No mention of the Donkey Vote in Local Government Electoral Recommendations
Tasmania removed the problem by adopting the Robson Rotation System which reduces the impact of linear voting by creating a number of versions of the ballot paper, each with a different order of names giving each candidate an equal share of all positions on the ballot paper.
Bob Beynon, who would surely be qualified to comment after more than 13 years as a Manningham Councillor, including a period as Mayor, has welcomed the review but is disappointed that the important issues, including the “Donkey Vote”, were not addressed. He agreed that the Robson Rotation of Ballot papers system was an obvious and simple solution and was surprised it had been overlooked.
In his analysis of the current voting system he refers to its bias and makes a number of suggestions to improve it, He writes;
The State Government’s decision to review the Local Government Act is commendable. However on reading the initial report there appears to be some glaring omissions in the recommendations that surely should have been included.
After the last elections where I was an unsuccessful candidate in the Mullum Mullum Ward in the City of Manningham I appealed the inclusion of an ineligible candidate to the Magistrates Court.
The Court hearing over three sitting days served to highlight several inadequacies in the act itself not the least of which was the ability to remove and ineligible candidate prior to the preparation of ballot papers. The Court was advised that only the ineligible nominating candidate could remove him or herself from a ballot prior to the election on application to a Magistrate. The responsible authority in this case the VEC had powers only
……….to advise the candidate to withdraw. In the case at hand this candidate chose not to act on this advice provided by the VEC prior to the poll. To then proceed to the poll with this candidate included on the ballot paper is perplexing to say the least. Had this candidate been elected he would have been removed immediately by a Magistrate.
This of course tainted the poll result as around 550 voters were in effect disenfranchised from their democratic right through no fault of their own. These same votes allocated to other candidates could also have changed the result had the ineligible candidate been removed from the ballot paper.
However this had nothing to do with who won or lost as moreover my challenge was initiated to highlight the inadequacies of the current act.
Surely a recommendation of this review should read. “All candidates must be subjected to a Police Check prior to the preparation of ballot papers. Ineligible candidates are then advised to withdraw their nomination. In the event this person does not withdraw they are then removed by the agency in charge of the conduct of the election.” This is standard practice in almost any sphere of public life and certainly in the case of any Government appointments to Government Boards.
I was also surprised that little mention of the “Donkey Vote” was made. Given that postal voting has seen an increase in the number of candidates in each ward the potential for this type of voting has also increased.
Similarly the previous absolute majority of 51% has now been changed to a 20% quota. If the donkey vote is around 10% this gives the number 1 candidate on the ballot paper a massive advantage. In fact the last 2 Local Government elections in Manningham has seen 90% of the number 1 candidates elected. Is this coincidence or bias?
Surely a recommendation to remove any potential for bias should be. “ The Robson Rotation for all ballot papers be implemented for all Victorian Local Government elections.” This is the practice in Tasmania and the ACT and would remove any chance of bias as all candidates rotate thru an equal number of all ballot positions on the voting paper. This is so obvious and simple I cannot believe it has been overlooked.
“Much mention of dummy candidates was made in the report but apart from recommending that each candidate must nominate and pay in person, not much else seems to be recommended”. “I believe all interested parties agree that “dummy candidates” are hard to eliminate.
A recommendation such as “ All first time candidates must attend at least two Local Government familiarisation sessions run by the Council for which they are nominating” This could have the twofold effect of deterring the not so serious candidate and educating those serious candidates about the roles and responsibilities of Councillors.Unlike State and Federal MP’s a Councillor has no dedicated support mechanisms such as electoral staff and offices and many nominate for Council Elections with little or no knowledge of what to expect. There are numerous examples of this that may well have be avoided if all new candidates were given a greater understanding of what a challenging role that of a councillor is. At the moment these sessions already occur but they are poorly attended in most cases as they are not compulsory.
The report also recommends that all Local Government elections should be postal as this increases voter participation. No doubt the same situation would hold true for State and Federal elections as well. No doubt if this option becomes law we can expect an immediate review of the State and Federal election acts to change to the “fairer” postal voting method. The writer remains sceptical of the real reasons for this recommendation as there are many in local government who believe attendance voting enhances informed decision making about candidates and their policies and therefore should remain as an option. Simply increasing voter participation in a compulsory voting system does in no way guarantee a better poll as the panel’s recommendation suggests.