I was a dope at the recent local election.
I voted for two individuals only. I ranked them 1 and 2. I did not realise that my vote would not be counted unless I voted for the same number of individuals as there were openings on the shire council. My failed vote is called "informal".
That seems like an odd term. I would call it non-counted. Other people fail by putting a tick instead of a number, writing a slogan on the ballot, or putting numbers that are incorrect in sequence, eg 1,2,3,5. Not all informal votes are the result of human error. Some people do not intend to vote, so they leave their ballot blank.
They might lack interest in the election but want to avoid the penalty for not showing up to vote. Or they might be rebels. I would rather be one of these rebels than a dope.
Perhaps many people feel burned out about elections and decided not to vote for anyone.
I could have voted correctly. The person who gave me a ballot asked if I needed instructions on how to vote. I said no.
My answer at the voting site reminds me of my first time going up a button ski lift. A sign said to ask for instructions if you did not know what to do. Did I ask? No. Did I fall immediately? Yes.
Typically, several percent of votes are informal. In the past, the Australian Electoral Commission has concluded that most informal votes are unintentional. Incomplete numbering was the top cause. Put my effort in there. In this recent election, the informal vote percentage was unusually high, with some areas having 10 per cent and others 20 per cent.
What has led to the surge?
It is hard to know without analysing the informal ballots, but it could be that the surge involved mainly intentional non-voting.
Perhaps many people feel burned out about elections and decided not to vote for anyone. Burnout could occur because of the continuing stresses of the Covid situation or because of a lessening of public faith in elected officials and government.
The lessening of faith could be a consequence of strong government actions taken to control Covid. The informal votes, if cast in a way to count, could make the difference in a close election. There are more elections ahead.
Next time I will cast a vote that counts. You can find written voting instructions for each election online and at your voting location. Also, you can ask for information at the voting site.
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