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Optional preferential voting (Read 30196 times)
freediver
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Optional preferential voting
Aug 20th, 2007 at 11:18am
 
QLD and NSW have Optional Preferential Voting (OPV) for electing local representatives to the lower house of state parliament. In most Australian elections you have to rank all candidates in order of preference. If you vote for a minor candidate, your vote will eventually be passed on to your lower preferences until one candidate has over 50% of the ballots.

In the senate, you can vote abouve the line by choosing one party, however this just means that the party effectively fills the preferences out for you. For QLD and NSW state elections, you are allowed to choose one candidate or rank some or all of them. This should not be confused with the senate system. If you do not rank at least one of the two major parties, your vote will probably not end up counting.

People argue that they shouldn't be forced to rank the major parties, but in my opinion it is only laziness and stubbornness that prevents them from distinguishing the two.

Some possible impacts of Optional Preferential Voting on a democracy are:

  • The spoiler effect - minor parties can ruin the chances of major parties, meaning that the outcome of an election can be affected by whether someone with no chances of winning chooses to get their name on the ballot. Many minor parties encourage voters to only choose them and not rank the other parties. This could confuse people who think the system works the same way as the senate and that the party will distribute preferences.
  • More extreme policies from the two major parties - as the major parties try to counter the spoiler effect, they will be forced to appeal to extremists who would normally vote for them via a lower ranking, rather than focussing on the middle ground and the other party's supporters. This can lead to instability in government, as policy changes significantly every time government changes hands.
  • Lower chances of minor parties being elected, as they don't pass preferences onto each other.
  • Increased chances of minor parties getting elected. I know this contradicts the above point, but there is a mechanism that can cause the opposite effect. If for example all the left wing voters do not distribute preferences, it increases the chance of a far right candidate gaining 50% of the now diminished pool of ballots. Rather than being a four way contest between left wing extremists, right wing extremists, and the centre-left and centre-right party, it becomes a  three way contest between the centre-left and centre-right party and the right wing extremists. If the centre-right candidate happens to come third out of these three, many of his votes could go to the far right candidate, giving him power, even though the majority of citizens would prefer the centre-left candidate.
  • People's votes don't count the way they expect because they assume it works the same way as the federal senate. Without a clear way to indicate the difference on the ballot, it is inevitable that many people will be mislead.


Optional Preferential Voting appeals to people's ignorance of how preferential voting works. It is promoted by people who object to having to rank all candidates because they see this as being forced to 'vote for' candidates they don't like. But that is not the case. Ranking all candidates is not a vote 'for' someone you like less. It does not reduce the liklihood of your favourite candidate getting elected. It merely increases the liklihood that you get a say in the outcome of the election, by preventing someone you like even less getting elected. By ranking all candidates, you are not 'voting for' all candidates, you are voting against the ones you like least. As an example, if you dislike both major parties, there is no way that ranking them both last will give them any more of an advantage against the minor parties than not ranking them. It can only disadvantage them. Compared with not ranking all candidates, it can only work in favour of all the candidates you rank above the major parties.

The same argument that applies for compulsory voting also applies against optional preferential voting. If you are going to make the ranking of the major candidates optional, you might as well make all voting optional, as you are really only giving people more opportunities to get out of making a decision.

Optional Preferential Voting will either mislead people about how their vote will be counted or appeal to their ignorance about how their vote will be counted. In exchange, the only benefit recieved is the freedom to be lazy with the ballot paper.
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« Last Edit: Aug 20th, 2007 at 5:46pm by freediver »  

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freediver
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Re: Optional preferential voting
Reply #1 - Aug 21st, 2007 at 4:04pm
 
Kalin:

Such people make up the bulk of our society, else it wouldn't be just the three of us discussing this point. The voting system needs to reflect the reality, not the ideal. After all, not being involved is a democratic right too.

If that's the motivation, then this is just another backdoor way to end compulsory voting. But it isn't the real motivation. The real motivation is people's misunderstanding of the difference between ranking candidates and voting for or against candidates.

the reality is that most people get to the bottom of the list and aren't making a choice at all

Same here. That's because I know that my vote will stop before it gets halfway down the list. But if you rank the two main candidates last, that isn't the case.
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Re: Optional preferential voting
Reply #2 - Aug 22nd, 2007 at 1:04am
 
But surely you must agree that it is a flaw to have a system which requires people to choose between candidates they know nothing about.  I understand the purpose of the preferential system, and do not share Ludwig's robust objection to having to rank parties I "hate" but those aren't the rankings I'm concerned with, it's picking between candidates I have no interest in.

With regard to senate elections where you have to rank 70 candidates or simply vote for one party, making it compulsory to fill in all 70 boxes is tantamount to bullying voters to give up their preference votes to the parties.  The fact that something over 90% of people just nominate the party above the line is indicative of just how easily people can be pursuaded to part with their full voting rights. In this case, making preferences compulsory, whilst allowing an "easy out" has effectively induced people to hand their preference rights over to parties.  This is a significant anti-democratic effect which in my view demands some reform.

Effectively, allowing a great number of candidates and then giving people 2 alernatives:  either give your voting preferences to a party, or, rank 70 candidates, is a sham.  With less than 10% actually determining their own preferences, the preference system is effectively being hijacked, as effectively the preferences are being distributed in a fixed pattern based on the single first preference. 

I also have reservations about a senate preferential voting system which elects multiple candidates based on a  formula that is just plain too hard for the average punter to comprehend.  I studied political science years ago and had it figured out back then, but have since forgotten it.  I think any electoral system which is sufficiently complex that voters don't really understand how their votes are being used to determine the outcome, is inappropriate.

Now I'll go check your colour scheme link. Smiley

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Re: Optional preferential voting
Reply #3 - Aug 22nd, 2007 at 11:46am
 
But surely you must agree that it is a flaw to have a system which requires people to choose between candidates they know nothing about.

If you know nothing about a candidate, you should rank them after the major parties.

The fact that something over 90% of people just nominate the party above the line is indicative of just how easily people can be pursuaded to part with their full voting rights.

I disagree. I think many people do it to give more negotiating power to their favourite party. There is enopugh media coverage of 'preference deals' to make people aware of the implications. However, I do not object to your idea of combining the two options, so that the vote defaults to a predetermined system after a the nominated preferences are exhausted. I think the best way to do this would be to put a "1" above the line and then use an OPV system below the line.

I think any electoral system which is sufficiently complex that voters don't really understand how their votes are being used to determine the outcome, is inappropriate. 

I think the complexity is a smaller problem than the 'randomness' introduced by simpler systems.

Have you seen my electoral reform article?

http://www.ozpolitic.com/electoral-reform/electoral-reform.html
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Re: Optional preferential voting
Reply #4 - Aug 23rd, 2007 at 1:16am
 
Freediver,

Sorry, no time to address everything at the moment, but I will reput one point in a different way.

Making the determination of your own preferences an unduly tedious task (such as having to rank all 70 candidates) has exactly the same effect as any other barrier, legitimate or otherwise.  Think about it.  If our ballot papers said, hey, you can either vote liberal or labour, but to vote liberal you just have to tick the liberal box, but to vote labour you have to rank all 70 of their candidates.  Do you really think labour would win many elections?

Now I accept that the above example is artificial, but my point is that our system effectively induces the vast majority of voters to give up their right to allocate preferences to their first preference party (so that in effect they are really only casting one vote themselves).  While the system invites people to actually use their preferences, it makes it so inconvenient that the application of the preferences in a meaningful democratic sense, is illusory.  Yes democracy is maintained because our first preferences get up, but it is all the minor parties which get to hand out their preferences and arguably decide many of the elections by their preference decisions about which most of their supporters have no real knowledge.  To me this is a significant flaw in the system. 

If you were fair dinkum about CP then you ought to be endorsing a system where people are not allowed to allocate their votes to a party but should have to allocate their preferences themselves.  As you said to Ludwig, there is no rational reason why people would want to give up their right to choose between the lesser of two evils.  That is exactly what 90% of people do when they hand their preferences over to a party.  In that sense I can see no rational difference between Ludwig's belief you should have the right not to indicate a preference beyond the point you are happy to, and having the right to nominate a party to allocate your preferences for you. In either case, you are giving up some of your voting rights because of laziness or ignorance.  To support one and not the other seems hypocritical.

On another totally different point, but noting your interest in establishing a sustainability party, what are your thoughts on ethanol as a transport fuel?
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Re: Optional preferential voting
Reply #5 - Aug 23rd, 2007 at 9:07am
 
I'm not sure about biofuels. There are some major drawbacks and I'm not sure whether the benefits outweigh the risks. If we could get our population down to a level where we could produce biofuels and food sustainably I would be happy with that.

The problem with biofuels: http://ozpolitic.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1169519086

The argument that voting above the line is giving up your right to rank all candidates only makes sense if you disagree with the how the party you vote for ranks the candidates. Given that the whole point of democracy is to choose who you give up your right to make decisions for you to, I don't see that as anti democratic. It also allows people to choose to maximise the negotiating power of the party they vote for.

I would support a system for the lower house whereby ticking one box avhieves the same thing as voting above the line in the senate. I had actually assumed that that's how it worked.
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Re: Optional preferential voting
Reply #6 - Aug 23rd, 2007 at 10:32pm
 
The argument that voting above the line is giving up your right to rank all candidates only makes sense if you disagree with the how the party you vote for ranks the candidates

Most people don't disagree, the sad truth is most people don't know and probably, because so few undersand preferential voting, don't care. 

While your point that the whole point of democracy is to choose who you give up your right to make decisions for you is a valid one.  Nevertheless, i still see no difference between people who give up their decision making power to a party (by ticking the party box) and people who choose not to allocate any preferences beyond the first.  They are simply choosing to give up their right to make decisions, not to a party, but to the rest of the electorate.  Why do you think one choice is more objectionable than the other?

Ultimately though I accept it is a minor point and changing the system of preference allocation is unlikely to effect many election results. 

What are your thoughts on the rather different problem that arises out of compulsory voting, which is the quality of voters it produces. Don't you think it is a real problem that compulsory voting tends to increase the relative involvement of uninformed voters?  In an ideal world making people vote would induce them to all take an interest in our democracy, and that is true to some extent, but there can be no doubt that making people who have no interest in politics vote, ensures a less informed (on average) electorate and thus, an electorate which makes less informed decisions.

It seems to me this is a rather powerful argument against compulsory voting.
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Re: Optional preferential voting
Reply #7 - Aug 24th, 2007 at 10:36am
 
Why do you think one choice is more objectionable than the other?

There are 'valid' reasons for the one, but not the other. If someone doesn't care, then they aren't going to put any extra thought into ranking all the candidates manually.

What are your thoughts on the rather different problem that arises out of compulsory voting, which is the quality of voters it produces.

I think that the higher the turnout at an election, the healthier the democracy. I don't see it as a problem. Australia has one of the most stable and responsive governments around.

Don't you think it is a real problem that compulsory voting tends to increase the relative involvement of uninformed voters?

There is no such thing as an uninformed voter. We all live in the real world. We all come up against various beuracracies, pay taxes (most of us anyway), break the law, go to school etc etc.

but there can be no doubt that making people who have no interest in politics vote

There is no such thing as a person with no interest in politics, just people who are sick of it being shoved down their throat or who don't like the system.
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The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man - George Bernard Shaw
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Re: Optional preferential voting
Reply #8 - Aug 24th, 2007 at 10:31pm
 
I don't understand why you think one choice has 'valid' reasons and the other not.  Could you elaborate on that a little.  Surely giving up your vote to the Electorate (the ultimate authority in the land) is more appropriate, not less, than giving up your vote to a party.  Both of them are almost exclusively options of the lazy.

-----

The higher the turnout would indicate the health of the democracy if the turnout was voluntary. You can't make a democracy healthy by making people turn out.  Happy people may smile, but you can't make people happy by making them smile! (actually this was a bad analogy since there is evidence that smiling can in fact make you happy but you get my point I'm sure).

-----

Well by uninformed voter, I meant that all too numerous group of people that hardly know anything about what any of the parties stand for, and pretty much cast their vote based on the 'look' of the PM or opposition leader, or in accordance with whoever Mum or Dad always voted. Obvously i's not a binary concept, perhaps then I should have used the term "less informed". 

That we all live in the real world only establishes that we are all affected by politics, not that we are all political.  Some people, like you, spend a great deal of their mental energy and life thinking about the political world, why things are as they are, and how they ought to be, etc.  Many people, sadly, hardly think about it at all.  Doesn't it irk you that people who haven't given an issue a moments thought get to have as much say in those issues, which affect your future too?

By the way, how old are you, what do you do for a living, and where abouts in Oz are you? This place seems just a little TOO anonymous for me.  You should include a few more personal details for people to include in their profiles.  Oh yeah, and I'm a sticky beak and unapologetically so.

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Re: Optional preferential voting
Reply #9 - Aug 25th, 2007 at 11:56am
 
I don't understand why you think one choice has 'valid' reasons and the other not.  Could you elaborate on that a little.

Valid reasons for voting above the line, which don't apply to not voting:

Ranking 100 candidates is genuinely difficult
You may want to give your party more negotiating power
You may agree with a specific party's rankings

Surely giving up your vote to the Electorate (the ultimate authority in the land) is more appropriate

You are the electorate. You cannot 'give up your vote to yourself'.

The higher the turnout would indicate the health of the democracy if the turnout was voluntary.

Not necessarily. Even mandatory voting improves the health of the democracy. The whole problem is that voting is not a rational exercise. The effort required to vote compared to the liklihood of it making a difference to you makes it not worth your while, by a long shot. Voting is a responsibility, not a priviledge. Making it optional means that only irrational people vote. Luckily for those countries with optional voting, most people are irrational, but it is better if the rational people also vote.

Well by uninformed voter, I meant that all too numerous group of people that hardly know anything about what any of the parties stand for

They may appear that way, but they know enough to vote in their own interest.

Doesn't it irk you that people who haven't given an issue a moments thought get to have as much say in those issues, which affect your future too? 

They don't have as much to say. Their only say is to vote. That is the bare minimum required for a healthy democracy.

Oh yeah, and I'm a sticky beak and unapologetically so.

Patience, all will be revealed in time.
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Re: Optional preferential voting
Reply #10 - Aug 25th, 2007 at 1:42pm
 
The whole problem is that voting is not a rational exercise. The effort required to vote compared to the liklihood of it making a difference to you makes it not worth your while, by a long shot. Voting is a responsibility, not a priviledge. Making it optional means that only irrational people vote.

VERY GOOD POINT.  Might just use that argument myself.

As to your anonimity, you cannot build a party whilst staying anonymous.  How is the sustainability party coming along anyhow?Many people signed up? 

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Re: Optional preferential voting
Reply #11 - Aug 25th, 2007 at 2:08pm
 
Not really. There's not a lot of interest. If I do start getting a few enquiries then I'll have to put up something about myself.
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Re: Optional preferential voting
Reply #12 - Aug 25th, 2007 at 10:50pm
 
Why do you think people aren't particularly interested?

Your sustainability party fits the middle ground between the rape and pillage of unrestrained capitalism and 'mad' hippies who would see us all living in grass huts and walking to work.  It seems to me there are a great many people who are looking for that and are stuck with the two major parties, for whom environmental issues are just a sideshow.

What have you actually done to promote the party beside post on this website?  I like some the ideas I've read.  How much interest have you actually had?
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Re: Optional preferential voting
Reply #13 - Aug 27th, 2007 at 11:25am
 
I think I've posted on a few other websites. I put up some flyers about some of the articles (eg the green tax shift one) before I started the party, but they didn't seem to generate much interest. I guess if I put a lot of effort into promoting it then I would get more people interested, but there's a limit to how much I can do by myself. I'm hoping it will spread by word of mouth.

I suspect part of the problem is that it is too technical for most people.

Send me a PM if you want to be added to the mailing list or help out in any way.



Voter apathy dominates NZ elections

http://www.smh.com.au/news/World/Voter-apathy-dominates-NZ-elections/2007/10/10/1191695943014.html

The overwhelming trend in local elections across New Zealand is apathy.

Not voting seems to be the clear choice in this round of local and regional council and health board elections, with about only one in four bothering to cast their votes.

Wednesday is the last day for posting voting papers to ensure they arrive in time to be counted. The returns are expected to the lowest in voting history.

Local Government New Zealand manager of local governance Mike Reid said on Wednesday the lowest voter turnouts were in the big cities, where people didn't know much about who they were voting for.

"It's better they make an informed vote than just vote. On the other hand, we ought to be asking some questions about why people aren't making use in that opportunity they have got," he said.

"There are lots of places in the world where people are fighting in the streets simply to have the freedom to vote, to choose their political leaders."
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« Last Edit: Oct 10th, 2007 at 1:51pm by freediver »  

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man - George Bernard Shaw
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Re: Optional preferential voting
Reply #14 - Nov 6th, 2007 at 5:23pm
 
I think the main problem here is that people are using OPV as a back door to optional voting. If voting was optional, OPV would be a sensible choice. If voting is compulsory, then making it compulsory to rank all candidates is the sensible choice - to follow through on the logic of this, remember that preferential voting effectively gives you a series of runoff elections, so OPV allows you to not vote in the later runoffs.

There are two separate choices:
1) preferential voting vs other options like first past the post
2) compulsory vs optional voting

The problem is that the people promoting OPV take advantage of the public's misunderstanding of how preferential voting works. They make up flaws in preferential voting in order to promote optional voting, even though there is no real choice between the two. They do this to avoid having to justify preferential voting and overturn compulsory voting. They try to turn their opposition to voting in the later runoffs as a problem with ranking candidates. However the same argument should apply to whether you have to rank your favourite candidate, not just your less favoured ones. They can only justify optional voting by confusing the issue by making people think it somehow gives an unfair advantage to any candidate you don't like but don't rank absolute last.
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