We don’t use them to cast our votes, and we don’t use them to count our votes either. Anybody telling you otherwise is lying.
Background reading on this FUD effort, if, like me, you hadn’t previously noticed it:
Guardian – Why AV won’t spell RIP for tactical voting
Yes To Fairer Votes – AV Myths
No2AV – Why Vote No
Antony Green’s archive on the UK Alternative Vote referendum (n.b. Antony Green is not a “self-titled ‘Australian Elections Expert’” as styled by the No2AV blog, he is our national broadcaster’s appointed electoral expert, and has been analysing our state, territory and federal elections since 1989.)
- We vote with an ordinary pencil on a simple ballot paper.
- The votes are counted by hand at the polling place, with extensive cross-checks and on-the-spot scrutineering by representatives of the candidates.
- Results can sometimes take a while to be known for two reasons that have little to do with any difficulties in performing the count – we have a rather large time difference between our east and west coasts, and in tight contests the result might not be known until postal votes are tallied, and we have a generous time limit on those postal votes arriving. Neither condition applies in the UK, and even if results weren’t known on the same night, would that really be so bad?
- The 2PP (two-party preferred) figures used by the Electoral Commission on election night to forecast (forecast, not determine) the final results are indeed based on who were the two top contenders for the seat in the previous election. The Electoral Commission’s forecast is not legally binding. Why is a statistical analysis tool with no effect on the actual ballot count perceived to be in any way a problem?
- If you have seen photos of alleged Australian vote counting machines supposedly being used in Federal (national) elections, you are being misled. The tiny regional parliament of the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) apparently proudly uses some voting machines for its own regional elections (which are STV (Single Transferable Vote) anyway, not AV) – those machines are not allowed to be used in Federal elections. No other representative body in Australia
usesrequires electronic voting in its elections (clarification: some may offer special electronic options for voters with disabilities). Some simple banknote counting machines are used to tally total ballots at a polling place as one of the many cross-checks of the manual count – they do not count the votes, just the number of papers, and they do it after the manual count has been completed (because it’s just a cross-check). So we don’t actually need them for AV to work, they’re just a convenience.
So this is what a weird conversation I had with a Kiwi last week was all about! I simply could not fathom why she was so interested in (and antagonistic towards) our preferential (or AV – Alternative Vote) voting system. After she claimed that preferential voting systems are bad because they lead to more coalitions, and I responded (very mildly) with the first thing that came into my head i.e. that the FPTP (First Past the Post) system in the UK had not prevented the need for a coalition government that was in office right now, and then responded to her question about whether or not I liked Julia Gillard as PM with the truth that I’m disappointed that she’s too centre-right but she’s better than the alternative, she kinda avoided me for the rest of the 3 day seminar.