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Elections and voting

Banning how-to-vote cards weakens democracy

The Queensland government is considering a ban on how to vote cards outside polling booths. This is madness – a clear and obvious threat to free expression in an electoral democracy. Australian elections are already incredibly highly regulated.

There are rules governing the timing of election advertisements and their format, rules governing spending, rules governing donations, and rules governing electoral material.

In my book I outlined the tenuous arguments made by electoral authorities in favour of these constraints. The Queensland government’s proposals are even less compelling. Democracy ought to be rowdy and enthusiastic. This is a sign of vibrancy not bad behaviour. Of course if it is demonstrated that some campaigners have been obstructing voters on their way to polling booths this is a matter for police rather than electoral control.

Still, this is at least practical compared to the Victorian Parliament’s investigation into whether it can regulate comment on elections on social media. As the Liberal MP Bernie Finn said “On social media it’s the wild, wild west. It’s anything goes.” Even if regulating free democratic speech online was desirable – and why would it be? – it would be utterly, utterly futile to try.

It is hard not to see the proposed changes in Queensland and Victoria as an undue threat to free expression in a healthy democracy. And not trivial ones either. Constraints on advertising and constraints on campaigning inevitably favour the incumbents.

South Australian politicians change the electoral rules in their favour

adelaideparliamentSometime later this week the South Australian parliament will rig its electoral system in favour of established parties.

The idea is to “prevent virtual unknown” candidates from taking a seat by stopping candidates from benefiting from preference distribution unless they have 2.5 per cent of the primary vote. InDaily has the details here. Of course the changes are being Continue Reading →

Leyonhjelm: end public funding of electoral campaigns

LDP Senator-elect David Leyonhjelm has a great piece in today’s Australian Financial Review, where he identifies the heart of the public funding problem:

The underlying problem is that governments intrude too much into our lives. There would be less need to lobby a government that did less. As it stands, business success can often depend on favourable ministerial decisions, and there is no shortage of people keen to enlist the government’s support to impose their views on the rest of us.

A better option would be to Continue Reading →