Democratic institutions are under increasing pressure around the globe from volatile, cultural, economic and political forces (1).
Elections are a part of our democratic institutions, deserving of protection and improvement. The system is not broken but is compromised and changes are needed.
Aside from the usual howls of outrage and ‘fixing the outcome’ by a certain politician who has recently departed politics, our federal electoral system has inherent weaknesses that have been identified many times. While the world has embraced the digital age, our electoral system has remained in a previous century.
Now the 2019 federal election is over, it is time to review the result and look for improvements. Proposed improvements will help identify a person’s right to vote, improve electoral roll security, reduce voter fraud and human error, and will be a move to Optional Preferential Voting (OPV)
The suggested reforms will help build confidence into Australia’s electoral system that is suffering from declining voter satisfaction. Reforms will encourage more engaged participation and trust in a properly functioning process. We are petitioning, therefore, for the following changes:
- Electronic Electoral Rolls in every booth, and
- Voter ID that proves a person’s identity, and
- Electronic voting to replace paper ballot slips, and
- Optional preferential voting (OPV) to replace mandatory preferential voting (MPV)
1: Electronic Electoral Rolls
In the 2016 Federal Election, over 18,000 voters voted more than once. Voters voted at one polling booth then repeated the process at other booths in the same electorate. The current system of paper-based electoral rolls is not inter-connected, so cross- checking between booths is not possible.
These ‘multiple-voters’ are an example of fraud that takes advantage of the shortcomings of paper-based electoral rolls, rather than a memory lapse by ‘political-tragics’. The concern is that extra (fraudulent) votes affect outcomes in tight-run election races. While these repeat offenders have been asked to ‘please explain’ no-one has been prosecuted.
“NSW, the most populous state, recorded 6760 instances of apparent multiple voting, compared with 4800 in Victoria and 2792 in Queensland. The Northern Territory recorded the fewest instances with 178. Despite nearly 8000 cases of suspected voting fraud at the 2013 federal election, not a single person was prosecuted for multiple voting “ (2)
If electoral offenses are not punished, the practice will continue. Paper-based electoral rolls are compromised and replacement by electronic electoral online rolls is needed.
An online, interconnected national Electronic Electoral Roll for Federal Elections, and the equivalent in State Elections, that digitally marks the voter’s name off the roll when voting, will eliminate ‘multiple- voting- fraud’
2: Voter Identification
No personal identification is required to vote in federal elections. This lack of identification has allowed voters to abuse the system by voting under another person’s name and address.
After the 2016 federal election, 18,343 people were asked to explain why their name had been ticked off more than once. Despite the Australian Federal Police receiving 7743 allegations of voter fraud, only 65 were investigated and not one person was convicted.
Many establishments require identification to access their premises; sporting clubs, RSL clubs, nightclubs and surf clubs. Voting is one of the most important responsibilities of citizens. To ensure the system is not compromised by voter fraud, personal identification is an imperative.
Naturally there has been some resistance from those arguing on behalf of minorities who may not be able to produce identification. Labor and the Greens head the pack of howlers about ‘disenfranchisement’ of marginalized people yet offer no alternative solution.
Over the past 10 years, the issue of voter ID has been discussed, debated and deleted. (3, 4) The Queensland State Government introduced voter identification in 2015. The system didn’t collapse; the process was simple and the negative impact on voter turnout was minimal at just 1.1%. If you live and vote in Queensland, an acceptable form of ID can be one of several documents, which every Australian of voting age, will hold. (5) A national voter ID card, however, with a unique voter-number (VN) could be issued and required when voting.
Voter-identification is an imperative to ensure integrity in the electoral system.
3: Electronic voting
In the recent 18 May election, 830,000 Australian cast informal votes for the lower house, on paper-based ballot papers. (6) Online electronic voting would help reduce the number of informal votes through mandatory ‘fill-boxes’ similar to other online registration processes. The current model of paper-based ballot slips, manual scrutineering and counting of votes comes at a huge cost to taxpayers, is time consuming and it is subject to human error. There are many benefits for online/digital voting;
- Decreased cost to taxpayers
- Better access for people with disabilities
- Reduced number of informal votes
- Reduced human error in counting votes
- Delivery of election results faster
- Eliminating voter fraud thru electronic rolls and voter ID
- Reducing the environmental impact of paper-based materials
- To bring voting in line with other digital transactions
The need for system safety and security of electronic elections is also important. In the digital world where personal banking, confidential communications, online education, share trading, international money transfers, management of border security, international relations and other ‘sensitive’ activities are conducted online, encrypted online electronic voting is possible and preferable to the current paper-based, manual system.
A Joint Standing Committee (JST) in 2014 noted the following benefits of online voting:
- provision of a secret ballot for blind and low-vision voters
- easier delivery of remote voting services and
- secure ballot-handling
The JST reported there were equal concerns surrounding costs, transparency, integrity and security with some believing if the ‘system ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it’. (7) If it isn’t broken how come it isn’t working?
Secure and encrypted online electronic voting is possible and preferable to the current manual, paper-based process which is open to fraud and human error.
4: Optional Preferential Voting (OPV) in House of Reps.
There are three ways votes can be assessed. Each has advantages and disadvantages; however, one method is truly democratic and more accurately reflects voters’ intentions – Optional Preferential Voting (OPV). (8)
The three options are below:
- One vote – one value. (first past the post regardless of 50% + majority)
- Optional preferential voting (numbering 1 or more preferred candidates)
- Mandatory preferential voting (numbering every candidate whether preferred or not)
(A more detailed explanation, with examples of preferences flows and comparisons for each option may be made in a later campaign, however for this exercise we will list them)
The current system of voting in federal elections for the House of representatives is MANDATORY Preferential Voting (MPV), where every square on a ballot paper must be filled to record a formal vote.
“Full preferential voting sets a high bar for voters. Preferences must be expressed for all candidates, whether known or unknown. To have their first preference counted as formal, voters must distinguish between every candidate on the ballot paper, even between candidates equally disliked, as well as between every serial nutjob who has managed to get on the ballot paper. “(8)
MPV has been in place since 1919 and has historically benefited the Liberals over Labor, however that changed in the 1980’s, with Labor benefiting from their close association with The Greens. Overall, optional preferential voting has a principled advantage over full preferential voting in cutting the informal rate, and in not forcing voters to express preferences they don’t have.
MPV can also be misused as a net-transfer of votes by ‘hostile preferencing’ against other parties and candidates in an act of virtue signaling, retaliation or as a way of addressing political grievances. While voters are reminded ‘preferences belong to them’ many still faithfully follow party HTV cards.
MPV has often returned an ‘upset result’ in elections where the candidate with the most primary votes is defeated by collective coercion by others. A good example is the 2018 Wentworth by-election. Dave Sharma (Liberal) polled 43.08% of PV, Dr Kerryn Phelps (Independent) 29.19% PV. Kerryn Phelps won the seat on the back of preferences from Labor, the Greens and other ‘independents, yet Dave Sharma polled, by far, the most primary votes. (9)
In the November 2017 Queensland State Election, preferencing by One Nation against sitting LNP members, resulted in a net-transfer of conservative votes across to Labor, assisting them (Labor) to win seats and form a majority government.
Optional Preferential Voting would reduce the risk of vote-gouging, political virtue- signaling and dilute ‘preference deals’ made between candidates and parties.
Voters are more likely to own their preferences without fear of deals or coercion between political parties, behind the scenes.
The above proposed ‘Positive Electoral Improvements’ (PEI) would make federal elections fairer, faster, more democratic, and with outcomes more accurately reflecting voter intentions. Change however, requires collective action. A copy of our federal petition is below.
To the Honourable Speaker and Member of the House of Representatives.
We the undersigned petitioners believe the electoral system needs changing to restore voter confidence and democratic integrity.
In the 2016 federal election, over 18,000 people breached the Electoral Act by voting more than once. In the recent 2019 federal election, paper electoral rolls, not able to be cross checked, allowed voters more than one vote. No voter identification was required giving opportunity to vote under another person’s name and address. Counting of ballot papers continued to be subject to ‘human error’. To cast a formal vote under Mandatory Preferential Voting (MPV) voters were forced to number every square on the ballot paper.
In a modern digital world, our electoral system remains firmly in the previous century. In one of the worlds’ oldest democracies, MPV is not democratic.
It is time for Australia to change to online and ‘optional preferential voting’ (OPV). This will help deliver accurate and timely electoral results and restore voters’ confidence.
We request the house enact the following changes ready for the 2022 Federal Election;
1/ Provide Electronic Rolls at ALL polling booths
2/ Issue voter identification (ID) as a requirement to vote
3/ Activate secure online electronic voting (OEV)
4/ Reduce numbers of booths and pre-polling period to two weeks
5/ Change to a more democratic Optional Preferential Voting (OPV) system for the House of Representatives
So, what can you do?
If you agree with our proposed PEI
- Sign our petition to the Federal Parliament.
- Share this campaign and petition with your friends
- Visit our social media platforms and engage in the conversation
- Donate towards our running costs.
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Acknowledgement of Nation
We acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have lived here since the Dreamtime.
We acknowledge the explorers and pioneers and their descendants who planted the British flag and Christian values on this continent, creating the Australian nation.
We acknowledge the Federal Commonwealth of Australia, created by the nation, under the Crown, to guard the liberty of ALL our citizens.
And we acknowledge those ‘New Australians’, who came here for a better future, and made this nation strong and prosperous.