote for one level of Parliament on the basis of almost no information.
Nadine Hood, Bangalow