Sunshine Coast elections: Who did you just vote for?

'I don't know who I just voted for'

EVERYONE needs to completely rethink the way they vote.

At Queensland's most recent local government election about one in 20 people, living in urban areas, voted informally when it came time to choose a divisional councilor.

In Mayoral races the level of informal voting was lower but still quite high - lingering around three per cent.

However, what the video above proves is that while the vast majority of people go along and manage to correctly put a one next to a candidate's name, many of those who vote do so on either poor information, or no information at all.

This simply can't be healthy for our local democracies.

Reading a candidate's how-to-vote card as you wait to poll is at best unlikely to lead you to make a well informed decision and at worst may involve you giving your vote to someone as a result of a promise that is completely ridiculous. 

For example one of the councilors in my division claimed, on their how-to-vote card, that they would ensure there's better broadband in my area.

That's a federal issue and not something the council can really afford to get involved in, however, there's every chance that promise won a vote or two today.

What frustrates me, as a journalist who has worked mostly on community papers, is that over the past few years I have stood on countless streets, with countless residents and heard the same complaint: "the council simply will not listen to us."

Then on the day when the public are best posed to send their councilors a message many respond with complete and utter apathy.

It would be  very easy to blame the people in the video, who weren't sure who they'd voted for and everyone like them for this problem and cite the old cliche that the public get the government they deserve, but I don't. 

Rather, I think in a world with ever improving and more affordable communications systems, we should be looking at increasing the number of issues people can vote on and then making voting non-compulsory.

If there's a contentious development being proposed in one's area then people in that area should be allowed to vote directly on it.

If residents believe budgetary allocations favour one suburb or town over another then they should be able to go to their local councilor, have them propose an alternative and then vote in favour of that option.

Under this system councilors would become policy creators,  not decision makers.

By increasing people's ability to engage directly on an issue and making it possible to vote online, or at a self service booth in a council building, we could ensure decisions truly reflect what people want.

Some may say this would lead to widespread nimby-ism, but, it seems to me every time I look into a story involving a contentious development, those in favour of the development say there is a silent majority of people who like the idea.

If indeed this is true then these people should have no trouble expressing their opinions in an anonymous vote.

And if there is simply one street opposed to an idea and they're the only people who care then obviously they'll get the outcome they want for their area.  

The only real obstacle to this which I can see is creating a digital system that is immune to fraud and while I'm certainly not the person who'll be doing that it simply can't be impossible.



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