Clarification is immediately required from the Australian Electoral Commission or an authoritative person on the status of certain forms of balloting mentioned in relation to the forthcoming election. Clarification is also required on whether an offence has been committed under the Commonwealth Electoral Act by Mark Latham and Channel 9.
To begin with, there are the comments on Channel 9's Sixty Minutes on Sunday night by chief stirrer and irrelevancy, Mark Latham as follows:
MARK LATHAM: When it comes to good ideas for Australia's future, Gillard and Abbott have given the voters a blank piece of paper. I say let's give them a blank piece of paper in return. They say voting is compulsory in Australia, but it's not compulsory to fill out the ballot paper. You can put it straight into the ballot box totally blank - that's what I'll be doing next Saturday, and I urge you to do the same. It's the ultimate protest vote.
The intelligentisia at Channel 9 who thought that having Latham on board was a beaut idea are only exceeded by the Intellectual Academy at Sydney's Daily Telegraph who don't know the difference between a donkey vote and an informal vote.
I would have included a link to the DT's original story - I was in the middle of doing this story last night when I had computer problems - but the DT has, overnight, corrected its mistake to read "informal vote" instead of their original "donkey vote". And some people complain that blogs need sub-editing. Most of us don't charge and we are not part of the world's largest media empire!
What Latham is advocating is an informal vote. The methodology he proposes is going to the polling station, getting your name crossed off the roll as having voted, receive the ballot paper, and then place it in the ballot box unmarked. Hey presto, an informal vote!
A vote is informal when the voter has made no clear expressed preference. This can be by the above method; marking the ballot paper illegibly; writing across the ballot paper; using Xs and letters instead of numerals; using the same number twice.
A donkey vote is called a donkey vote because the voter expresses his or her preference straight down the list from top to bottom as if they couldn't bother to give any thought. Now, voters may thoughtfully mark the ballot paper this way because it so happens that the luck of the draw at the electorate office has ended up with your preferences neatly laid out this way. A donkey vote is not informal.
And then there is the Langer vote. While Latham was not advocating a Langer vote, the circumstances surrounding the Langer vote are interesting to recall because we have another "outsider" advocating something other than a legitimate vote.
Albert Langer is a very bright man. Known to many of the old Vietnam Moratorium campaigners as 'Red Albert', he burst upon the scene more than twenty years later with his voting campaign. Langer was exploiting a practice whereby voters could utilise a method of expressing their preferences which would amount to optional preferential voting. The Commonwealth then moved to close off this practice and the method advocated by Langer would become an informal vote.
Now, my memory from that time is that the powers-that-be made it loud and clear that it was an offence to advocate an informal vote.
If my memory is correct and if the trumpeting of such a statement is legally correct, then Latham and Channel 9 are guilty of an offence.
So could this matter be cleared up forcefully and loudly prior to Election Day. Kay, Thx.