So we now have the government’s legislation for Senate voting reform. You can read it here.
The key points are as follows.
Abolition of group voting tickets
From now on there won’t be any distribution of preferences beyond a single party group unless the voter marks it themselves on the ballot.
Introduction of optional preferential voting above the line
From now on you will be allowed to number as many boxes as you want above the line, and your vote will flow through each party group in ticket order.
The ballot paper will carry instructions saying the voter must number “at least 6” boxes above the line, although that would revert to being full compulsory preferential voting if six or less groups nominate.
Having said that, votes just containing a ‘1’ above the line will be formal, and there is no “Langer clause” which would prevent parties or other groups advocating for a person to number less than six boxes above the line.
No major changes to below-the-line voting
Despite JSCEM recommending optional preferential voting below the line, this bill only slightly loosens the requirements for below-the-line voting. You’ll still need to number most boxes for your vote to count, but you’ll be allowed up to five sequencing errors, up from the current three.
Party logos on the ballot paper
This one wasn’t expected! Presumably this is motivated by Liberal concern about confusion with the Liberal Democrats. It’s not unheard-of: New Zealand has party logos on the ballot.
Prohibition on being Registered Officer of multiple parties
This is to address the concern about David Leyonhjelm being the registered officer (who is the official who liaises with the AEC and nominates candidates) of multiple parties.
I will have some more commentary this evening about the political impact of the reforms, but feel free to use this post to discuss the reforms as they unfold today.
Update: No counting of Senate ballots
Unfortunately I missed one major change. The legislation proposes that Senate ballots are no longer counted and recorded in group totals on election night. Antony Green has looked into this.