A democratic nation such as Australia grants its citizens many rights. These rights include Education, Healthcare, work, work safety, the right to practice your religious beliefs and many more. Most recently, us Victorians exercised our right to vote in our 2018 state election. The election results were revealed on Sunday the 25th, with Labor emerging as the winning party and premier Dan Andrews celebrating his big win, a second four year term in government.
Political participation is the basis of a democracy, enabling citizens to vote in state and nation wide elections without any discrimination – a right that not all countries have. All Australian citizens are required to vote by law, as compulsory enrolment and voting for federal and state elections in Australia was introduced since 1912. Here in Australia, we have a very simplified and informative voting system.
A brief overview of how voting works:
Across Victoria, there are local voting centres open for specified times, with election officials on site at the location who will ask for your details. The information voters are required to provide include a name, address, and confirmation of your electorate. Once these details are accurate, the electorate official will mark your name on the electorate roll.
The VEC website outlines the process of voting as follows – ‘You will then be directed to one of the voting booths set up around the room so you can fill in your ballot papers privately. Then you must place your ballot papers in the ballot box. Election officials are available to help voters who have questions about the voting process or who may have difficulty voting.’
Seems simple enough right? But no, unfortunately there are still people who deliberately invalidate their votes by casting donkey votes, also known as just randomly numbering candidates from top to bottom or vice versa. See example below.
1. Greens 4. Socialists
2. Labor 3. One Nation
3. One Nation 2. Labor
4. Socialists 1. Greens
These votes are blind votes, and because of its preferential system, the votes still count because someone is getting a vote added to their poll. Informal votes are even more invalid and even dumber than donkey votes, because it is literally a waste of time and resources. On the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) website, it states that a ‘formal vote is a correctly completed ballot paper.’ The formal votes are then counted to determine the results and the winning party. For reasons that are not good enough, some Australian citizens have proven to be incapable of correctly filling out a ballot paper for this recent election.
On Sunday the 25th, another interesting poll was created on a popular Facebook group called ‘Melbourne Gal Pals’ (MGP), which has over 46,000 members. One of those 46,000 + MGP members started a poll by asking MGP members to react with either a heart to show that they care about voting or a red angry face emoji to show that they don’t. See image below.
After checking the results of this MGP poll, I experienced a range of unexpected emotions. Firstly I was shocked and caught off guard by some of the personal comments young girls were making regarding their voting rights, amused would best describe how I felt next after reading some of the nasty and nonsensical remarks made on the same post.
Here are some of the comments made.
Thank you idiots of the Internet for the amusement, and also if you happen to be one of the avid social media users who took the time out of their day to post or snap online how of much of an inconvenience voting is to you, just remember that voting is more than just a right, it’s a responsibility. It is an act of freedom that Australian citizens have the pleasure of exercising without the additional risk of being attacked, bribed or experiencing any other instance of unforeseen harm. Unlike Australia’s safety blanket when it comes to voting, many other countries experience greater difficulties, difficulties that are much more severe than the Australian dilemma of deciding on whether choosing to draw a penis on the ballot or choosing to vote correctly. Consider yourself lucky for having the ‘good dilemmas’.
Have people already forgotten the history and liberation voting achieved for many?
Minorities ranging from women, to ethnic communities, to LGBT communities have petitioned, protested, boycotted and throughout history, even died fighting for the fundamental right to vote.
Voting isn’t an activity that’s designed for enjoyment, it’s an opportunity to consider what change you wish to have implemented in our government. It’s a chance to let your voice be heard on the issues you’re concerned about by applying research and finding the party that values your voice. In fact voting here in Australia isn’t difficult at all. We have many voting options available for all including those from Indigenous backgrounds, disability including vision impairments, and for those travelling overseas. Many people in the world don’t have this right, and their lives are far more challenging than ours. If you’re finding it difficult to comprehend why your vote is influential just have a look at every other nation’s history. A brief comparison and reflection will highlight many reasons, and should inspire you to value this right.
Finally as Australian citizens, we have never had so much legitimate choice in voting, and meanwhile in other countries where citizens are stripped off their right to vote or still progressing to allow all to vote, we should not take this responsibility lightly and aim to always make it count. A healthy democracy only works well when people participate. Remember, if you refrain from voting or cast a donkey vote, then you’ve lost the right to complain about anything the Government, politicians or parliament do until the next election.