Thursday, January 10, 2013

Should compulsory voting go?

At the last state election I was surprised to hear there is one law which wouldn't be enforced, or more specifically, unlikely to be enforced. It is compulsory to vote in a Victorian state election and it doesn't matter what your age is. However during a briefing for independents it was said the law would unlikely to be enforced for those over 70 and I have to say I was very surprised.

To me having a law which isn't enforced and actively disregarded by the government is a law that doesn't make sense. All it does is add confusion and cause stress to elderly.

The wording on the voting information sent out for the last local government election was equally confusing and led people to think they didn't have to vote. My initial reaction was "what the" when I read the information which implied voting was not compulsory. I then saw another young person who read it the same way as myself so it just wasn't my reading of the material.

To me compulsory voting enables the major parties to easily determine the safe seats and thus they can focus on seats which are marginal.

In the Bulleen electorate 86.47% voted for Labor or Liberal. There were 4.84% informal votes. That leaves less than 10% of the votes for anyone else, making it close to impossible to be elected you aren't a Labor or Liberal party member. If I were to advise anyone wishing to stand as an independent I would have to say, do the sums and determine a seat where the chances of being elected are greater. The implication of that is don't waste your time on safe seats and to me that isn't good for the majority of Australians. As consumers we buy brands and the Labor and Liberal brands are entrenched into us all from a very young age. We appear to be educated to vote one way or the other most of our lives. Nothing much will change if we continue to vote for a party and not a representative that puts our interests first before a party. Members of parties have to put the party first so your interests will always come second.

Compulsory voting makes it very easy for the parties with their large marketing budgets to focus only on a small number of marginal seats. If compulsory voting was removed every seat potentially could be seen as a marginal seat and every representative would need to work harder to ensure they were elected.

We shouldn't have laws which are put into place that the government doesn't actively enforce. Voting if it isn't enforced for over 70s should be optional, otherwise we send the message that the law is silly and one if law is silly, then how many of our laws are silly.

I should state I am in favour of optional voting. To me it means it is much harder for the political parties, and all areas get treated equally rather than a few marginal seats benefiting. The outcome may not differ in terms of party representation, but if it did, my hope is that it would mean people are voted to represent the people first and the party second.

Kelvin Eldridge

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