Choose the donkey: A new voting system for Australia.

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I’m proposing a new voting option for the people of Australia in future political elections; a legitimate donkey vote. A genuine option on the voting ballot paper for local, state and federal elections which allows to people to choose a vote which is not assigned to any of the official candidates.

What is a donkey vote?

For the non-Australians, a ‘donkey vote’ is the Aussie expression for an unofficial vote in an election. It is not supposed to be done, but it occurs when a person incorrectly fills out a ballet paper (yes, we still use paper in Australia), either deliberately or by accident. Their ‘vote’ does not count.

Do many people ‘donkey vote’?

Yes, many. Voting is compulsory in Australia and some people donkey vote by accident, as the ballot paper system can be quite confusing. Others deliberately donkey vote because they don’t know who to choose, or because they hate politicians.

Do Aussies really hate politicians?

Absolutely. I worked at polling booths at a few elections and one job was to sort the huge mass of ballot papers at the end of the day’s voting, and some of the comments scrawled across the papers were very colourful, offensive, rude, spiteful…and highly entertaining.

Why choose the donkey?

To tell politicians to do their job.

The number of official donkey votes would indicate the level of voter disenfranchisement in that particular election. A large tally of donkey votes would, hopefully, convince politicians to get on with the job of running the country, and to end the farce that characterises modern political life.

Democracy is under attack in Australia and many average citizens are fed up with their options at elections, from local to federal. The country has seen constant changes of Prime Minster, a dual-citizenship controversy, party colleagues backstabbing each other and the destruction of Australia’s environment and international reputation, from politicians obsessed with ‘sound bites’ over substance.

Australia is being taken over by ignorant loudmouths, and Aussies are starting to realise this. The result is that many Aussies simply don’t want to choose any candidate at an election.

Is this new?

Yes, and no. Australians are historically politically apathetic, and have always used broad statements such as ‘politicians are all useless’ or ‘politicians are all corrupt’ in order to excuse themselves from the democratic process. However, the expansion of media, including social media, has driven politicians to direct their energy towards the ‘sound bite’, at the expense of intelligent political discourse, and new media has made citizens more aware of what really goes on in politics.

How would it work?

The image of the donkey would appear on the ballot paper, alongside the candidates, and if a person chooses the donkey that vote would be officially tallied alongside all other votes. Yes, an actual image of a donkey. Sure, it’s cheeky, but this is Australia.

Of course, this only works if voters can differentiate between the picture of a donkey, and an actual candidate – sometimes that’s hard.

Electronic voting?

If electronic voting is introduced in Australia, the exact number of official donkey votes would be easy to calculate. As well as sending a message to politicians, the statistics could be useful for demographers, statisticians, researchers, academics and election analysts – I can see Antony Green brimming with excitement already.

An electronic record would also make it possible to compare the number of donkey votes at different elections and, henceforth, the mood of the electorate.

Isn’t it contradictory?

It does seem contradictory to give people an official opportunity to opt out of participation in the democratic process, when compulsory voting forces people to participate in the democratic process. However, as we’ve outlined already, a large number of Australians choose the donkey anyway and currently, when they do so, their ballot papers are literally thrown to one side and don’t count in any official statistics.

Isn’t it making a mockery of the democratic process?

Maybe, but politicians are doing it, so why can’t we?

Image: Daniel Fazio

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