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Vote 1 blank!

By Brett Walker - posted Friday, 20 August 2010

Vote 1 Blank! That’s one way to “stick it to the man” and I commend Mark Latham for pointing it out.

The avalanche of derision heaped on him since suggesting people use their right to vote as they see fit just goes to show what a confused bunch the likes of Natasha Stott Despoja and legions of splenetic journalists have become.

Far better to dispense with the niceties and just tell the candidates that you don’t wish to participate in the charade than play along and fudge it with a donkey or make a truly ham-fisted attempt to complete your ballot papers without inadvertently advancing the interests of someone you loathe.


This election has caused me to completely re-appraise my attitude to democratic process.

I was always keen to use my vote effectively, using preferences to push my least preferred to the bottom of the list. It made the moment fun.

Then I became aware of the truly appalling way in which Senate preferences were being traded by influence peddlers in the Senate race.

This election nearly every senate vote will be cast above the line, not because voters have considered and understood the labyrinthine complexities of the Senate preference deals behind it but simply because (i) they have to vote and (ii) above the line is oh-so-simple compared to the drudgery of below the line.

Bob Brown may say he hates Above the Line voting but his party will be one of the greatest beneficiaries of this voting system.

Mandatory preferential voting is NOT a democratic means of electing politicians in either House of Parliament.


It seems to me that forcing people to completely exhaust their electoral preferences (down to giving the people they loathe a preference, albeit not a very good one) is at its heart a very undemocratic way of doing things. It seems to me that the compulsion to do so (or risk informality) is driven purely to satisfy the needs of statisticians at the AEC and hacks within major political parties (who might otherwise be surprised to discover how few people really care about them and their policies).

I say that if you are going to compel me to attend a voting booth you can at least permit me to vote according to my heart and not according to your preconceived idea of statistical necessity.

If I were permitted to allocate just the one preference on a ballot paper what harm would this do? Apart from telling my preferred that I supported them it would also tell those I did not choose that I rejected them. Is that such a bad thing? Is it better that I allocate a preference to someone I either don’t know or I don’t like just so the vote counting accords to some preconceived ideal of statistical balance?

It would take some pretty clever explaining to make me think so.

So until I am permitted to validly cast my ballot based on my true take on the relative worth of each candidate I am happy to have the Latham method at my disposal.

Vote 1 BLANK.

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About the Author

Brett Walker is a lawyer and small business operator who spends most Sundays enjoying time with his wife and kids. He tried to read the Bible once but got caught up in the begat-fest at the front. He remains sceptical of anyone who would ask him to not be sceptical.

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