Saturday, November 07, 2020

Australian Elections

The Australian Parliament has two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate is a house of review but can and does block legislation from the the House of Reps. Each state is represented by 12 elected Senators and while the process is complicated, it does allow smaller parties to be represented. Our two major territories have two Senate representatives each.

I am walking on the wild side here, but each state has its own independent electoral commission and they are responsible for state, local government and I think union elections as well as others.

When we vote for our Federal government, the election is conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission, again an independent body. This is a good thing compared to the US where Federal Elections are conducted by states, each with their own styles and methods.

In theory each vote for House of Reps should be equal. I am rather puzzled that in the US your vote in Wyoming can have a greater weight than say in the hotbed of communism, California. Australia is divided into electorates which is direct voting for candidates by numbers and the party of your choice. In theory we do not elect a Prime Minister, but of course who is leading a party and will become PM influences the vote. 

Every so often and hopefully in an unbiased manner, our electoral commission adjusts the boundaries of electorates to take into account changing populations. That is the more people live in this area so they get more vote weight, and these people who are living where population is declining, they receive less weight. It is not perfect nor always timely, but it does correct over time.

Come election day, you may have voted by mail, or maybe pre polled at a designated voting office. But the vast majority of us buy a Democracy Barbequed Sausage, with onions and tomato sauce (ketchup), or a cake from a primary school fundraiser stall and consume them as we line up to vote. In the past your name on the electoral role was crossed out as you received your ballot papers, now it is marked off on tablet style computers. It matters little if you vote left or right. It is all quite convivial. You vote in privacy in a flimsy cardboard booth and deposit your votes into the appropriated two boxes.

So, you have performed your democratic duty and if you haven't done any of the above, unless you have a good excuse, you will be fined if you haven't voted. Many are. Voting in Federal, State and local elections is compulsory. Actually, it is getting your name ticked off as having attended is compulsory. You don't have to vote, just attend or return you mailed ballot papers. 

The newly elected House of Reps party may claim victory that night and the opposition may concede defeat, or if close, it may take a day or two to get a result. The Senate result often takes longer for reason unknown to me.

While our system is far from perfect, I am rather pleased that there is never normally any talk of court challenges, as the Australian government is elected by perhaps over 95% of those eligible to vote and overseen by an independent authority. The rules and election laws are strictly followed.

Pretty pictures tomorrow.

Later edit: Of course this all counts for nothing while The Queen via her non elected Governor General or State Governors can at the stroke of a pen sack any of our politicians.

30 comments:

  1. I always felt like kissing the ground when I returned to Australia from holidays overseas. Thanks for your clear and concise explanation of our electoral system.

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    1. Cheryl, I do too. While we don't live in God's Own Country, it is not a bad place at all to live. What I wrote could have done with an edit before publishing but it went out raw. Thanks.

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  2. Hear, hear.
    I am looking forward to your pretty pictures. I think we all need them.

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    1. EC, I have worked out tomorrow's post now and only one pretty photo and some family history.

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  3. Yes, it is amazing that Wyoming had two Senators and that California also has two. The Founding Fathers planned it that way so that the wisdom of the supposedly older and wiser senators would offset the hot-headed impetuousness of the representatives in the House. Conservatives tend to like this arrangement, but it's had some gruesome consequences.

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    1. Cynthia, that part I get as it is the same here. It is the different vote values in House of Reps that I don't understand.

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  4. "I am rather puzzled that in the US your vote in Wyoming can have a greater weight than say in the hotbed of communism, California."

    I'll tell you what little I think I know. Elections here aren't decided by majority vote but by the vote of electoral representatives, a policy that was instituted on behalf of former slavery states following the Civil War. By and large, these states had low populations, and they feared having their racist and agricultural interests trounced by the more heavily populated, more industrial, and less racist, Northern states. Wyoming has three electoral votes and California 55, so while it's not true that Wyoming has more power than California, there are a lot of states with relatively low populations that, when added together, can control a national election despite the will of the majority. Twice in this century, the presidential election has been won by Republicans who lost the popular vote. On the first occasion, a moron named George W. Bush invaded the wrong country following 9/11. On the second occasion, a moron named Trump became president and began taking America down the rabbit hole. In my view, people who live in rural states are more likely to be semi-literate, paranoid, bigoted, religious nuts, than are people who live in urban states--which is why I moved from a rural Southern state. It rankles me no end that the states of the South and Midwest can elect a president, and the will of the majority be damned. America is the only democracy on earth that has such a system.

    " our electoral commission adjusts the boundaries of electorates to take into account changing populations."

    Here it is usually done by unscrupulous, racist Republicans in order to win elections by dividing Democratic districts into small segments and combining them with more populous Republican districts. The process is called gerrymandering.

    America's current election is interesting in various ways. For instance, Trump appointed one of his mega-donors to be postmaster general, and this man began doing everything he could to slow the mail so that mail-in ballots (which tend to favor Democrats) wouldn't reach the polls on on before Nov. 3. States sought to correct this outrage by allowing these ballots more time to arrive. Trump has, of course, objected (god forbid that all the votes should actually be counted), and if he takes the case to the "Supreme Court," which is controlled by conservative Catholics, two of whom he appointed, and they elect to throw out all of these late arriving ballots--in this increasingly close election--who knows which way the election will go. I'm optimistic that Biden will win, yet I know enough of what he is up against that I will have room for doubt right up until the last minute, which could come weeks from now.

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    1. Ok Snowy. I get the interests of the former slave slates.
      I also get your second point. Here a party can receive more votes, but they have to win more seats to form a government.
      Right, I understand about small rural states controlling result. As I hope I said, our electoral seats are much smaller than states so that doesn't happen here.
      Yes, I understand the demographics and educational levels of some rural states, although I have at least one blog mate in such a state who is not like that. Well, she would hardly be a blogmate if she was.
      There was a time when gerrymanders happened here in some states, but that has been cleaned up now and electoral boundaries are decided by independent authorities.
      Yep, I know about the Post Master General. Here a presumable independent authority Australia Post has managed to lose my local government ballot papers sent out.
      How can #45 argue to stop validly cast votes because of a slow postal service? Easily it seems.
      While I knew the Supreme Court was conservative, I didn't know it was Catholic loaded. I can see why non Pro Life are worried.
      It's looking good for Biden, but will things change that much?
      Thanks for your detailed response.

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  5. Australia is similar to the USA in that it is not one vote each for the senate. Tasmania with half a million people has the same number of senators as NSW and Victoria with over 5 million each. Which is why we get the weird independents from smaller states who often hold the balance of power and dictate certain government policies.

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    1. Hi Jennede. I've never formed a firm view about the way our Senate is elected but I am inclined to think that it is good that small parties can be elected and a sitting government has to negotiate with Senators over contentious legislation. Many laws that I have not liked have been stopped by the Senate.

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  6. Our electoral college is based on the population. I think that the electoral college should be done away with and we adopt a one person, one vote system. It wouldn't matter where you're from, your vote would count. That being said, here's a link that might be helpful in explaining why there is such a disparity in the number of electoral votes per state. https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/124069827_10159089273559878_4679891699143527901_n.jpg?_nc_cat=108&ccb=2&_nc_sid=825194&_nc_ohc=ckLKcIasQmsAX-GhRX8&_nc_ht=scontent-iad3-1.xx&oh=181945b0be4aba8ce5b1e4ec0a81abed&oe=5FC9E014

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  7. As my illustrious ancestor (Sir Joseph) was involved in the foundation of modern Oz; should I not have a seat in the Senate?

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    1. Cro, no. We don't do hereditary titles here. No equivalent to the House of Lords. Ask Macron for a diplomatic posting.

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  8. OOH Andrew now that you have retired you should put your hand up to be on the Election Crew. :)

    https://www.aec.gov.au/employment/working-at-elections/index.htm

    I have done it for the last 10 years and loved every minute of it, last election I was second in charge at a booth. Highly recommend, it is a great day but very long and you do receive a good sum of $$ for taking part. ;)

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    1. Snoskred, what a great idea. I will do that. My sister has done it in the past.

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  9. Well thought out Andrew, and looking forward to your photos as EC is too :)

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    1. Thanks Margaret. Tomorrow's post has changed. Just one pretty photo.

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  10. I never buy consumables while waiting in line, always on the way out as my reward for voting and usually I'll buy cake to have at home with coffee.

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    1. River, it is so long since we have stood in a election queue, I can't really remember what we do. Cake and coffee at home sounds good.

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  11. Compulsory voting? I'm afraid if we tried that here in the United States, a you might just end up with a lot of people flipping a coin and saying "Heads Biden, tails Trump."

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    1. Kirk, we kind of have that here, known as the donkey vote where people might mark their ballot paper 1,2,3,4,5. It would be better that they have their names marked off and not vote at all.

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  12. The two sides of the American electorate have gone mad this week about including only legal votes and excluding all fake votes. This is insane.

    Since every adult in Australia HAS to vote by law, every vote HAS to be counted. Imagine rejecting someone's ballot paper!!!

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    1. I don't agree Hels. The US system, no matter how odd it is to us, is working. People's votes are being counted.

      As I wrote about, I came close to not voting at our council elections as I did not receive my first ballot papers.

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  13. I'd love to have a couple of very large gins with the Queen, and then hear her unvarnished opinion of Trump, and Boris for that matter. Governments come and go, but Elizabeth endures.

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    1. And Thatcher Travel. Don't forget Margaret Thatcher.

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  14. Yo My Man, How Is The Ticker Feeling These Days?? Are You Walking?? Sure Hope You Are Feeling Stronger Again. Eat Well, Hydrate Often, And Thanx For Being You.

    Cheers

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    1. Padre, my heart is warm and happy. Yes, aside from the couple of days out of action, I haven't stopped walking. Eat healthily I do.....maybe too much hydration of the wrong kind, which is actually dehydrating but I do drink plenty of water.

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  15. Thanks for the rundown on your system. Which seems fair.

    XO
    WWW

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    1. WWW, much as yours is I expect. Care to write something about it soon? Elections #101 in Canada, all you foreign types need to know.

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