Group voting ticket

Group voting tickets are a way to simplify preferential voting, for example in a single transferable vote election.

Voters can choose to vote for a ticket by placing the number '1' in one of the ticket boxes or can vote for individual candidates by numbering all the boxes in that section. Ticket votes are distributed according to the party or group voting ticket registered before the election with the election management body. In some elections, voters can express an order of preferences among different tickets by voting '1', '2' and so on in different ticket boxes.

Group voting tickets are used in many of the upper houses of Australian parliaments, most notably the Australian Senate. They are also used for some elections in Fiji. They were originally introduced to reduce the growing proportion of voters who cast invalid votes, as a single mark is all that's needed to cast a valid vote. In Australia, this reduced the rate of informal voting in the Senate from around nine percent previous to 1984, to around three percent during the time of group voting tickets.

In Australian elections for the upper houses which use proportional representation as well as preferential voting, it may be daunting to have to fill in 70 boxes—preferences are compulsory in Commonwealth, Victorian and South Australian elections. Some voters would choose their early preferences and then vote for other candidates in the order they appeared on the ballot paper—known as a "donkey vote"; or fill in the form incorrectly leading to an informal vote.

To ease this task, "Above the line" voting, allows the voter to choose one party or group, and all the remaining squares are deemed to be filled in according to a registered party ticket. About 95% of voters choose to use this method. It leads to pre-election trading between parties on how each party will allocate later preferences to other parties and candidates.

"Above the line" voting has been criticised as electors not knowing, and having no practical way of finding out, where their preferences are being directed. All details are published in advance both electronically and in a free booklet, published by the Australian Electoral Commission. The booklets may be viewed at polling booths on request to the poll officials. However, such is the complexity of the information that it is unlikely that the average voter could easily determine the fate of his or her vote's preferences particularly as some parties submit multiple allocations (ie. 33% to one party 66% to another and so on), and the effects are integrally wound up in preference deals between other parties.

Tactical voting

Using GVTs, the potential for tactical voting by parties is greatly increased. Because voters are not usually aware of how a party's preferences are directed, GVTs have allowed minor parties with low support in the community to be elected almost exclusively on the preferences of other parties, for example, where small parties with very different views have agreed to exchange preferences, or where larger parties have sought to minimise votes for opponents with similar views. This was most notable in a recentwhen New South Wales Legislative Council election; the response was a modified form where voters could preference by party. Another example was the Family First Party senator Steve Fielding elected on a primary of 1.76% in the 2004 federal election on liberals for forests and other numerous preferences. [http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2004/results/sendVIC.htm]

External links

* [http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/rn/1999-2000/2000rn06.htm Australian Parliamentary Library Research Note on Group Voting Tickets]
* [http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=3359 Above or below the line? Managing preference votes] by Antony Green


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