Warning: long electoral ramble.

Date: 2016-04-19 12:39 am (UTC)
megpie71: Impossibility established early takes the sting out of the rest of the obstacles (Less obstacles)
From: [personal profile] megpie71
Okay, a few things to note here (not that what you're saying isn't largely accurate, but it's probably worth noting there's some important pointers to deal with).

1) While having the AEC running things does limit the potential for gerrymandering, it doesn't eradicate it completely (see: Queensland under Bjelke-Petersen). One thing having the AEC does do is it restricts the opportunities the major parties have to muddle with the vote by running voter enrolment.

2) While we don't have primaries, we do have pre-selection battles, and you'll notice the mainstream press is getting interested in those now. Just wait, as the local meejah gets more and more desperate for content to feed the 24-hour news cycle, we're going to start hearing more and more about local pre-selection battles as well.

On the other hand, the reason we don't have presidential primaries is even more straightforward: we don't have a presidential system of government. Our prime minister is the leader of the political party which has the working majority of seats in the House of Representatives (which is how we can change our head of government mid-stream without needing elections to do so).

3) We don't have compulsory voting. We have secret ballots, so we can't, strictly speaking, have compulsory voting. What we have is compulsory turnout - everyone who is eligible to vote is required to receive their ballot papers in one way or another (either by turning up to a polling place, or by putting in a postal vote).

4) However, the compulsory turnout rule is one of the things which means our polling days are Saturdays (it's a day when firstly, the majority of people aren't working; and secondly, the school classrooms or libraries which are being used as polling places aren't in regular use). Other things compulsory voter turnout makes possible is many more accessible polling places (because if you make it a rule people have to turn out to vote, you also put on yourself the obligation of making it as easy as possible for them to do it), much greater effort at enrolling voters in the first place (the AEC allows online enrolment these days, or you can pick up the forms at any post office or post office agency, and the list of eligible persons who can witness them is generally comprehensive enough you can find someone who's willing to do the job; I suspect they're also probably available at Centrelink offices these days too).

Compulsory turnout also means the AEC goes to great lengths to ensure that everyone who is eligible to vote can receive their ballot papers by bringing ballot boxes to remote communities (often up to a week before the formal election day), to nursing homes and hospitals, and to prisons. (Yeah, there's another difference from the USA: if you're a prisoner who is undergoing a custodial sentence of less than 3 years, you are still required to receive your ballot paper and vote. Having been imprisoned doesn't remove your voting rights.) There's also polling booths set up in our embassies around the world, postal voting slips sent to serving members of the armed forces stationed outside the country and so on. We're serious about this stuff.

5) Preferential voting (aka "instant runoff voting") is pretty damn cool. It's the number one thing which keeps me participating in elections, because it's a very effective method of voting AGAINST. I've been voting now for over 20 years, and I always start by counting the number of candidates, and then putting the Liberals last. Then I work backward from there, until I wind up selecting the least worst candidate of those offered. (Usually the candidate for the Greens, although if the Natural Law Party - yogic flyers - puts up a candidate, they usually wind up getting my number one pick, because while they probably won't make things any better if they get elected, they sure as heck aren't likely to make them worse!)

For those who are putting up what they think of as their "winning" argument against compulsory turnout - "I don't like/respect/want any of the candidates" - I think preferential voting is actually a pretty good rebuttal. It doesn't ask you to like them, it just asks you to rank them sequentially from worst to least worst. (As for not wanting them - when has that ever mattered? One of those candidates is going to wind up representing you whether you want them to or not, and you're going to be stuck with them. Get out there and register a vote so you at least wind up with the least worst!)

Oh, and finally: yes, we have compulsory turnout. No, we don't have compulsory voting. But funnily enough, once people have had to turn out and receive their ballot papers, they usually fill them in correctly. The informal ballot rate in an Australian election is usually below 10%, and the only time it gets particularly high is when you have things like the NSW "tablecloth" ballot (for the senate - lots and lots of minor parties performing preference swaps. They've changed the rules this year to try and stop that. Be interesting to see what happens as a result). So approximately 90% of our population are actively involved in selecting our members of government (as opposed to about 20% of the population in the USA). We may not have "by the people, of the people, for the people" down pat (it's more "by the people, of the political class, for the corporations"), but we're certainly doing a better job at it than a lot of other places.
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