The Colours of Democracy


Like many of our National and State institutions that are under pressure in our modern age, the system of voting in Federal elections needs some careful scrutiny.

Cranky Lizard visited over 12 polling booths in the region, to sip the air and feel the atmosphere surrounding one of freedom's most precious gifts.

The right to vote for your Government.

It was a colourful experience. 

Huddled in globulous masses were the yellow mob, promising freedom forever! Circling around the doors of polling booths were the red mob, promising whatever you wanted as long as you voted for them! There was the blue mob promising responsibility for everything, especially money.  They moved seamlessly amongst the red mob, disputing absolutely everything the red mob said and vice versa!

There were some shadowy figures, not a mob, dressed in white. They did not say anything and looked embarrassed to be there.  There was the green mob, predicting everything would be drowned by the end of the week as the oceans rose ferociously over everything.

Then there were ‘official’ people wearing purple, telling everyone where to stand and asking questions about your origins – like "Are you from interstate or outside the electorate?”, and depending on your answer, you would receive further instructions.

The purple mob were doing the best they could with a broken machine.  They deserve community respect for their work!

Cranky Lizard was impressed by the calmness and willingness to help.

But

Cranky Lizard looked at all the posters, signs, T-shirts, and banners and concluded that a layer of nonsense had fallen across the system.

The constant muzzling, dancing, eye-rolling, lily pad hopping, ego-stroking, eye glancing, mealy-mouthed, disrespectful fiction was all on display (sharp eyes might see a clue here…!).

Cranky Lizard asks, “How can a political party promise to deliver freedom forever.”

And be taken seriously? How?

And yet, there they are. It was blatantly misleading. 

Cranky Lizard was stunned into immobility as normal looking Australians walked past and took these ridiculous pieces of paper.  Some even nodding in agreement!

It was apparent to Cranky Lizard that occupying specific spaces around the polling booth had assumed an importance beyond usual reason. Narrow paths leading to the polling booth building entrance were lined with campaign workers leaning forward and thrusting election material into the faces of the poor buggers who were trying to get to the polling booth.

Voters were not enjoying this experience, however it continued with desperation etched in the faces of those thrusting.  It seemed as if their very existence depended upon the voting result.

Cranky Lizard has seen union officials in major shopping centre car parks, pestering shoppers with their electoral Labor Party nonsense.  How desperate is that!

Aggression and bullying were apparent amongst the ranks of the Union troops mobilised in support of the red shirt mob. Cranky Lizard noted that much of their effort was directed at voters who appeared a bit vulnerable, as a tall, strong man moved through the red mob toward the door of one polling booth, election material was thrust at him, a clear shake of his head made his intention obvious as he moved undisturbed through the mob.

No union bullying for him!

And aggression and bullying are not the sole provinces of the union movement.

It is a matter of conjecture why aggression is a part of the electoral process, but it is and has been for a number of years.

Cranky Lizard knows that if there were an opportunity to do so, many hundreds of voters would be pleased to detail their experience of this sort of behaviour at polling booths. Many hundreds indeed!

The issue here is that many Australians have come to expect the bullying and aggression at polling booths. Hence the mass move to the early polling system, but that too has now fallen foul of the aggression.

So, what to do?

Well, before a problem can be fixed, it must be accepted that there is a problem. And for some, that will be hard because from what Cranky Lizard could see, some were enjoying throwing their considerably large bums around, assuming that they were far more important than they really were. 

But that is a given for human behaviour. Offered the opportunity to act like buffoons, many will leap at the chance!

Cranky Lizard sees a glaring anomaly here. Major political parties spend hundreds of thousands of dollars pursuing personal votes. They assume, rightly so, that each voice is important. Having spent the money convincing the voter to attend the poll and express their will, they find that the voter is so overwhelmed by the hysterical nonsense that they become angry and waste their vote by not following the preferential numbering system. Or they just throw their ballot paper into the bin, crossed out, but no longer a formal vote.

All the money, time and effort wasted!

Wasted ballots happen more than you think and more than you can know!

Cranky Lizard is aware that many voters are unhappy with the ‘compulsory’ aspect of the voting process. This is a legacy from the very early days of the voting system. It was a Labor initiative. Many of the early voters were country workers. They were often given the day off, to go into the town from the properties, to enable them to vote.

Obviously, there were those who decided that a day at the pub was better than waiting in the lines to vote. So many did just that! Spent the day in the pub catching the horse and buggy back to the property. Very happy indeed. Bugger the idea of voting.

The union bosses were cranked off about this. They assumed, even demanded that the workers voted for the labor candidate rather than spend the day in the pub.  So ‘compulsory’ voting came about.

Even that turned out to be messy. The laws were drafted in such a fashion that it was compulsory to go to the polls and have your name checked off the list of eligible voters. Having done that, you were then given the ballot paper, but you did not have to vote.  You could turn the thing into a glider and send it across the room if you wished. The important thing was that your name was crossed off the list, proving your attendance at the polls.

It was all a bit clumsy as there was still plenty of time to go to the pub, before or after going to the polling booth.

And that system still applies today. Including the bit about the pub!

There is also annoyance about the preferential system. It has become complicated, often rendering voters' intentions informal because of the numbering sequence.

Cranky Lizard has no doubt that the preferential system has allowed all sorts of weirdness into the Senate.  There are people who make a living out of manipulating the Senate preferences resulting in……well, you know, you can see it every day, if you take the trouble to look.

The most serious development for our voting system is that the process has lost dignity.

There is no dignity in the screeching, yelling, paper waving mob at the polls. There is no dignity in the union apparatchiks patrolling shopping car parks, harassing people going shopping, with bits of writing about the Labor party.

No dignity at all.

If there is an institutional process in our democracy that should remain protected and dignified, it is the process of voting for a Government.

Enjoy your days.

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