By LOIS MASKIELL
The Australian Electoral Commission will scrutinise how many Australians waste their vote tomorrow, with so-called “donkey voting” expected to have an impact in some seats.
A donkey vote is when a voter sequentially numbers the candidates in the order they appear down or up the ballot paper and, unlike informal votes, donkey votes contribute to the final tally.
An informal vote is when a voter does not complete their ballot correctly by drawing on it, marking it unclearly, leaving it blank or failing to fill it out correctly.
According to statistics from the Australian Electoral Commission, informal voting increased from 2.5 per cent in 1977 to 5.9 per cent in 2013. That figure reduced slightly during the 2016 federal election to 5%.
The AEC reported a range of deliberate and unintentional factors influence informal voting such as socioeconomic status, demographic, lack of political engagement or poor understanding of voting.
Voter Nina Harrap, 30, said she was aware of donkey voting but did not know they counted towards election results.
“If you go to the effort to fill out a donkey vote and know it’s going to get counted, that’s ridiculous,” Ms Harrap said.
Different to the first-past-the-post system, the Australian preferential system means a political party may receive a majority of votes from your second, third or fourth preference on the ballot paper.
Voter Bryn Power, 26, said he was a strong supporter of preferential voting.
“I vote for a minor party at the top but ensure that my preferred major party ranks higher than my less preferred one,” he said.
“This is important because it sends a signal to the major parties that you’re dissatisfied and because parties get public funding for each vote they receive.”
The international relations student said the consequences of donkey votes were far worse than informal ones.
“If you vote for something which you don’t actually believe in, you’re sending the wrong signals to Canberra,” Mr Power said.
Currently, independent candidates or parties which get at least four per cent of first preference votes receive an amount of public funding equal to their total votes multiplied by $2.756.
Youth enrolment is at its highest rate ever this election with 88.8 per cent of eligible 18 to 24 years olds enrolled.
But university student Jack Worthy, 31, is concerned not enough people understand how the Australian voting system works.
“Our voting system is one of the best in the world, but there needs to be more education in primary and especially secondary [voting],” Mr Worthy said.