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Australia voting system

 
 
fbaezer
 
Reply Tue 15 Apr, 2003 05:31 pm
Australia's voting system seems interesting, and different.

I ask those down under what are the advantages and disadvantages of your voting system. (Compared, for examples, with the US winner-takes-all with less than 50% of the vote, or the European proportional sytems, which give big leverage to small parties).

I would also like to know what is the difference between "preferential voting" and "optional preferential voting".
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 13,349 • Replies: 31
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Apr, 2003 08:02 pm
Fbaezer - I like our system. This is because smaller parties can achieve seats - and can play a role if they form part of a balance of power. This is a two-edged sword, as all things are, because, for instance, a few years ago a small party with an avowedly racist agenda managed to achieve just this balance of power likelihood, and hence had an influence they ought never to have had (IMO). They have now disappeared.

Also, one can give one's primary vote to, for instance, an environmental party, and - should that candidate not get up, the vote reverts to the candidate of the major party of your choice - allowing a clear protest vote to be made and registered (and, for example, showing a ruling party that environmental issues ARE of concern to the counrty as a whole and/or allowing a smaller party gradually to build up credibility and experience until they DO win a seat but not splitting the major party vote -as Nader's campaign is said to have done in the USA in the last election.

It seems that the old two party system in Oz is gradually breaking down - though this does not relate to a change in the voting SYSTEM, which has been the same since Federation in 1901, but to the use people are making of it.

What this means to a party in power is that they are having to work harder and do lots of negotiation to get their legislative program through - which can, again, be a two-edged sword, depending on your point of view.

In practice, it is usually the Upper House in which smaller parties get seats - although there is the odd Green person in Lower Houses around the place - so their influence is there. In practice, recently, what this has meant nationally is that Australia did not get a fairly draconian anti-terror bill - pretty much based on that of the USA's. In fact, the government COULD have got an amended version through, but they had a hissy fit and took their bat and ball home in a huff - so we have had no change. It has also not been possible for the current federal government to get through some industrial relations changes, considered by most Australians to be too extreme.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Apr, 2003 08:04 pm
I will have to go searching for the answer to your second question!
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dlowan
 
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Reply Tue 15 Apr, 2003 08:07 pm
This should help - it seems it varies from state to state

http://www.eca.gov.au/systems/index.htm
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Apr, 2003 08:09 pm
dlowan wrote:
Also, one can give one's primary vote to, for instance, an environmental party, and - should that candidate not get up, the vote reverts to the candidate of the major party of your choice - allowing a clear protest vote to be made and registered (and, for example, showing a ruling party that environmental issues ARE of concern to the counrty as a whole and/or allowing a smaller party gradually to build up credibility and experience until they DO win a seat but not splitting the major party vote -as Nader's campaign is said to have done in the USA in the last election.


Nifty. How can we get one of those?
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Apr, 2003 08:21 pm
A different constitution oughta do it, Sozobe!
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Apr, 2003 08:23 pm
Excellent! The old one was getting old and musty and irrelevant anyway...
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Apr, 2003 11:14 am
Interesting post, dlowan, thanks!

This came out in a discussion among co-workers about which voting system works best. Somebody said Australia. All along I had thought it was like Great Britain.

Small parties are always a two-edge sword, for they can exert an influence beyond their numbers (in parliament or in vote percentage). The influence can be constructive, political blackmail or plainly distructive of the social tissue.

You said it right: the greatest problem with a strict two-party system is that third parties only role is to split major party votes. Phenomena like (Independent) Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura are very rare.

Another important thing: your system permitted the end of two-party rule.

In Mexico, we have a mixed voting system (some say it's mixed-up, but I like it): 300 representatives are voted US-GB style, the other 200 are proportional, but with a twist: no party can be overrepresented more than 8 percentage points -that is, for a party to win majority, it must have 42% of the vote and win at least 167 districts (my calculation)-. It has meant, lately, that no party gets even near a majority and there's lot of bickering and negotiating.

I understand Australia is a parlamentary system, the PM is one of the elected representatives. Am I wrong?
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Apr, 2003 04:40 pm
PM is essentially selected by the party which wins enough of the seats in the lower house to form government, either on its own or by some sort of coalition. (The currently ruling Conservative party - called the Liberal Party - has been in stable coalition with a smaller, country based party, currently called the National Party, ever since I can recall - they fight and such, but stay together - the leader of the Nats is always Deputy PM when the conservatives are in power.)

This means that the party can change the PM during the life of the government if they wish to - usually if they become seen as an electoral liability or they become SO unpopular with their own party that the party is willing to bear the electoral annoyance that usually comes with such shenanigans.

All parties have a parliamentary leader - the party with the second most seats in the lower house forms the formal Opposition and the leader of that party is the leader of the opposition. There is a "shadow cabinet" formed by the opposition, with MPs having portfolio responsibilities - which means becoming familiar with your area and acting as opposition spokesperson in those areas.

Often voters seem to give one party a convincing lower house majority, but ensure they have to work hard to get controversial legislation through the upper house. For about the last 20 or more years, if the opposition and the smaller parties combine together in the upper house they can block legislation - and they have sometimes done so - leading recently, for one of the smaller parties which has always been able to exist in a rarefied atmosphere of moral one-upmanship, because it was never called on to act in the real political world, to all the problems and traumas of having to make real political decisions in the real world, as they held sole balance of powere for one parliamentary term - caused no end of trauma and distress for them and their followers.

If key legislation is blocked twice (like supply) the government can call either a double dissolution - ie an election but a bigger than usual one, as ALL upper house seats are in the pot (usually only half are - and the senate do not like double dissolutions!) - or call both houses together for a vote, if they think this will get their legislation through. Often they just sulk, and save up the double dissolution to use as a threat.

In my state, the current labor government does not have a majority in the lower house - they are governing with the support of a number of independents - including a member of their party who has just defected to the greens. This is making for interesting times, as one of the independents is a strange combination of being totally mad, and a shrewd political operator. He did, in fact, hold balance of power for a time, but other independents have been wooed and won, and the phases of the moon are no longer looked at so anxiously by all connected with the government, as they, seemed as well as anything else did, to predict Mr X's moments of madness!

In latter years - to the disturbance of most voters - our political parties seem to have decided to adopt many aspects of US Presidential style campaigns - with the hype and the big pictures and the focus on one person and so on.

This appears to Australian eyes pretty ridiculous - but they keep doing it - so, perhaps, like other advertising, it works by virtue of its irritation? Who knows? It makes me want to be sick, but there you are.

Your system seems VERY complicated! But ours does too, I guess, if you didn't grow up with it.

Oh - we have compulsory state and federal voting - well, no we don't. IF you are enrolled to vote, you must do so - or at least appear and get your name written down, ot you get a small fine - however, there is no compulsion to enrol to vote.
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Apr, 2003 11:13 pm
dlowan,
Voters are often brighter than their system and, if their will is respected, they get what they want (which is often counterbalances among the houses; or between the houses and the President, in order to prevent unilateral decision making).

It would be easy for me to say that your system seems complicated for the average voter (I mean, putting all the parties in order), but I know it isn't really that complicated. Voters are more sophisticated than what they seem (at least, that's my experience). I suppose there are a lot of complaints about having to make 5-6 votes instead of only one. But I know the complaints are not well founded.

Our system is complicated, but it is so because of several steps of trial and error. You see, we had rigged elections for ages, and gradual changes in the electoral system were made, by the former ruling majority, in order to keep heating waters calm and to remain in power at the same time.
The end had to be one of the most sophisticated, and debated upon, voting systems in the world, with an incredible sophisticate electorate. In the 2000 elections, 60 % of the Mexico City citizens voted for different parties in different races.

One curious thing about our system is that, since 1997, elections are not organized by the government, but by an independent citizen's institute. That the most accepted ID, since 1991, is the voter credential (it has your picture, of course). And that every single party receives, every federal election, a copy of the electoral list (the names of the 56 million voters, prescint by prescint, with their picture) so their representatives can check out the identity of each voter. It's a system crammed with "locks" against fraud (because of a long history of incredible inventions to twist the public will). When we learned about the "butterfly" ballot in California we laughed our heads off. It was so much from our "old ages".
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 12:41 am
How interesting! Yes - it was a tragic sight to see in the last US election. It is good that your electorate is so politically aware - ours generally is not particularly so.

People here can, if they wish, simply vote 1 for party of choice, and their preferences go where the party they voted for wishes them to go - there are WAY more than 5 or 6 choices for the upper house, and it is an interesting exercise to get sometimes 30 or 40 groups sorted out. I usually do it, because my party of choice does deals which allow, for instance, a religious right or racist party to be higher up the ballot than I want.
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Wilso
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 04:10 am
dlowan wrote:


Oh - we have compulsory state and federal voting - well, no we don't. IF you are enrolled to vote, you must do so - or at least appear and get your name written down, ot you get a small fine - however, there is no compulsion to enrol to vote.



When I moved here it took me a while before I changed my address on the electoral roll. All the electoral office knew was that there was noone from this particular residential address registered to vote. The application forms eventually started arriving weekly. They do try pretty hard.
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Wilso
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 04:17 am
We had "optional preferential voting" in our last state election. What it means is that on the house of representatives form where we had six canditates you could choose to vote for just one, or for all six. There was nothing in between. If you wanted to make a preferential vote, you numbered the six in order of preference.
There was a slight alteration that system for the upper house.

The current premiere ran a very presidential campaign, every single ad featured him alone, or with his wife. By the end of it I was sick of the sight of him. Worse still is that the huge cost was unnecessary with a disjointed and uncooperative coalition of 2 other parties the only opposition, which is basically no opposition at all. They now retain only their most loyal supporters. Those who will never change their vote.
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 09:53 am
I am a little lost here (just a little).

dlowan, you have to sort out 30 or 40 groups? Are there as many in the ballot? I thought they were 5 or 6.

wilso, I now understand "optional preferential" does not mean that you cannot choose 2 or 3 preferences and let the others to rot.

Elections are costly. Here we make a fuss about it, because most of the party money comes from public funds, and lots of effort is put in makibg the parties account for every peso spent (they often can't). The campaigns are also become more American (ads to seduce, instead of ideas and programs to convince).
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 10:21 am
Fbaezer - there tend to be less groupings for the lower house and LOTS for the upper! Anybody who can raise a bit of money and call themselves a party can stand.

We have everything from far right christian religious groups, to the Transcendental Meditation folk with the Natural Law Party, to good old Trots and suchlike, to happy pro-marijuana parties, to frankly satirical groups like the party party - who believe in having parties - to Grey Power - (for very conservative older people indeed) - and so on. It can be fun handing out how to vote cards sometimes!
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 10:27 am
Lost, fbaezer? Wait till they try to explain cricket.

Sorry for the interruption - go ahead.
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 10:28 am
LOL, Roger.
Cricket is, insofar, the only sport I have not been able to understand.
And it lasts days!
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 10:51 am
Correct me if I'm wrong.
In the upper house, the vote is proportional AND preferential.
So I can give my first preference to the Fancy Dress Party, my second one to the Kundalini Yoga Party, which will certainly don't reach the threshold, and my third one to a party that will reach the threshold (say the Greens). Then my vote counts for the Greens.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 10:59 am
one day cricket doesn't!
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 10:59 am
Is 9 pin bowling, bowling, I wonder?
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