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Are voters moving left?

Peter Brent writes in Inside Story (1.9.17) about the surge in enrolments on the federal electoral roll owing to the same-sex marriage postal survey. The author wonders, with more young Australians enrolled to vote than ever before, will this have the impact that Labor and the Greens expect?

‘With the Commonwealth electoral roll in its best shape ever, are the Coalition’s worst fears being realised? Back in 2011-12, when the Gillard government was preparing to introduce direct enrolment, the Coalition was ferociously opposed. Direct enrolment would allow the Australian Electoral Commission to update people’s details, and add new voters, using data from other government agencies. At the time, it couldn’t do either without a signed form from the voter; it was only allowed to use that data to take people off the roll – if they moved house, for example, as millions do every year.

‘The Liberal Party – and shadow special minister of state Bronwyn Bishop in particular – screamed blue murder, claiming direct enrolment would facilitate voter fraud. The argument never made any sense because automation works against attempts to manipulate the roll. In reality, the Coalition was opposed for the same reason Labor and the Greens quite liked the idea: voters who fall off the roll, or don’t get onto it, tend to lean to the left. The most obvious examples are young people, renters, students and those who move around a lot.

‘… So does a comprehensive electoral roll really spell doom and gloom for the Coalition? No. Claims that the missing voters would lean 60-40 to Labor were far-fetched: voters under twenty-five might be overrepresented among the unenrolled, but they are a minority of them. And despite the lift in enrolments, the ageing of the population means eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds account for a smaller proportion of the roll (10.6 per cent) than in 2007 (11.3 per cent). Meanwhile, the seventy-plus group has grown from 13.2 to 15.1 per cent.’

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