Magnifying glass needed to read tiny print on huge Senate ballot

Plastic magnifying sheets will be installed in voting booths to help Victorians navigate their way through what could be the biggest ever Senate ballot paper.

Victorians could be faced with a 1.02 metre Senate ballot paper at the 2013 federal election, the maximum size it can be printed, with the font size reduced to 6 point to fit all the candidates’ names. [Fairfax newsprint point size is 9.5 point.]

The number of registered political parties has almost doubled since the 2010 election from 25 to 46, and another 11 parties are waiting to be processed.

”One of the greatest issues of concern for this election is the number of candidates,” Australian Electoral Commission state manager for Victoria Steve Kennedy said at a briefing on Monday.

The WikiLeaks Party, the Nick Xenophon Group, the Voluntary Euthanasia Party, the Drug Law Reform Party, Katter’s Australian Party and the Palmer United Party are just a handful of new parties contesting the 2013 election.

If around 50 registered parties field Senate candidates in Victoria, the ballot paper would increase from 22 to 55 columns.

Mr Kennedy said ballooning ballot papers would lead to more informal votes, due to the complexity. It could also drive more people to vote above the line and the Commission said it would have to take on more staff and use bigger premises to count the Senate votes.

The commission has already ordered 10,000 plastic magnifying sheets for Victorian voting booths.

He said there would be a flow-on effect in the House of Representatives, with around nine candidates fielded for the seat of Mallee compared with just four in 2010.

Electoral commissioner Ed Killesteyn said the informal vote climbed from 3 per cent to 9 per cent when 22 candidates were fielded in the 2009 byelection for the NSW seat of Bradfield.

”There are a number of indicators that point to a high rate of informality; one of those is English language literacy, the second is obviously the number of candidates on the ballot paper.”

NSW voters used a 1.02 metre Senate paper at the 2010 election.

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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