Given the concerns being expressed about the record number of Senate candidates, the Electoral Reform Society of SA has been asking these candidates about how they are contacting electors and their attitude to the current format of the Senate ballot paper.
Except for the Australian Greens, none of the sitting Senators or their parties have yet responded. This is not surprising as they obviously like the current procedures that ensured they were elected.
Those candidates (or their parties) who have responded indicate that they are having difficulties getting their message out to voters, and are mainly relying on social media and word-of-mouth, though there has been some paid advertising. While there is support for more free-to-air time on radio and TV, surprisingly there is not the same level of support for the Australian Electoral Commission forwarding details on all candidates to voters.
Most find the current ballot paper cumbersome, but there is little consensus on how to make improvements. Those that have responded want to keep a choice of voting above or below the line, are not entirely sure about optional preferential voting below the line, or having available sample ballot papers for voters to use before they go to vote. But there is general support for preferential voting above the line.
Now that the positions on the ballot papers are known, it appears that the donkey vote could well determine who wins the House of Representative seats in South Australia as well as the Senate.
For the seven most marginal seats in this State, the luck of the draw has favoured the Liberals who have gained a higher position on the ballot paper than the ALP in five of these seats. This could assist the Liberals win Hindmarsh, Kingston and Wakefield, but enable the ALP to hold onto Adelaide.
For the Senate, of the major contenders Nick Xenophon has drawn well compared to the Greens, ALP and Liberals (last group position). This should ensure that not only is Senator Xenophon re-elected, but expand his surplus quota to be a real wild card in determining the last Senate position.
The Electoral Reform Society of South Australia is calling for a change in the electoral rules so that in future the Robson Rotation is used.
Mr Deane Crabb, Secretary of the Society said, It is absurd that the draw for places on the ballot-paper can determine the result.
It is estimated that at this electorate for the House of Representatives in South Australia the donkey vote is worth at least 2,000 to 3,000 votes.*
The Robson Rotation needs to be introduced so that no one candidate is favoured by being listed in the top position (or bottom or second) on the ballot paper, and that the views of those who have real preferences among the candidates actually influence the result.
The Robson Rotation is the process of rotating the order of candidates names on the ballot paper so that favoured positions (especially top position) are shared equally between all candidates.
* In the Australian Electoral Commission publication Democracy Rules the donkey vote is estimated to be 2 – 3% of the vote.