Saturday, January 29, 2011


 The following first appeared as a guest post guest post on Lavatus Prodeo on 22 Sept 2010:

Tim Colebatch in The Age presented some interesting data on voter turnout and informal voting. He says that:
"More than 14 million Australians were on the rolls for the 2010 election. But almost a million of them decided not to vote. And of those who did, almost 730,000 voted informal.
Combine the two, and the conclusion jumps out at you. This election campaign turned off more voters than any other election for decades."

More precisely, it turned off more Labor voters than any other election for decades. Some voted for the Greens. Some voted informal. Some didn’t bother to vote at all. But few crossed over to vote for the Coalition.
The official figures show a swing of 2.6 per cent from Labor to the Coalition. But that’s just among those who lodged formal votes. And it misses two of the main reasons why Labor’s vote fell. Hundreds of thousands of former Labor supporters either stayed away from the booths, or voted informal. (Emphasis added)
It is worth comparing the 2007 and 2010 results. For example:
    The number not voting rose from 5.2 per cent to 6.8 per cent, The highest for 85 yearsThe boycott rate rose in every state and almost every electorate. But overwhelmingly, it rose most in safe Labor seats. Of the 30 seats with the biggest growth in the numbers not voting, 23 were Labor seats, six Coalition and one independent (Kennedy). Informal rose from just under 4 per cent to 5.6 per cent in 2010. The only year with a higher informal was 1984. (The 1984 figure was high because of confusion associated with the introduction of above the line voting in the Senate.) In Blaxland, Paul Keating’s old seat informals rose from 8.9 to 14.1 per cent. The 14 seats with the highest informal votes were all Labor seats in western Sydney.
The Coalition did disastrously in the three south-eastern states.
despite its assertion that it somehow won the election, the reality is that it lost narrowly on the two-party preferred vote, because it polled disastrously in Melbourne, Adelaide, Victoria’s regional cities and Tasmania.
In these states it was the worst result for the Coalition since Parliamentary records began in the 1940s, just 44.7 per cent of the two-party preferred vote in Victoria and 39.4 per cent in Tasmania – the lowest vote the Coalition has ever recorded in any state.
The bottom line is that despite population growth
we cast fewer formal votes in the 2010 election than we had in 2007. And the only party to score a significant increase in its vote – as a share of the enrolled voters – was the Greens, itself primarily a protest party.
In 2007 39.5 per cent of enrolled voters voted for Kevin Rudd, but in 2010 only 33.4 per cent voted for Julia Gillard.
This should have resulted in a massive win by the Coalition, but their vote rose just barely as a proportion of voters enrolled – 38.4 per cent voted for for Tony Abbott as against 38.3 per cent for John Howard.
Mark Latham’s call for us all to vote informal may have had some effect. But it had resonance because neither major party was offering anything new of substance this election – just going forward presenting real leaders who struggled to get beyond slogans. Ironically it may have been Kevin’s broadband commitment that finally got Labor over the line rather than Gillard’s rush to drop anything that might upset the conservatives.

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