Michael Duffy in the SMH today quotes the AEC’s Tim Evans, claiming that:
On balance, there is no empirical evidence that a move to voluntary voting would advantage one major party over another
I have no idea what evidence Evans and Duffy are thinking about, but I’d be keen to hear of it. The best Australian study on the topic (by Derek Chong, Sinclair Davidson and Tim Fry) found that:
In each of the last four elections, the Coalition would have had a far higher vote share under a voluntary regime than it does under the current compulsory voting regime. Similarly, in each election, the ALP would have had a smaller vote share.
As I pointed out when the study appeared, Chong,Â Davidson and Fry’s findings are particularly believable because they’re supporters of voluntary voting. However, they’re alsoÂ good academics who are willing to admit clear evidence when they see it.
It’s also worth mentioning that US evidence supports them. Those who choose to vote under a voluntary regime are not a random sample of the citizenry. And why should we expect those who choose to go the ballot box to be perfectlyÂ representative of the population, when we don’t expect the same of those who choose to go to the football, to church or to aÂ rock concert?Â
Admittedly, there are more efficient alternatives to compulsory voting that would get the same result. I’d be quite happy with a regime that compelled a randomly selected 1/10th of the population to vote at each election (same goes for the Census). But I have a feeling that we’d have to teach more statistics at school before this met with universal approval.
* There is a slim possibility that when he says “advantage one party”, Tim Evans means “change the election result”. In this case, the statement would be true,Â just asÂ it would be true to say that banning ALP candidates would not have changed the last four federal election results.
** On the principle that one should say nice things about people when possible, Duffy has a neat article on the scouting movement in today’s Age.