The following question was emailed to the Australian Electoral Commission regarding the outcome of a hypothetical situation of a majority “vote of no confidence” (VONC).
Email date: 22nd August 2018
RE: Vote Of No Confidence (VONC)
As per many Australians on social media:
If over 50% of the population submit a VONC by crossing out all names and printing Vote Of No Confidence, this would force a re-election with a complete new set of options to vote for.
Please confirm or deny.
Please ensure your answer is 100% correct as it will be shared with thousands of Australians.
An email was received from the AEC on 6th September 2018 as follows:
Thank you for your email. The AEC conducts federal elections in accordance with the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act).
The Electoral Act determines that a House of Representatives candidate is elected for an electorate (also known as a division) if they gain more than 50 per cent of the formal vote (an absolute majority). A voter needs to number every box on the ballot paper with a series of consecutive numbers according to their preference. If this does not occur, and in certain other circumstances specified in the Electoral Act, the ballot paper will be considered informal. Further information about voting, formal and informal votes, and how votes are counted is available on the AEC website at http://www.aec.gov.au/voting.
Hypothetically, if 60 per cent of the electorate cast an informal vote, the candidate who receives more than 50 per cent of the formal vote will be declared elected. The Electoral Act does not provide for a ‘re-election’ to automatically occur in the way you suggested.
If two or more candidates have an equal number of votes at the end of the counting of votes and there is no absolute majority of the formal vote, the Divisional Returning Officer writes to the Electoral Commissioner telling them that the election cannot be decided. The Electoral Act says that the Electoral Commissioner must ask the Court of Disputed Returns (a part of the High Court) for instructions to run a new election in that electorate. The new election will then be open to new candidates.
As explained above, the current arrangements that determine how voters must mark a ballot paper, and that a House of Representatives candidate may be declared elected on the basis of formal votes are set out in detail in the Electoral Act. These requirements have been in place for many years.
Changes to the Electoral Act can only be made by the Australian Parliament. If you want to change the legislation you may wish to contact your local Member of Parliament or Senator to seek their support for change. In addition, most major changes to the electoral process are considered by the Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM). The JSCEM is currently conducting an inquiry into the 2016 federal election and related matters, including proposals for reform. You may wish to consider providing a submission outlining your views to the JSCEM. Further information about the role of the JSCEM is available on the Parliament House website: http://www.aph.gov.au/em.
I trust the above is of some assistance.