Media Room

Senate Voting Reforms – what happened?

Last month, the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, and the Special Minister of State, Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, announced that the Government would introduce legislation to reform the Senate voting system.

The announcement followed an inquiry by the cross-party Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, which, unanimously, made a number of recommendations to improve the voting system.

The reforms passed by the Senate today include:

  • The introduction of optional preferential above the line voting, with advice to the voter on the ballot paper to vote above the line by numbering at least 6 of the boxes in the order of the voter’s choice (with the number 1 as the voter’s first choice);
  • The introduction of a related savings provision to ensure that a ballot is still formal where the voter has numbered 1 or fewer than 6 boxes above the line;
  • In relation to voting below the line, a proposal to reduce the number of informal votes by increasing the number of allowable ‘mistakes’ from 3 to 5, as long as 90% of the Ballot paper below the line is filled in correctly;
  • The abolition of group and individual voting tickets;
  • The introduction of a restriction to prevent individuals holding relevant official positions in multiple parties; and
  • To reduce voter confusion between parties with similar party names, a proposal to allow political parties (at their discretion) to have their logo included on the ballot paper.

Ultimately, this will make it more difficult for the ‘micro-parties’ who were accused of ‘vote harvesting’ due to the complicated distribution of preferences, somewhat disconnected from the voter’s intentions, led to Senators being elected with extraordinarily small primary votes.

For more information on Constitutional matters from one of Australia’s most respected experts, click here.

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