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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