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Jump in no-show voters at ACT poll

Date

Stephanie Anderson

There was a 14.5 per cent increase in failure to vote notices in the ACT this year.

There was a 14.5 per cent increase in failure to vote notices in the ACT this year. Photo: Karleen Minney

More than 19,000 voters were recorded as failing to take part in the recent ACT election, an increase of almost 15 per cent from 2008 figures.

Following a tight election in October, a total of 19,097 apparent failure- to-vote notices were posted throughout the capital last week.

The figure is up approximately 14.5 per cent from the 16,673 notices posted in the wake of the 2008 election.

However, the trend is not limited to the capital according to Ian McAllister from the Australian National University, who said turnout for the previous federal election also fell slightly from 2007.

"It's not just the ACT election, it's declining everywhere," he said.

Professor McAllister said there were some widely acknowledged reasons behind voter apathy, including voters failing to see significant differences between candidates or believing that there will be a clear winner.

He also said the past few decades had recorded a decline in voter turnout among young people, whose views on political involvement had changed in the context of the internet and social media.

"Their idea of political involvement is GetUp!, social media, blogs," he said.

"… A lot of it comes back to the fact that political parties don't make their product as attractive as it could be."

At 89 per cent the turnout at the recent election was considerably below the national average, according to Robin Tennant-Wood from the University of Canberra.

"My gut feeling is that it's being treated as just another local government," she said.

"If you look at the recent NSW local government elections, voter turnout was surprisingly low. It was as low as 72 per cent in some electorates."

Dr Tennant-Wood said the figures did point towards voter apathy, possibly driven by a lack of engagement with local issues and politicians. "There's a lot more hype and coverage in Federal Elections," she said. "People feel more involved in the issues. Perhaps at a territory level, there's not that engagement."

She said the figures also failed to acknowledge that the electoral roll had increased by more than 13,000 people from the 2008 vote, but ACT Electoral Commissioner Phil Green said the increased chance for human error played no role in growing number of failure-to-vote notices.

"The turnout was slightly poorer this election," he said.

There were also concerns raised by voters who did take part on October 20, but were sent apparent failure-to-vote notices.

One man contacted Fairfax Media with fears his vote was not counted in the overall tally, but Mr Green said it was most likely that the polling official incorrectly marked another person with the same first name and surname.

"This is an easy mistake to make," he said.

"In this case, the elector's vote would still of course be counted, as there is no link between a ballot paper deposited in a ballot box, or an electronic vote being recorded, and the marking of an elector's name on the electoral roll."

Mr Green said the recent election used a new electronic system with netbooks borrowed from the Tasmanian Electoral Commission, which networked "back to base" across the capital so that names marked off at one location.

Polling officials had in 2008 used a different electronic system borrowed from the Queensland Electoral Commission, while all earlier elections were conducted with printed paper rolls.

Mr Green said it was too soon to calculate how many errors were made with the 2012 process, but 2008 recorded 307 responses from electors who were sent apparent non-voter letters but claimed to have voted.

"By contrast, in 2004 - the last time paper rolls were used - 873 electors sent non-voter letters claimed to have voted," he said.

"These results would indicate that fewer mistakes were made using the 2008 electronic system compared to the 2004 paper system."

 

16 comments

  • Imagine what the rate would be if voting were not compulsory or there was no fine. Sad comment on the quality of our political leadership and on the lack of vibrancy of our democracy. Is democracy still the right system for us? Many dont seem to care anyway. Suggest many have just given up on any possibility of affecting the outcome and policies. They have effectively been 'switched off' by the system; maybe time for a re-think by all parties on how to engage people; if they keep doing what they have done to date, the system will further degrade.

    Commenter
    Blue Leader
    Location
    Belconnen
    Date and time
    December 12, 2012, 12:40PM
    • Well, can’t really blame them, look who we had to vote for!
      And I assume that if just over 19 thousand people failed to vote then there will be 19 thousand failure to vote fines issued?

      Commenter
      Vote for Pedro
      Location
      CBR
      Date and time
      December 12, 2012, 12:46PM
      • If you look at parties like the bullet train party - I reckon some of these are protest votes because the main parties have no real ideas.

        Commenter
        KaH
        Location
        CBR
        Date and time
        December 12, 2012, 12:47PM
        • As 15% of people did not vote, then logically there should be 15% less politicians. 2.55 ACT politicians should be kicked out.

          Commenter
          stoney
          Date and time
          December 12, 2012, 1:27PM
          • I am ecstatic that more Australians are exercising their RIGHT not to vote when they dont feel anyone will represent them.

            It is an absolute travesty that the RIGHT TO VOTE, has been turned into an OBLIGATION TO VOTE

            Democracy shouldnt need coercion.

            I am so sick of the patronising people that think all the "dumb and poor" people need someone to force them to vote. Dont people ever consider that simply not voting is a valid democractic action and that over time, low voter turnouts may be the exact thing we need for other political forces to break through.

            The two major parties have benefited for too long from compulsary voting, which is why they both support it (along with the Greens! who scoop up protest votes).

            Commenter
            Stavros
            Date and time
            December 12, 2012, 2:17PM
            • Fine them all $20 and raise some money for the A.C.T.

              Commenter
              WotTha?????
              Date and time
              December 12, 2012, 2:30PM
              • Voting should be a choice, not compulsary. I know if I had a choice I certainly wouldn't be voting, especially in the ACT - as it doesn't matter who you vote for here because Labor always gets elected.

                Not surprised by those numbers, there's just no one worth voting for in the ACT (even nationally).

                Commenter
                Adzz
                Location
                Canberra, Australia
                Date and time
                December 12, 2012, 2:32PM
                • Agree Adzz. If voting wasn't compulsory, the ALP wouldn't win an election at either State of Federal level.

                  Commenter
                  BBA
                  Location
                  Banks
                  Date and time
                  December 12, 2012, 9:53PM
              • While normally a staunch defencer of the democratic process - I really have to agree with the ones who didn't vote. I'd also suggest that the results would have been just as dismal if they had voted.

                Commenter
                Outraged of Palmerston
                Date and time
                December 12, 2012, 3:20PM
                • How many only voted because of the fine, did they donkey vote, I saw one chap book in then fold the sheet and put in ballot box.
                  Look at the quality of the field, why would you bother, Mr Corbell got 1909 primary votes and still got a guernsey, I repeat, why would you bother.

                  Commenter
                  Nitro Gangster
                  Location
                  ACT
                  Date and time
                  December 12, 2012, 3:26PM

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