A vote for a minor party is not a wasted vote

I was in Stanmore this morning handing out flyers for The Greens and yet again I had to explain our preferential voting system to a number of people. These aren't stupid, uneducated people, just people who have never learnt how voting in Australia works.

Australia's lower house runs the voting system knows as instant runoff, or more commonly in Australia known as preferential. It works like this:

  1. The voter puts a number in every box, against every candidate, showing their preference from 1 (candidate the voter would most like) until all the boxes are filled in.
  2. When voting, the first preference (the ones) are sorted out for each candidate and counted.
  3. If any candidate has a clear majority (>50%) they are declared the winner, otherwise:
  4. The candidate with the least votes is removed from the running, and his second preferences (2) are sorted out and added to the other candidates' piles.
  5. This continues through all the preferences until there is a clear winner.

Now if you hear the nonsense that "a vote for a minor party is a wasted vote", what you're hearing about is other voting systems. In much of Europe and the US, they use a single box vote -- you tick one box and that's it. In that case, unless you vote for one of the top two candidates, your vote is indeed wasted. However in Australia, your vote continues until it ends up on one of the piles of the top two candidates.

So let's say you live in an ordinary electorate, you can register your true preference for the candidates of minor parties, but still ensure that your preference between Labor and Coalition candidates is expressed. So you can still vote for The Greens while still contributing to getting rid of Howard. The candidate you put as your first preference, assuming they get 4 percent of first preferences, will receive funding from the Electoral Commission, so it's worth giving the first vote to the party you really want.

Update: Raz writes in to point out that the rounds of preference distribution only continue until a candidate gets an absolute majority. That's correct, and I've amended my description.

Raz also argues that the reason I gave to give your "1" vote is a pretty bad reason. He suggests it puts voters' preferences on the table and therefore:

  • allows major parties (those who have a shot of ending up in government) to adjust their policies to suit a wider range of Australians
  • and/or

  • allows momentum to build behind a new party when there's a sea-change in voter sentiment.

Preferences are out

The Senate group ticket preferencing deals are out. These are the preferences that apply for the majority of voters who vote above-the-line. Some interesting things have popped up -- I'm looking at the NSW tickets, you can see the full list on the AEC site.

  • The Liberal Party are preferencing the religious fascists (Fred Nile, then Family First), but they aren't returning the favour.
  • A vote for LaRouche nutjobs Citzens Electoral Council is essentially a vote for the Coalition, with preferences going straight there and likely to stay.
  • Family First are pretty keen on the Liberty & Democracy Party, with preferences going there straight after Carers Alliance. Have they actually read and understood the LDP's policies? Not really compatible with the heavily-regulated sexuality state they're keen on.
  • As I suspected, Climate Change Coalition are doing dodgy things. They've preferences The Fishing Party ahead of The Greens! Family First are well ahead in their list too.
  • What Women Want have tried to screw Labor by giving their first preference flowing to the party to the third person on the Labor ticket. Not sure if this works though. Any amateur psephologists care to comment?
  • The LDP's ticket shows their policies don't quite match their actions. Family First benefit from their preferences, so it looks like both sides have put aside their (substantial) ideological differences for a grubby preference swap. Here we have a party that wants top install a theocracy regulating all sexuality doing a deal with a bunch of self-proclaimed libertarians. That's Catholic levels of ideological contortion!
  • The Democrats have shown their true colours again, preferencing LDP ahead of The Greens. I guess this probably tallies with the core values of the party, given they were the small 'l' splinter group from the Liberals, but I suspect most people voting that way wouldn't realise they'd take libertarianism as far as the LDP!
  • No surprises that Conservatives for Climate and Environment preferences essentially flow to and stay with the Coalition. So if you're looking to give Howard a bloody nose, this isn't the way to do it.
  • Democratic Labor Party, in case you don't know, were a hardcore Catholic splinter from the Labor Party. No surprises, then, that they preference Fred Nile and Family First. More interesting though is that they preference the Coalition ahead of Labor. Given the effects on families of the odious WorkChoices legislation, this is very interesting.
  • The Fishing Party seems to have done some judicious deals. They've got a lot of people preferencing in, so their outgoing preferences seem quite erratic as they pay back the favours. Certainly seems little ideological rationale behind it.
  • Fred Nile is definitely beind a shrewd player, similar to the Fish Party strategy of harvesting a lot in, then repaying back out.
  • Non-Custodial Parents Party is a dark horse, with preferences going straight to Pauline, into Fishing Party and Family First. I doubt most single parents would want their preferences flowing to parties like that.
  • Group V seems to just be harvesting votes for the Coalition.
  • Labor are honouring their agreement, with preferences going straight to The Greens, having learnt their lesson in helping get Steve Price elected for the religious fascists last time around. Interestingly, they preference DLP quite highly -- some unrequited love going on there.
  • Carers Alliance seem to have gone down the grubby preference path. Surely preferencing CEC is a grubby step too far, and won't be worth much in preferences anyway!
  • So lots of interesting deals in there, some extremely grubby. It's hilarious hearing Family First talk about the (open and honestly discussed) preference deal between Labor and The Greens as "grubby" given their filthy deals with LDP and Non-Custodial Parents (surely they'd be encouraging the parents to stay together?).

    WTF is this Plaxo crap?

    I just received a message from some social networking crap called "Plaxo".

    Subject: John added you as a connection on Pulse

    I'd like to connect to you on Pulse.

    Pulse is the easiest way to stay up-to-date and share photos, contact info, recommendations, or just about anything from the sites you already use (YouTube, Flickr, Digg, etc.) with the people you know.


    To accept this request and see what I'm sharing: http://pulse.plaxo.com/pulse/invite/?<removed tracking code>

    Though member-sent, this e-mail contains promotional content. If you would prefer not to receive such mailings in the future, click here. Plaxo's office is at 203 Ravendale Drive, Mountain View, CA 94043.

    So someone who is only identified as "John", and I don't know many of those wants to connect with me in some vague social networking bollocks? And to opt out I have to follow their process to stop receiving their spam?

    Spam! At least Facebook lets you permanently opt out with a single click. These guys, I have no idea who they are and don't care. I won't be following their multi-step process for "opting out" (or rather, verifying I'm a real, live human).

    Liberty and Democracy Party: some enthusiasts respond

    So my previous post about the Liberty & Democracy Party got some responses. I had a long conversation with one Terje Petersen and he seemed pretty rational, a nice guy really. We disagree on a number of issues, of course, especially gun control.

    Just now I received another one which appears somewhat less rational, from a harry1233 at excite.com (perhaps that should be overexcite.com). Rather than actually read my blog post, he's immediately jumped to the conclusion that I'm dissing the party. Far from it, though of course I did point out the overlap between libertarians and the tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorizing anti-semites. While it may have nothing to do with the LDP, they inhabit the same part of the intellectual spectrum as these nutjobs. Just as those of us on the Green side of politics have our tree-hugging, gaia consciousness, deep ecologist hippy nutjobs that we're all embarrassed of, like a nutty old uncle who only gets rolled out for Christmas and birthdays.

    Anyway, for your amusement:

    Hello Simon,

    Please do yourself a favour and rewrite the Liberty & Democracy reference honestly. Why slag them as nutters associated / inferenced to the Citizens Electoral Council. Do you have an agenda of sorts to undermine them (the LDP)?

    Look forward to you doing the right thing, you might even join the LDP.org.au party - yes it is liberterian in precept, but very much of an Australian flavour.

    You too can make the world a better rather than bitter place.


    Planet Feed Reader bug

    I've been trying to post to Planet's development mailing list because I've found a bug. It moderates posts from non-subscribers, and I can't see any other way to report a bug. So I'll report it here, and hopefully someone will spot it. I've asked Jeff separately to approve the post, but haven't had any luck -- he's a bloody busy guy, so fair enough.

    Here's the bug report:

    Hi folks.
    For some time I've noticed that feeds slurped from planets, which are
    in turn using my old-format, link to non-existent URLs.  For example,
    if you look at planet.slug.org.au and grab the RSS, you get this:
    <title>Simon Rumble: Crazy Egg rocks</title>
    <description>[snipped for clarity]</description>
    <pubDate>Mon, 22 Oct 2007 05:13:13 +0000</pubDate>
    Now the contents of the <guid> element is just plain wrong, if
    used as a URL.  The contents of <link> are, in fact, correct.
    Now if you look at the RSS 0.91 I'm sending at
    http://www.rumble.net/blog/index.cgi?flav=rss you see this:
          <title>Crazy Egg rocks</title>
         <description>[snipped for clarity]</description>
    Or if you grab the RSS 2.0 I'm sending at
    http://www.rumble.net/blog/index.cgi?flav=rss20 you see this:
          <title>Crazy Egg rocks</title>
          <description>[snipped for clarity]</description>
          <author>Simon Rumble
          <pubDate>22 Oct 2007 05:13:13 UTC</pubDate>
          <guid isPermaLink="false">Crazy_Egg</guid>
    Now if you look at the spec, guid is meant to be a unique identifier.
    If the "isPermaLink" property is true (or not specified),
    it's also the URL that can be used for the item.  So the RSS readers
    are interpretting this correctly.  However, I don't know how Planet is
    concocting these guids, and they shouldn't be putting the isPermaLink
    property on regardless.
    The blog software I'm using is blosxom -- so I suspect this isn't an
    isolated incident.  You can also see this same example manifest in the
    RSS 2.0 of planet.gllug.org.au
    I'm not on this list, so if you want any further details, copy me in.

    Got access to a photocopier in London?

    The Australian federal election is coming up and this time around I'm not in London to coordinate for The Greens when the 20,000 or so people vote at Australia House in London. Instead we've got the very dedicated Michelle doing it. However, she's having the perennial "no budget" problem and is trying to find people willing to photocopy the How To Vote brochures that will be handed out.

    So do you have access to a photocopier and are able to do some bulk copying for us? If so, get in touch.

    Alternatively, if you'd like to make a donation to cover it, or volunteer to help out handing out the How To Votes, also get in touch.

    Who's this Liberty and Democracy Party?

    So anyone got any details of this new Liberty & Democracy Party? They push themselves as libertarians, but that often tends to start sounding like LaRouche nutjobism. So do these people talk about vast global Jewish conspiracies or are they, as they claim to be, classical liberals into small government? Their policies on drugs (legalise) would tend to be the opposite of LaRouche.

    I always find the libertarian outlook fascinating. Libertarians and anarchists, to my mind, seem to have arrived at the same place from different starting points. Anarchists start out thinking individuals are generally good but governments and authority are bad. Libertarians start out thinking individuals are out for nobody but themselves and governments and authority are bad. They both end up with basically the same view, except that anarchists tend to believe that people can voluntarily work together (syndicate) while libertarians want big fences around their property backed up by big guns to protect their stuff.

    I doubt this new party will do well. Australians aren't actually that averse to taxation. Poll after poll shows that we'd prefer better public hospitals and schools, in preference to tax cuts. We also don't have the critical mass of UFO-spotting, UN-helicopter-fearing, gun-polishing indvidualist nutters that you get in the US.

    Long Tail not that long

    The Long Tail in a remainder pile

    This really tickled my funny bone. In case you're wondering, The Long Tail was something a certain business nerd stick mag was trumpeting a few years back. The basic premise of it was that, with minimal cost to holding inventory, non-traditional stores can stock an almost unlimited range of products, which means niche products can thrive.

    But I guess the time of this particular niche is over.

    Parties should show their commitment

    Glen Turner has good things to say about political parties showing their comittment to a cause. Why aren't they out there building houses, paying doctors' bills, rather than just promising to use our money to do it?

    In some parts of the world that's exactly how parties build their power base. Both Hamas and Fatah have social services at the heart of their power base in Palestine. Ditto Hezbullah in Lebanon. Many political movements based around the poor and the left in Europe and South America work this way.

    But what services would a political party supply to gain the support they need from the swinging, debt-laden middle classes? Help pay their mortgages? A Labor or Liberal childcare centre? Not sure I'd trust my offspring to those bastards though -- these are the kind of people where you'd count your fingers after shaking their hands.