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Senate voting reform: keep it simple, or too many people’s votes won’t be counted

Political scientist Nick Economou writes in The Conversation (22.2.16) about the Turnbull Government’s proposed changes to the Senate voting system. He argues that ‘simplifying’ the way people cast their votes in the Senate ballot, rather than the complexities involved in the federal government’s plan, will help to enfranchise voters.

‘The Turnbull government has unveiled sweeping changes to how Australians vote for their senators ahead of this year’s federal election.

‘If passed, the government’s proposal would allow voters to cast at least six preferences above the black line on their Senate ballot paper, rather than requiring voters to fill in all boxes below the line. It would abolish controversial “group voting tickets”.

‘The Senate voting system is already very complicated. It is by no means certain that voters understand the intricate details of how the transferable vote system, which is at the heart of how the Senate is elected, works.

‘This is evident in the slightly mischievous claims about candidates such as Ricky Muir winning Senate seats with paltry primary votes. Muir’s share of the primary vote in 2013 was not great, but it was quite a lot more than that won by the second-placed Liberal and Labor candidates on their respective party tickets.’

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