Voting in Victoria

14 Oct

I recently wrote about why I choose not to vote, but in Australia, you don’t have a choice. It is compulsory to vote in all elections or face a fine.

In less than two weeks, ballots for the local council elections are due and I thought I’d share with you the voting process for council elections in Victoria.

Ballots are mailed to each voter. You can either mail your vote back in, or return it to the hand delivery location listed on your ballot. If you don’t return your ballot on time, you will receive a fine of $20… unless you are over 70 years old. For some reason, those over the age of 70 are “encouraged to vote”, but not fined if they don’t.

You receive a brochure containing your ballot, voting instructions, and candidate information in the mail.

Australia uses a ranked, or preferential, voting system, unlike America, where you vote for one candidate and whoever gets the most votes wins. Instead, a full preferential voting system is used, where the voter is required to rank each candidate. If one candidate gets over 50% of first place votes, they are automatically the winner.

But if no candidate gets a majority of first place votes, the candidate with the fewest number of first place votes is excluded and those votes are them transferred to the remaining candidates based on the second place rankings. If still no candidate has a majority, then the candidate with the least votes is excluded and votes are again transferred based on the third place rankings, and so on until someone achieves greater than 50%.

Here, you would need to rank each candidate one through eight, not using any number more than once and assigning each candidate a ranking.

In order to help you make your choices, the brochure contains statements from each candidate. Being council elections, you’ll probably never have heard of most of the candidates unless they happen to be your neighbour. And being council elections, most of them won’t have a website where you can go for more information. So in most cases, the paragraph about each candidate in the brochure is the most information you will be able to get (short of corresponding with the candidate directly).

Better than nothing, I suppose, but most of the information is so useless that it may as well be nothing. As in America’s municipal elections, you are effectively voting blind, except in Australia, you won’t even be told the candidates’ party affiliations. Some candidates may say they support or oppose a certain issue (but won’t tell you how they propose to fix it) or they might just tell you what industry they work in, who their family is, how long they’ve lived in the area, etc, and nothing at all pertaining to local issues.

Each candidate also provides their own ranking of the other candidates. That could be useful, I suppose, if you knew for sure you hated a candidate. You could look at who they put as #8 and make that person your #1 or vice versa.

Each candidate gets one paragraph to tell you about themselves.

Once you’ve marked your choices on the ballot, you put it in a special secret envelope and drop it in the mailbox!

Apparently, mail voting is used mainly for local elections, the idea being that you don’t have an excuse not to vote if your ballot is mailed to you and you don’t have to go and stand in a long queue at a polling location. For federal elections, you must vote in person unless you apply vote by post ahead of time.

The next federal election probably won’t be until sometime in 2013, so you’ll have to stay tuned for a post about that.

One Response to “Voting in Victoria”


  1. Vote Yes on Compulsory Voting | ctom003 - October 15, 2012

    […] I may not fully understand the voting system in Australia, and actually I still can’t even explain the American electoral college system without having […]

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