With the completely uninspiring state elections, that recently took place in New South Wales, I was confronted with how difficult it is to rank the candidates when it came time to vote.
For me, there were four people on the ballot who I knew I definitely didn't want to win. But I couldn't decide how to order the ones I didn't mind winning.
The NSW voting system demands that we give at least a number one next to person we want to win. The federal system forces us to fill in every preference. But what if I don't care who wins? Why can't there be a way for me to say "I don't care who win's just as long as it isn't these candidates"?
Well following is my proposal for such a system...
My idea is quite simple. Instead of only requiring that people vote for the candidates they most favour, you also allow them to number just the candidates they least favour.
Lets say there are 4 candidates, lets call them John, Matthew, Sue, and Naomi. I really don't want Matthew or Sue to win the election because one belongs to a neo-facist party, and the other belongs to an idealistic single policy party. But between John and Naomi, I couldn't care less who wins. They're both sensible people and belong to a major party.
I decide immediately that Matthew and Sue will be getting the third and fourth preferences. But when deciding the top two spots I spend way too long fretting about whether Naomi's party's policy on the length of lunch breaks in primary school is more of an issue than John's support for having an extra 10cm width for car parks in the city.
With my system time no longer has to be wasted picking the order of the top spots, because you can just leave them blank. That means I'd give Matthew a 4, Sue a 3 and the leave the boxes for John and Naomi blank.
When it comes to counting these votes, all you simply do is add 1 vote for each of the candidates who have an empty box. And if all the unnumbered preferences don't get enough votes and are eliminated, your bottom preferences are counted as normal.
This means for the first round of preference counting John and Naomi would each get 1 vote towards their totals, but Matthew and Sue would get none. If John was eliminated, because he got the lowest number of votes, Naomi would still get 1 vote from my ballot, in the second round, and the others would still get nothing. If Naomi was eliminated at this point, Sue would then get my vote, but not before the others.
The one potential problem is this system could dramatically increase the likelihood of a draw. Solving this is quite simple. If there are two candidates who have an equal number of votes - one is chosen at random to be the winner.
This works because if people are apathetic towards the winner, then they won't care if it comes down to a random pick. If they do care, then they could've picked a number one preference.
I think having the capacity to count votes like this will create an incentive for people to vote sensibly. Instead of being disenfranchised with the lack of an obvious favourite, they can at least expresses their distaste.
So, perhaps one day I can look forward to an election that allows me to vote down the people I don't like, while not voting about the people I don't care about, rather than having it the other way round.