November 07, 2012

Horse 1397 - Why I Love The Australian Electoral Commission

It's days like today that an organisation like the Australian Electoral Commission really should be praised for the work that it does. Elections in Australia seemingly go off absolutely flawlessly; without fail.

During the very late stages of this US Presidential Election circus, some radio stations which I like to listen to online, have taken calls from people voicing their distrust of voting machines; often suggesting that they can be rigged.
In Australia the AEC is able to run nationwide voting, on paper and in the case of federal elections, even have the results of the entire eastern seaboard counted before the polls have closed in Western Australia.
With paper ballots there is never any accusation of machines not working and even with the occasional tablecloths of ballot papers that upper house elections tend to generate every so often, the amount of informal ballot papers which are made is only very minor; even then, the majority of those are deliberately spoiled with such witty repartee as "I am Thor, I will eat your children", "Spoiler Alert" and "**** Voting" (as a volunteer counter, I have seen all of these).
On a paper ballot with preferential voting, people can work out very easily that they vote 1, 2, 3, 4... for the people they like. With a single non-transferable vote, it would be even easier; requiring the voter to do nothing more complicated than marking the appropriate box next to the name of their chosen candidate. How easy is that?

Yet due to an even more dysfunctional relationship between the states (if you thought that just six states was a mess, try fifty), all of them having a republican form of government (which is distinct from the Republican Party) and all of them having both their own voting commissions and technically their own method of voting, any attempt to transfer even the simple act of running a national election to a national organisation would cause a fight between the states which would make our COAG meetings look like a Sunday School Picnic.
There is such a thing as the Election Assistance Commission but due to the incredible amount of bickering and "he said, she said" schoolkid slapping, the roles of the four overseers can never be filled and because of the utter toxicity of the members the Congress to each other, it can't be closed either. I read on the GOP's website, a piece citing this as evidence of waste by the Obama administration and calling it a "Zombie Agency"* but the numbers on the floor to have it abolished pretty well tar both sides as being incompetent and both at fault on this issue.
In comparison, Australia's Electoral Commission is able to run elections efficiently and without hitch.

It also sort of helps that elections are held on a Saturday in Australia. There is always talk of people queuing for hours to vote in America and the news likes to show those queues but here in Australia, even with compulsory voting (which I also approve of - See Horse 1386) if you go in the afternoon; after lunchtime, the queues are non-existent. During the last NSW State Election, I'd bought a sausage sandwich from a stall run by the primary school which was hosting the polling place (which is yet another reason why elections should be held on Saturday - the smell of an election in Australia is sausages, or bacon if you arrive at 8am) and I was sort of annoyed that there was no queue because it meant that I accidentally dripped barbecue sauce on my ballot paper (first world problems).
The fact that the election for arguably the single most important office in the world is held on a Tuesday and in November when places like Chicago and Seattle are already experiencing temperatures which even the penguins think is a cruel joke (about the only people in the world who like those sorts of temperatures are Geordies, Siberians and Canucks), is yet another mark against a system which quite apart from the weirdness of the Electoral College, is quite frankly daft.

I already think that Australia has the best system of government in our form of Westminster parliament, the best rules when it comes to compulsory voting and the best methods of deciding our members with preferential voting in the lower house and proportional voting in the upper house.
The delicious icing and the cherry on top is the Australian Electoral Commission, which is oh so very very good at doing its job that other countries have even asked it for assistance in running their elections.

Some come on America, it is delicious cake, you must eat it. Let the Australian Electoral Commission run Election 2016. Our election cake is so delicious and moist but your cake is a lie.

*In our copy of Risk:Legacy, North America was renamed Zombieland. The nuclear fallout landed in Alaska and there are bio-hazard markers on the continent. Perhaps it is fitting that the EAC is a "Zombie Agency". Maybe in 2016 or 2020 Zombie FDR or Zombie Lincoln** will run for office.

** Zombie Lincoln would be useless as a vampire hunter. Though given that 2012 has been painted as the election between Zombie Socialist Obama and Vampire Capitalist Romney, the truth is weirder than fiction.

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