MARTIN DRUM is a political science academic at Notre Dame University and a well-known political commentator. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED he urges locals not to waste their vote in three weeks’ time, while getting in a cheeky plug for the Fremantle state election debate on February 26.
FREMANTLE’Sstate by-election in 2009 was notable in two ways: It was the first time a Green was elected in the lower house in WA and it brought to an end 73 years of Labor representation.
Despite the heated electoral environment at the time, more than four per cent of the electorate voted informally. An informal vote is when a voter doesn’t fill out the form in a way that ensures their vote is counted.
In the legislative assembly in WA this means you must number all the boxes in the order of your preference (ie, if there are four candidates you must number the boxes 1, 2, 3, 4, or 4, 2, 1, 3, or in whatever other order, but you must fill in all the boxes). It’s not that hard really.
At the 2010 federal election former Labor leader Mark Latham advised voters to protest the choice on offer by leaving their ballots blank.
No-one will stop you at the ballot box if you choose this option but Latham was a fool to suggest this.
Having a say in selecting someone to represent you is both a fundamental right and a key responsibility.
Our governments are only legitimate on account of the consent given to them by the public on election day.
If you do value your democracy you should find someone to support and vote so that your vote is counted.
In Freo, I’d like to think that we pride ourselves on our interest in public life, including who represents us.
We keep telling ourselves this and we get good turnouts to political discussions.
The stats however tell us the informal voting rate in the Fremantle district is consistently higher than the state average.
In 2005, for instance, it was 58 per cent higher (8.32 per cent to 5.24 per cent statewide).
At the 2008 state election it fell to 5.67 per cent, which was still higher than the state average of 5.32 per cent.
Perhaps the fact Freo has generally been a safe Labor seat had led to complacency amongst the public, who might think their vote doesn’t matter as much.
Given the seat was won by a Green who is now an independent, perhaps we will be more motivated to help determine the result.
Then there’s always some who will say they dont like any of the candidates.
My response to this would be to point to the number of candidates standing in Fremantle.
At the 2009 by-election there were 11 options and there are six candidates this time round. I reckon you can find someone to support out of this many.
If you want to inform yourself a little better as to what’s on offer this time around, you could do worse than come along to the state election debate on February 26.
It will be held at Notre Dame at 6.30pm at the corner of Cliff and Croke Streets (opposite the Herald).
We expect all candidates for the state seat of Fremantle will be there (sitting member Adele Carles, along with the Labor, Liberal and Greens candidates have accepted) to answer your questions.
If you haven’t made up your mind whom to support, perhaps this will help you decide.
As I’ve often heard people say—if you don’t have your say, don’t complain about the outcome.