What is a write-on campaign?
In Australia we are allowed to write messages on blank parts of a ballot paper to convey our personal views. A write-on campaign encourages people to write the same message on their ballot papers so as to convey a consistent idea to scrutineers, staff of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), other observers and the media when votes are being counted.
Is there a precedent?
At the Tasmanian referendum on 12 December 1981, voters wrote ‘No Dams’ on 33% of the ballot papers. Subsequently the write-on campaign against damming the Franklin River was promoted at federal by-elections in 1982. The ‘No Dams’ campaign delivered a 12% write-on in the Lowe by-election on 13 March 1982 and 40% in the Flinders by-election on 4 December 1982. The AEC and scrutineers reported this extraordinary surge of public opinion.
As a result, the ALP took note and promised to stop the Gordon below Franklin Dam. Bob Hawke fulfilled that pledge when the ALP came to office on the ‘No Dams’ policy platform in March 1983. This precedent shows that ‘write-on’ campaigns can influence political decision-making.
Further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_Dam_controversy (see sub-section: The campaign broadens)
The REDUCE IMMIGRATION write-on campaign was trialled at federal elections in 2007, 2010 and 2013. The 2013 campaign was supported directly by two candidates who both stood as independents in the Victorian electorate of Flinders. Their sole platform was to raise public awareness of the REDUCE IMMIGRATION write-on opportunity. They gained considerable publicity for the write-on campaign, and a creditable aggregated vote (given that they weren’t seeking votes, but coverage for the write-on). At subsequent federal elections, we have advocated the write-on concept via Twitter messages and posts to this website.
Don’t extra markings on a ballot paper invalidate my vote, by making it informal?
No, your formal vote will still be valid despite extra markings, so long as you don’t obscure your numbered squares and providing that you do not include markings that reveal your identity. The AEC has confirmed that you can write extra words on a ballot paper. Their official Ballot paper formality guidelines provide detailed information on how polling place officials determine the formality of ballot papers, and an ABC radio interview on 5 September 2013 confirms that slogans can be written on ballots without rendering the vote informal.
Antony Green, the ABC’s election commentator, has written: “Formality laws allow ballot papers to be counted even though they contain other markings, legible or otherwise. The only tests are that the markings do not obscure the formal marking of preferences…”
What impact will this campaign have?
When votes are being counted, scrutineers and AEC officials will notice an effective write-on campaign. If sufficient voters share their concern about excessive immigration, the political parties and the media will definitely take notice.
Write REDUCE IMMIGRATION in the blank space at the top of your ballot papers, and help drive policy change for Australia!