“Not even the almost-certain demise of Steve Fielding is enough to make me follow this election. On election night I’m getting as far away from TV, radio, internets and phone reception as I possibly can.”
That’s what a friend of mine said during a Facebook conversation in response to the Just Plain Stupid comments about paid parental leave from Family First Senator Steve Fielding. I can totally understand my friend’s feelings, as neither major party seems a good choice right now. On the one hand, the incumbent Labor Party has failed to achieve many of it’s core election promises, not least of which was action on climate change. Even scarier, the Liberal opposition is a rag-tag basket-case of climate change deniers, xenophobes and far-right dinosaurs. But to give up on the election all together is, I think, the wrong sentiment. This election is not without hope – but it’s up to voters to seize the opportunity and wield the only power they have on election day. To vote with their conscience and their brains.
It’s all too easy, however, to take the easy way out on election day. Most people, I think, decide who they want to vote for – Labor, Liberal, perhaps Greens – and follow the instructions on that party’s how-to-vote card, voting above the line. This is a dangerous method, because deals made between parties for preferences won’t always go your way. Consider the Family First Party in the 2004 Federal election. The Labor Party, so afraid of a growing support among the electorate for The Greens, put Family First well ahead of The Greens in their preferences. This meant that everyone who voted for Labor helped Steve Fielding get a senate seat, despite winning only 0.08% of the primary votes. Is that true democracy?
So the solution, surely, is to disregard the preference deals and vote below the line, according to your own beliefs. But you have to put a vote for every single candidate, whether you’ve heard of them or not! And if you stuff the counting up, your vote is void! That’s where Cluey Voter comes in. Alan Noble, Director of Engineering at Google Australia, developed the site in his free time for the South Australian state election in March. It provides a list of all the candidates, and a drop-down box next to each one with five options. You can choose “Support a lot”, “Support a little”, “Don’t Care”, “Against a little” or “Against a lot”. The default for all candidates is “Don’t Care”, so if you don’t know about a party you don’t have to change it.
Once you’ve told it your preferences, Cluey Voter will automatically generate a printable sheet that looks like the ballot paper. You can adjust the numbers if you like, and press the “Check Numbering” button to make sure you haven’t doubled anything, and then print off the page. Then when you vote, you just copy the numbers into your ballot paper and now your vote really does represent your views.
Cluey Voter has only been done for the SA election so far, but I really hope it’s implemented for the Federal Election. It’s the sort of tool that could really make voting easier – especially for political junkies like me, who always vote below the line!