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Australia Government Politics

A How-To Website For Australian Voters 158

Posted by timothy
from the voting-by-esp-was-ruled-out dept.
Twisted64 writes "If you're interested in voting below the line in the upcoming federal election in Australia, but don't want to waste time in the booth individually ranking up to 76 candidates (for the unfortunates in New South Wales), then Cameron McCormack's website may have what you need. The website allows voters to set their preferences beforehand, dragging and dropping Stephen Conroy at the bottom of the barrel and thrusting the Sex Party into pole position (as an utterly random example). Once preferences are set, the site can generate a PDF to be printed and taken to the booth." (More, below.)
"There's also something to educate the above-the-line voters — if you check the box for your single party of choice, the site will fill out the effective party preferences below the line. This shows that a vote for The Climate Sceptics hands first preferences to Family First, and so on.

The website claims not to harvest voting information, but for the paranoid it recommends printing out a blank ballot sheet and copying your preferences from the screen. There is also a button to set up a donkey vote when in the ballot view, in case you have trouble counting from 1 to 100."
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A How-To Website For Australian Voters

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  • It's actually 84 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by srjh (1316705) on Monday August 02, 2010 @12:33AM (#33106938)

    There are actually 84 [smh.com.au] Senate candidates in NSW.

    I think the system is obviously pretty broken if the only choices are to number each of 84 boxes, go with a pre-decided list that the main parties have reached through secret preference deals, or have your vote rejected. At the moment you have to choose between two evils, and it has been made as inconvenient as possible for you to even make that choice rather than the party powerbrokers.

    Group voting tickets are just undemocratic. Preferential voting should only go as far as the voter wants - if your vote doesn't get distributed to any of your preferences, it should be discarded.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It does do that.

      This is why we have above/below the line voting. If you want to select only one, then you can do that. If you want to preference, then you can do that also.

      I think preference voting is a very good compromise, but the voters need to be educated in it, rather than following blindly. Also, they need to know that if you make a mistake you can get a new ballot paper, and you can keep getting them until you are satisfied with your vote.

      It is also good because you can protest vote without your vote

      • Re:It's actually 84 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by srjh (1316705) on Monday August 02, 2010 @12:59AM (#33107072)

        No, if you vote above the line, you're not selecting only one candidate, you're picking their pre-submitted preference list instead of your own. That's the main problem - the voters don't make the choice directly and the parties make deals or tactical decisions with their pre-submitted tickets. Slashdot's favourite Senator Stephen Conroy tried his luck at tactical voting in 2004 and accidentally elected a fundamentalist nutjob who got about 1% of the primary vote because they were trying to hold off a challenge from the Greens (when most Labor voters would have preferenced Greens first).

        A preference system is better than a first-past-the-post system, but the current system isn't perfect. Most Australian states currently go with optional preferential voting, which should be the way to go.

        • No, what you describe is only true if you vote once above the line (just place a 1 in your preferred party). If you fill out all the boxes above the line, then you dictate your own preferences.

          Voting above the line is generally the most sensible option - I really don't have the time to audit all the various options below the line, but I can check out the policies of all the parties.

          • No. If you fill out all boxes above the line you have voted incorrectly and the ballot will possibly not be counted depending on how badly you failed to follow simple instructions, the mood of scrutineers, the closeness of the ballot etc. In the best case the ballot will be treated as if only the "1" was present. Voting - The Senate [aec.gov.au]

            • by Pseudonym (62607)

              No. I'm a polling official (which is not the same thing as a "scrutineer"), and it most certainly does not come down to mood. If the voter's intention is clear, and it isn't disqualified for any other reason (e.g. writing which identifies the elector), then it's a valid vote.

              The specific rules do change from election to election, and state elections have different rules from federal elections, but the basic idea is the same: If we can tell what you meant, it's usually a valid vote.

    • Yes. It's MUCH better for two parties to each select a candidate, then have everybody vote either A or B.

      I heard it makes things go much better, particularly in Florida, where dead people and people with alzheimer's get to vote. It must be rather icky for poll workers when people who recently died show up.

    • by Matt_R (23461)

      go with a pre-decided list that the main parties have reached through secret preference deals

      They're not secret. http://www.aec.gov.au/election/downloads.htm#gvt [aec.gov.au]

      • by srjh (1316705)

        True, the tickets aren't secret, although most people don't know where to find them.

        I was referring more to the deals and behind-the-scenes reasoning which led to the group voting tickets, though.

    • Group voting tickets are just undemocratic. Preferential voting should only go as far as the voter wants - if your vote doesn't get distributed to any of your preferences, it should be discarded.

      The net effect of which would be ... letting others decide for you. The same as voting over the line, just in a slightly less predictable fashion. I don't get why it should make such an important difference?

      I think the group voting tickets are interesting in their own right, for what they say of people's prefences.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TapeCutter (624760) *
        Family First is a far-right "Christian" party, their only senator [wikipedia.org] is a self-confessed creationist, he became a vocal AGW "skeptic" after being fetted by US lobbyists such as the Hearland Institute and CEI. He is also a key proponent behind the intenet filter, at least he was until Conroy put his anti-abortion sponsers on the proposed blacklist.
        • Yup. And it appears that a small party that is ostensibly about equal custody rights (read: custody rights for fathers) is really mostly about this stuff. Sad. But important for anyone considering voting for them.

      • by kvezach (1199717)
        The net effect of which would be ... letting others decide for you. The same as voting over the line, just in a slightly less predictable fashion. I don't get why it should make such an important difference?

        It makes a difference because you can stop at exactly the point you want. To use an American example: optional preference voting would let you rank R, D, and Green candidates without having to care about where you're going to put the Constitution Party. Or a Norwegian one: optional preference voting
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by teh kurisu (701097)

      Do you have to mark all 84 boxes though?

      Here in Scotland we used STV [wikipedia.org] in our most recent local council elections, which is basically preference voting with multi-member wards. Although we were able to number all the candidates 1-n, we were under no obligation to do so - if you only wanted to vote for one candidate you could just put a 1 by their name and it would still be counted.

      I only marked two candidates, because they were the only two (out of the eight or so on the list) that I had actually heard of.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by srjh (1316705)

        Yes, you have to number them all, but I think with 84 candidates, they allow for one or two minor errors (e.g. having two people ranked 25 or missing a number).

        If you only mark two candidates, your vote will be thrown out completely.

    • Group voting tickets are just undemocratic. Preferential voting should only go as far as the voter wants - if your vote doesn't get distributed to any of your preferences, it should be discarded.

      This has come up in the reviews that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters conducts. Usually someone makes the argument that optional preferential voting is tantamount to first-past-the-post voting, and the matter is more or less swept under the carpet unless and until it comes up again after the next

    • Group voting tickets are just undemocratic. Preferential voting should only go as far as the voter wants - if your vote doesn't get distributed to any of your preferences, it should be discarded.

      Someone may have already said this (hey, why read all the comments if I haven't even bothered with TFA, this is /.), but I would like to see a system where you can number any number of boxes below the line that you like. If I only like three candidates, I only like three. I hate the bit every few years where I am sh

  • Slashdotted (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cameron McCormack (690882) on Monday August 02, 2010 @12:39AM (#33106970) Homepage
    OK that didn't take long. The site seems to be slashdotted already. Perhaps it wasn't a good idea for it to be serving 500KB @font-face referenced fonts from my little VPS. :) Once everybody's stopped clicking the link, I'll try moving the static data over to something that can handle it, like an Amazon S3 bucket.
    • by Looce (1062620) *

      500 KB Web fonts on a Slashdotted page... I guess one thing you can do now is replace that declaration with "font-face: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;" everywhere.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dropbearsrus (1197177)

      Cameron, love the site, it's a great tool. I managed to have a look before it was nuked.

      The AEC should have thought of this a long time ago!

      Now all we need is some information on those dozens of independent candidates. Beyond their name. Google could only help me with a few of them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        If you're really keen, then the list of candidates that the AEC publishes includes telephone numbers for all of them, and email addresses for many of them. In case you can't find any useful information online, you can always ask them their position on the issues you think are relevant.
    • by duk242 (1412949)
      Was about to say "argh the site is down!"
    • Looks like it is your name server, ns.mcc.id.au, that has fallen over.

      p.s. I need to get up to speed with Google App Engine, so would love a shot at porting your application to that. Let me know if you're interested.

    • what happened to the coral network, it used to save so many sites from being slashdotted.
      • by jonwil (467024)

        I think part of the problem with Coral Cache is that many filtering systems (WebSense etc) completly block it (because it could be used to bypass the filtering system and access banned content)

    • The site's kinda running again now, albeit a bit slowly. Don't all go clicking at once now. :)
  • "The website allows voters to set their preferences beforehand, dragging and dropping Stephen Conroy at the bottom of the barrel and thrusting the Sex Party into pole position (as an utterly random example)."

    Hah. Random. Right. Anyway, I LOLed. Thanks again, Australia!

  • Just to be clear (Score:4, Informative)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Monday August 02, 2010 @12:59AM (#33107078) Homepage Journal

    Non Australian voters might be confused by this article because it gives the impression that you need a HOWTO to be able to vote. But thats not true. Just give people you don't like high numbers, and people you do like low numbers. Its still pretty simple.

    You can tell from my sig. Labour candidates are getting high numbers from me in the senate this year.

    • So, what do they do if you do a "donkey vote", but instead of 1,2,3, you do 2,3,5,7,... or 1,1,2,3,5,8,... Do they just throw the ballot out?

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by M3gaBight (968603)
        In the senate you're allowed three sequencing mistakes before you paper is thrown out. Anthony Green's election guide [abc.net.au] is a pretty good starting point for those wanting to better understand our voting system. He also has pretty good guides of how much the voting has to swing for seats to change hands - Senate [abc.net.au] and House of Reps [abc.net.au]
      • by Grail (18233)

        What you are suggesting is pretty close to a "Langer Vote" (ie: number the guys you like from 1 to N, fill the remaining boxes wiht N+1). This is specifically legislated against in the commonwealth Electoral Act, 1998 amendments.

        When voting "below the line", the numbers must start at 1, they must be consecutive, and all boxes must be numbered. If those simple rules are not followed, the vote is invalid. When voting "above the line" the voter just puts 1 for their preferred party, and the various preferences

      • by Sparx139 (1460489)
        The vote doesn't count if you don't mark it correctly, not sure about your specific example. Anyone that's interested in the specifics should have a look at the Australian Electoral Commission's website [aec.gov.au]
      • As someone who has counted votes at elections, the rule of thumb we were given is "as long as a clear preference is indicated".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Actually here's one that actually scales:
    https://www.belowtheline.org.au/

  • link appears borked (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The link to the belowtheline website appears to be borked in the article.
    A quick Google, finds https://www.belowtheline.org.au/ [belowtheline.org.au] however.

  • Just waiting for the voting guides.

    http://www.filter-conroy.org/ [filter-conroy.org]

  • The following document is a summary of the parties and their positions on various subjects. Publically modifiable, so if you can contribute, please do.

    http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AgwGFHFd0TUIdExCbkNZWllUaVRsRG9yZXVVTXhUN0E&hl=en&authkey=CJu2lp8P#gid=0

  • Anything to do with www.belowtheline.org.au?
  • Not sure what the deal is with belowtheline.cc (has it been /.ed already?) But belowtheline.org.au is very telling. It is telling me that a vote for democrats above the line will likely be a vote for liberal due to them being preferenced second place... I think I'll do my own preferencing
  • by Lorens (597774) on Monday August 02, 2010 @02:52AM (#33107604) Journal

    Why doesn't the AU government provide the service? Why is it left to some random website to provide a means to vote more easily?

  • Below The Line - How To Vote In South Australia [scribd.com]

    If Internet Censorship is your main concern this coming election, the following guide has been created online via BelowTheLine.org.au [belowtheline.org.au] and using the different parties websites and statements on policies to order them.

    While they are ordered in preference of internet censorship, the top 2 are ordered based on their ability to influence. The rest are ordered within their preference (against/unknown/for) relatively randomly, except with the Australian Labour Party b

    • by Thornae (53316)

      That edit link is broken - I think it may be a problem with the site. Does it work for you?

      I've already emailed the site's creator to alert him to the potential problem.

    • by Thornae (53316)

      Okay, you can ignore my previous comment - he's fixed it now.

      (Guess which feature was added just before he went to bed?)

  • by ras (84108) <russell-slashdot ... u ['id.' in gap]> on Monday August 02, 2010 @05:56AM (#33108248) Homepage

    A wise person votes both above and below the line. If you do that and stuff your below the line vote up then your above the line vote gets used instead.

    See http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2010/07/how-to-vote-guide.html [abc.net.au], in the last section titled What happens if I vote both above and below the line? .

    • It would be nice if you were right; but that's not what your link itself says.

      If you vote both above and below, the below vote counts unless it's ruled informal - in other words, invalidly. In that case, what you voted above the line counts, instead of your entire vote being rejected.

      So if you followed your own advice, and ranked say 40 of 81 below the line, and put green above it, the below-the-line part would be invalid, resulting in you casting a vanilla green vote.

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