Sunday, July 3, 2016

Oz Elections. .

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So here we are: another election done, another delayed result and confusion as to who will govern.

Some election items . . . 
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Why is it, in this age of computers and technology, I have to stand in a queue for ages to have my name marked off the roll of voters by someone who puts a line through my name using a pen and ruler and then gives me my ballot papers, which he or she first initials. I then walk to a booth where I put my markings on the papers, put them into boxes and which are then manually counted later.

Why can’t there be online voting with an option to attend at polling booths. Those who do not have computers could still vote physically.

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I asked my wife the same question – Why can’t we vote online? – when standing in the queue to vote.

The woman in front of us heard me and replied, tongue in cheek, “Because the schools need to hold sausage sizzles to raise money.”
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Bill Shorten was ridiculed in the press for eating a sausage on a roll by starting at the side. Every true sausage eater knows you start at the end!
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Speaking of which, one of the greatest electoral websites would have had to be “Snagvotes”, “snag” being a colloquial term for a sausage.

Snagvotes can be accessed by clicking on the following link:

Why is it so great? 

Because it lists all the polling booths that had sausage sizzles and cake stalls.
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Having advanced to near the head of the queue, which placed us inside the school auditorium where voting was taking place, I observed an official with a yellow fluoro vest standing behind a cardboard barrier that read “AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT”.

As I saw this, I also saw her walk with a white stick in hand to the ballot boxes, where she proceeded to push the stick into the ballot box slots and push the ballot papers down to create more room.

More Oz hi tech.
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When voting in Oz, after your name has been identified in the book by the election official and before the name is ruled through, the official asks “Have you already voted in this election?”

The question has always struck me as somewhat silly. If I have already voted and intend to illegally and dishonestly vote again, I wouldn’t be confessing that I intend to do so.

Accordingly I usually respond that yes, I have already voted.

Yesterday I replied “A couple of times.”

The lady who was tasked with marking off my name and giving me my ballot papers must have seen the Monty Python absurdity of the situation and replied “I’m sorry, I have to ask it.”

On one occasion in the past the young lady looked nonplussed when I answered that I had already voted a number of times. I asked “What happens now?” “I don’t know,” she replied, “no one has ever answered that way before.”

Another time the female electoral officer (why are they always female?) queried “You have?” I replied “Yes, I’m a Labor supporter. Our slogan is 'Vote early and vote often.' "

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The belief that Al Capone coined the slogan “Vote early and vote often” is not correct.

The phrase had its origins in the United States in the mid-19th century, and had an early appearance in Britain when a newspaper reprinted correspondence from an American lawyer. The phrase, however, did not find widespread use until the early 1900s when it was used in relation to the activities of organised crime figures in Chicago.
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It is ironic that Australia, a democracy, has voting laws that make voting compulsory.
COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL ACT 1918 - SECT 245

Compulsory voting

(1) It shall be the duty of every elector to vote at each election.
If the elector does not have a valid and sufficient reason for not voting, a $20 fine will be imposed.

It is not enough to turn up and have one’s name marked off, you need to vote as well.

In a case of O’Brien v Warden (1981) 37 ACTR 13, Mr Warden turned up at a polling place and told the electoral officer that he had arrived in Canberra a little over a week before the Territory election for the ACT House of Assembly, and at the time he knew nothing about any of the 24 candidates. He said that there was not enough time before the election to find out sufficient information to enable him to decide on an order of preference that, in accordance with the law, he was required to show by his marking of the ballot paper. He elected to have the matter dealt with at court. The Magistrate held that he had shown a valid and sufficient reason for failing to vote and dismissed the charge of failure to vote without a valid and sufficient reason.

The matter went on appeal to the ACT Supreme Court where Chief Justice Blackburn overturned the Magistrate’s decision on appeal, commenting that:
… In my opinion the Act does not oblige the elector to make a true expression of his preference among the candidates. On one view he must make an expression of apparent preference; on another he need not express himself intelligibly or at all.

… The decided cases prevent me from thinking that the legislature intended to spare the consciences of those to whom to vote insincerely is distasteful. A fortiori, there can be no reason to think that it is intended to spare from the inconvenience of a visit to the polling booth those for whom to comply with the Act is a meaningless formality, objectionable only because it is a waste of time.

It seems, therefore, that… the fact that he has – for whatever reason – no preference to express, is not a rational excuse for failing to perform it, and therefore not a ‘valid and sufficient reason’ within the meaning of that phrase in… the Act.

So Mr Warden simply had to put a blank ballot paper in the box, or write a rude message on the paper, and he would have been okay.

Another Monty Python moment.
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Australia has one of the highest rates of voter turnout in the world, with a reported 94% voter turnout in the last federal election, compared with about 65% in the UK's 2010 general election and an estimated 57% in the 2012 US presidential election.

In recent years there has been an increase in informal or spoilt ballots , instances where voters either mistakenly or intentionally submit a ballot that is blank or improperly filled in, which cannot be counted in the final tally. Spoilt ballots count for around 6% of the total votes cast in the 2010 election. Taken together with the number of eligible voters who fail to register, the actual percentage for voter turnout in Australia's federal elections hovers in the low 80s.


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