A Personal View


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Australia's voting system is largely good, so all I would suggest are some tweaks.

Age of Voting

I would lower the earliest voting age to 16. I would also make voting between the ages of 16 to 20 non-compulsory. That should give one (or two) Federal elections where a young person would have the choice of whether to vote or not - I would use that opportunity to educate and encourage them to do so.

I would also make voting over the age of 75 non-compulsory. I am not trying to disenfranchise the elderly - far from it - just giving them a choice. They have contributed to Australia over the last 60+ years, we don't need to demand more from them. I would still urge them to participate in the democratic process, to vote - but only if they want to.


While in person voting on polling day is a  great experience - democracy in action - it always seems to me to be open to the potential of a devious person putting in multiple votes. A person could roll up at multiple polling booths in the electorate and get the chosen name of the person they are impersonating marked off on the paper voting roll. At present in Australia there is no check of their identity, it is an honour system. A person can then vote - at each polling booth they go to. Post election it can be (and will be) found out that a person claiming to be the person of the chosen name has voted multiple times but by that time the votes are already in and can't be identified to be retrieved and removed from the count. There would probably be a police investigation but how are they going to find the person that submitted the multiple votes?

It is a tribute to Australians and our political parties that there is apparently (though I have not seen the figures to confirm this) little voter fraud. However perhaps some tweaking would still be worthwhile to make sure this remains the case.

There should at least be an electronic voter roll to be marked off - this is the 21st century after all! Just on environmental grounds it would save printing the voter roll, thus saving a large amount of paper. With an electronic roll the computer would ping anytime it was detected that a voter was trying to submit a vote under a name that has already been used for voting for that election. The second and subsequent person trying to vote under a name would have to prove that they are who they say they are before their vote was accepted - or put in a ballot in an envelop (like a postal ballot on the spot), which is kept separate until the identity issue is resolved. That is a partial solution, as if it is the first vote that is fraudulent there would be no way of extracting that fraudulent vote from the other submitted legitimate votes. A solution to this issue would be video recording of the voter getting their name marked off the voting role in the polling booth, but of course not of them voting. That way it would be easy to go back and check whether it was the same person getting their name marked off at the different polling booths. (Face coverings, sun glasses banned while getting marked off.) Intrusion of liberty? Not really. The voting authority (AEC) already know the voter was there by their name mark off. The video is telling nothing new. The AEC would have to ensure that the videos were erased once the poll was declared and no longer needed for recount or challenge ensuring it could not be used for any other purpose. (What - you're paranoid about the Government getting a photo database of the population. Sorry to tell you this - they would already have a largely complete database with photos on driver's licenses and passports. But there would need to be specific regulations banning this use.)

The next level is that everyone has to prove who they are prior to voting. So driver's license or other photo identity card. I know identity cards have been problematic in the past - so this requirement should only be considered if it was determined that there was a significant problem with voter fraud in the future that needed to be fixed. That is not the case at present.

An alternative is to go to a complete mail in system or a system where the person completes the voting ballots at home before mailing it in or dropping it off at a polling place.  The voting slip is put into an envelop which does not identify the voter. This envelop is then put into a second envelop, which has been preregistered to the voter, signed by the voter and submitted. This allows all attempts at multiple voting under a single voters name to be detected before the vote is accepted into the count and those votes set aside to be investigated to determine which is the legitimate vote - probably by signature matching. The legitimate vote (still contained in the unopened first envelop) is then included in the count and the illegitimate attempt sent to the police to investigate. It would slow down the process of vote counting as there is this additional step in the process so the result of the election would not be known on election night.

I suggest the use electronic scanning and character recognition software for paper votes to count the votes. It is a mature technology that is used widely in other settings and would speed the counting process while maintaining the added security of having the original paper vote available if a recount was necessary for any reason. A manual count could be done for the seats that are close to confirm the accuracy of the scanned count. And also for any electorate where the swing varies the most from the average. And maybe another couple of seats chosen at random - just as a check on the integrity of the scanned count.   

In the future there may be a secure way of remote electronic voting (over the internet - perhaps using blockchain technology?) so I wouldn't discount that possibility. The trouble with electronic voting is that if the votes or voting process is in some way compromised there may be no opportunity for a recount as there is with paper based voting. The possibility of something going wrong, accidentally or maliciously, and the ability to recover from that would need to be considered in any proposed set up of electronic voting.

Also see the suggested changes to the voting system for the Senate from the Political Reform page.

Australian Electoral Commission (added June 2021, updated March 2023)

The AEC is central to the integrity of our political system. It is highly respected and one of the most loved institutions in Australia. However from my brief perusal of the Australian Constitution document it does not mention it. The AEC is governed by and administers the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. As a consequence of this it would be possible for a political party to abolish some or all of the powers of the AEC. While this is unthinkable in the present climate who knows what the future holds. A Trump like candidate could arise with a large majority and have no compunction about doing this if it cemented their power. One would hope that if this did happen that the Australian people would rise up and storm the barricades. But they may not - look at what happened (or more precisely didn't happen) when Gough Whitlam was sacked, there where only words of outrage and very little else. (Not even a High Court challenge - which was very strange.) It was unthinkable at that time that the Queen's representative could do this.

To ensure that it can't happen the AEC should be embedded into the Constitution at the next available opportunity (when other changes to the constitution are being voted on by the people). It is not safe to assume that "she'll be right" with such an important institution.

Voter Education

I would also like to see the AEC given sufficient funding to carry out more voter education than they do at present - through an advertising program and in school education. The current ignorance of some people on voting is regrettable and needs to be addressed to ensure better functioning of the voting system and democracy. Some people do not understand how preferential voting operates (no you don't have to follow the Party's how to vote cards for your vote to be valid). If people understand how preferential voting operate they will realise that giving a minor party - the party that may best represent their views - their first preference is not a waste of their vote. The full value of their vote will flow on to their second preference if their first preference does not get sufficient votes to remain in the contest. And will even flow onto the third preference etc. if the second preference does not get sufficient votes. (Again the requirement to use preferential voting should be embedded in the constitution to ensure it can't be changed by a political party who think that not having preferential voting would be of benefit  their party. It could happen. After all the NSW State Government has abolished compulsory preferential voting for State elections.)

One of the benefits with the preferential voting system is that it allows voters to vote strategically. For example, a person can vote for a minor party such as the left leaning environmentally aware Greens Party and if they don't get up can have their vote flow onto their second preference, which could be say the moderate/centrist left Labor Party. The Labor Party would see the leakage of first preference votes to the Greens and therefore think that they should try to make their policies more attractive to the environmentally aware voters to encourage them back to the Labor Party. The vote has a double impact - you get the left leaning centrist party (Labor) elected and at the same time send them a message about the importance of environmental issues to you. Juice Media explains the system of preferential voting well.

The Senate voting preference system is an order of magnitude more complex than the House of Representatives. However I am sure the smart people at the AEC would be able to develop an education / advertising program to do this concisely.

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