deird1: Twilight Sparkle's hot air balloon (MLP:FiM hot air balloon)
deird1 ([personal profile] deird1) wrote2016-04-18 12:16 pm
Entry tags:

Aussie elections

I have been reading a lot about the US election lately, and have come to a simple conclusion: our elections are better.

I've also realised that I've never told you all about our elections, so for anyone who's curious, keep reading...

Australian Elections and Why They're So Much Better Than Yours (Whoever You Are)

1) We have an independent group organising them.

This being the Australian Electoral Commission. They organise the whole shebang, and oversee the voting. Among other things, this greatly limits gerrymandering, as the electoral districts are figured out by people who are required by law to be impartial.

2) The campaign season doesn't go on for an eternity.

Most likely, our election this year will be held on July 2nd. We're still not sure, though, because it hasn't been announced yet.

You guys have campaigns that go on for MULTIPLE YEARS. It's INSANE.

Plus - we have no primaries. So we're not all sick of the candidates before we even reach the main event.

3) Voting is on Saturdays.

This makes it easier for everyone to attend, rather than getting stuck at work. It's also a lot more relaxing. (If you go to the right polling booth, you can have a democracy sausage afterwards. They are yummy and awesome.)

4) Voting is compulsory.

Everyone votes. EVERYONE. Which, among other things, means that you don't get candidates trying to "get out the vote" by being as radical as possible. Instead, aware that the vote will be "out" whether they like it or not, they have to cater to as many people as possible, by heading more for the centre.

5) We have preferential voting.

...and this is the best bit. The uber-reason why Australia's elections rock and everyone else's are just second best.

Our ballots are a bit more complicated than yours. We don't choose a single candidate - instead, we rank all the candidates, from best to worst.

Why is this awesome? Because there ain't no such thing as "throwing your vote away" on a third party candidate.

I can vote for Awesome McPolicyGuru, who probably won't win, in the comforting knowledge that, when they fail to win as per usual, my vote will instead go to Nice von-Competent rather than Evil Villainson. And, if enough people do the same, Awesome McPolicyGuru could even get elected! Woo!

This is why our government is less of a two-parties-and-nothing-else situation that the US. The way your elections are set up, you're pretty much always going to have two viable candidates and no-one else - whereas we usually have a decent showing of third party and independent MPs. Because we can actually elect them.
velvetwhip: (Archy the Cockroach)

[personal profile] velvetwhip 2016-04-18 02:56 am (UTC)(link)
Right now in the USA,. the Republicans are doing everything in their power - and succeeding to an alarming degree - to ensure that non-white and liberal voters have no access to the polls or are disenfranchised in some other way. I really wish we had compulsory voting here.

melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)

[personal profile] melannen 2016-04-18 03:34 am (UTC)(link)
I have encountered several people lately saying they are sick of the US elections, they don't even vote, they're going to move to Australia instead, and then I tell them that voting is mandatory in Australia, and they give me this look of wonder.

(Then I explain instant runoff voting to them and they get this hunted look in their eyes and leave right about the time I start talking about independent redistricting commissions.)

Anyway, "democracy sausage" is really a thing in Australia? Do you. Do you. Do have the proverb about law-making and sausage-making in Australia?
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)

[personal profile] melannen 2016-04-18 02:06 pm (UTC)(link)
I am delighted to learn that in Australia, everybody really does know how the democracy sausages are made. ^_^
petzipellepingo: (us flag by eyesthatslay)

[personal profile] petzipellepingo 2016-04-18 07:25 am (UTC)(link)
You're right, that does sound better.
kazzy_cee: (Default)

[personal profile] kazzy_cee 2016-04-18 08:24 am (UTC)(link)
The whole thing is better managed and I really like the compulsory voting and the ranking system. I wish we had something like this in the UK.
draconin: (Default)

[personal profile] draconin 2016-04-18 12:06 pm (UTC)(link)
But most of all, and I can't stress this enough, WE DON'T HAVE DONALD TRUMP!!!

Yay Australia. :-)
megpie71: Animated "tea" icon popular after London bombing. (Default)

[personal profile] megpie71 2016-04-19 12:40 am (UTC)(link)
We do, however, have Tony Abbott. (At least until the Liberals in Warringah find a dead emu who's willing to run in a pre-selection ballot against him).
alexseanchai: Blue and purple lightning (Default)

[personal profile] alexseanchai 2016-04-18 03:05 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, wow. I want this. Along with single-payer health care. And a unicorn, because I know the US political landscape well enough to know which of the three is likeliest...
ruuger: Heart-shaped version of the Finnish flag with the word 'Eurovision' (Eurovision Song Contest)

[personal profile] ruuger 2016-04-18 04:29 pm (UTC)(link)
I just don't get the US presidential primaries. What is the benefit of trashing your own party's candidate? In Finland, there is sometimes small scandals and dirt-throwing when presidential candidates are chosen, but for the most part the parties try to *hide* this from the potential voters to avoid having them vote another party.

In Finland, the official election days are on Sundays, but there is also a week-long 'pre-voting period' when you can also vote. On the election day, you have to go to your designated voting place (usually at a local school), but if you vote during the pre-vote, you can vote anywhere in Finland (or in its embassies), and there are usually voting booths at every post-office and supermarket to make voting easy. We don't have compulsory voting, but I think that all the parties try to encourage voting because they all believe that they would get those extra votes.

In general, we have very party-focused politics because we use the D'hont method, meaning that when you vote for a candidate, you also give your vote for all the candidates in their party. The method favours big parties (there are usually 3-4 parties that get the majority of votes), but the smaller parties can also benefit from it because the smaller the party, the less chance there is that they're going to have someone on their list who you absolutely positively do not want to give your vote.
ruuger: Heart-shaped version of the Finnish flag with the word 'Eurovision' (Eurovision Song Contest)

[personal profile] ruuger 2016-04-19 09:05 am (UTC)(link)
It's quite handy, actually. I usually vote at the same place where I get my groceries - I go there a couple of times a week and just pick a time when there are no queues to the voting booths.

The pre-election voting places usually look something like this. You just show your ID, they give you a ballot, you go to the booth to fill it, have it stamped by the official, put it in an envelope, sign a paper to confirm your identity, and you're done.
lizbee: Zuko looks into the distance, his face torn, his hair blowing in the wind. Comic scan. (Avatar: Zuko's emo face)

[personal profile] lizbee 2016-04-18 09:18 pm (UTC)(link)
AND, for people who can't vote on Saturdays due to work or for religious reasons, we make it quite easy to vote beforehand.

On the other hand, we also have problems where the AEC "accidentally" forgets to bring their mobile polling places to remote Aboriginal communities, and Queensland's ongoing attempt to bring repressive vote ID laws in, and also that bit where the AEC totally stuffed up the WA senate vote and they had to have a new election.

But mostly, we're doing okay. I think there was a bit of a crisis in the last Federal election because actual proper votes were down to 93%?
megpie71: Impossibility established early takes the sting out of the rest of the obstacles (Less obstacles)

Warning: long electoral ramble.

[personal profile] megpie71 2016-04-19 12:39 am (UTC)(link)
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.
ruuger: Heart-shaped version of the Finnish flag with the word 'Eurovision' (Eurovision Song Contest)

Re: Warning: long electoral ramble.

[personal profile] ruuger 2016-04-19 10:39 am (UTC)(link)
The yogic flyers' party! Man, that brings back the memories - we had a Natural Law Party in the 90's in Finland as well. Is it an actual, could-win-seats kind of a party in Australia, or just a weird fringe party that doesn't actually get votes?

There has been talk about mandatory voting in Finland as well because of the low turnout (40-70%, depending on the type of election). It would be fairly easy to implement since Finland doesn't have voter registration - everyone is automatically registered - but I don't think that the citizens' advocacy groups would allow it.
megpie71: AC Reno holding bomb, looking away from camera (about that raise)

Re: Warning: long electoral ramble.

[personal profile] megpie71 2016-04-19 10:37 pm (UTC)(link)
The Natural Law party never managed to get a single candidate elected. Mostly, I think, because they were aiming to get people elected to the House of Representatives rather than the Senate - our lower house is harder for minor parties to get into than the upper house, because for the lower house, you have to get a single member over the 50% plus one vote extra barrier. The Senate has a rather different system, being voted for state-wide, and usually you're looking at 6 senators per state - so about 1/6th of the vote plus one vote extra is the quota to get a senator elected. This up-coming election, being a double-dissolution, means we're voting in 12 senators per state, which lowers the level of the quota. Technically, this means the minor parties should have an easier time of it, getting their candidates over the line. However, there's been some rather recent fiddling with the ballot process for the senate ballots aimed at reducing the influence of "preference whisperers" on the whole process. So this could influence things.
smurasaki: blond person (neutral)

[personal profile] smurasaki 2016-04-19 04:35 am (UTC)(link)
Compulsory turnout and preferential voting both seem like they'd help a lot. *pokes the US election system with a stick* :\
megpie71: Impossibility established early takes the sting out of the rest of the obstacles (Impossibility)

[personal profile] megpie71 2016-04-19 10:43 pm (UTC)(link)
Actually, I'd say the best place for the USA to start would be by adopting the politically neutral body in charge of running and administering elections. A tough ask within the constraints of the heavily politicised US public service, but theoretically possible - maybe outsource the job to the Canadians, or we could loan you the services of the AEC for a few elections. Either way, get your major political parties OUT of the business of creating the electoral rolls, administering the polling places, handling electoral boundaries, and so on, and you may see an improvement in things to start with.

Of course, your major political parties will resist this tooth and nail, because the minute they stop controlling the voter enrolments, the polling place distribution and opening times, the electoral boundaries, and so on, they start losing a lot of little advantages.
smurasaki: blond person (neutral)

[personal profile] smurasaki 2016-04-21 01:37 am (UTC)(link)
How DO you get politically neutral people running and administering elections without out-sourcing to another country? All of those things are already controlled by state election boards, legislatures, county governments, and the like, not the parties directly.