Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Voters have a free hand in numbering the ballot

Yesterday The Age reported Victorian Electoral Commission figures showing that many inner-city voters make up their own minds about the order of candidates rather than simply follow preferences on how-to-vote cards. However, there remains too little awareness that by making their own considered decision about the order of every candidate on the ballot - not just who's first - voters can frustrate any preference deal in these elections.

Talk by the major parties of "directing" their preferences undermines the democratic nature of this choice, as if the hand of a party were guiding the hand of the voter as the pencil moves over the paper to mark the vote.

In considering the how-to-vote card of any candidate, it comes down to whether voters believe it reflects the skulduggery of party preference-dealing, or only a suggestion by that candidate of how they themselves intend to vote in good conscience. Voters should challenge candidates to justify their preferencing before election day to see which is the case.

In the first, the preferences - and probably the candidate - should be rejected, and in the second, considered on their merits. Voters cannot be "directed" - they have a free hand.

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