Every Australian citizen over the age of eighteen is entitled to vote in elections, referendums and plebiscites. Vote Australia believes there are six key issues in our electoral system.
1. How we enrol to vote
The process to confirm the identity of a person who enrols to vote is not robust. This opens up the system to manipulation and if a dishonest person registers to vote in a fake name, the votes of honest voters are devalued.
2. How we vote at the polling booth
Current legislation enables voters to vote at any polling place in their electorate. As identification is not asked for at the polling booth, a dishonest person could vote multiple times at different polling booths because there is no electronic roll that would prevent that. And because no identification is required, fake voters could vote many times.
3. Preferential voting
Voting in a federal election uses the preferential voting system, where a preference in numerical order has to be made for each candidate. So if a candidate fails to receive a majority of the vote, the second, then third and so on preferences determine who wins. It is referred to as the ‘two-party preferred’ vote, as it has to come down to a contest between two candidates. Some state elections require optional preferential voting, where it is optional for a voter to record a second preference vote, and so on.
Unfortunately, many voters do not understand preferential voting. They follow a how-to-vote card but not know what they are really doing. They may indicate a first preference for a candidate only to discover that their second or third preference has elected a candidate they did not prefer. Therefore, it could be argued that sometimes the wrong candidates get elected.
4. Electoral boundary redistributions
The Australian Electoral Commission routinely calls for submissions from political parties, politicians and the public as to how boundaries of electorates should be drawn. If a redistribution favours an opponent there are complaints. The lesson to be learnt is that we all should have an interest in the political process and argue for what we see as in the best interest for us and our community.
5. Eligibility of politicians
An Australian citizen cannot sit in federal parliament while being a citizen of another nation. This became an issue in 2018 with four by-elections being held after the High Court disqualified dual citizen members of federal parliament.
6. Foreign influences
Much has been alleged about Russian interference in the US elections in 2016. There is talk of potential interference in upcoming Australian elections by other nations. Both, if true, would be a serious blow to the impartiality of our democracies.
At Vote Australia, we will monitor these issues, provide solutions for improvement, and educate the public about them.