The advantages of being an election swinger

We shouldn’t let lines on a map decide elections, writes John Gooding

When I moved from the Blue Mountains to Sydney, I re-enrolled from the federal swing seat of Macquarie to the safe seat of Sydney.

At the 2010 election my former seat fell to the Liberals, who won by just over two thousand votes. I felt responsible on a personal level, as though I had abandoned my homeland to a terrible fate.

Before this election I moved to Grayndler, which was notionally a swing seat between Labor and the Greens, and somewhere my vote just might actually matter.

However, it was not to be; a few weeks ago Tony Abbott all but nixed a chance of a Greens victory in the seat by instructing Liberal candidates to put the Greens below Labor on how-to-vote cards. Labor now appear to be a shoo-in for the seat. Meanwhile, the Liberals are favourites to win Macquarie again, but only just.

Splitting the nation into one hundred and fifty electorates necessarily engenders feelings of irrelevance or disenfranchisement in safe seat-dwellers. There are fewer campaigners and campaign promises being bandied about. Queensland and Western Sydney are glorified, and we sit watching on.

It also means we live in a bizarre political reality where, if a few thousand people were to have strategically moved house from safe liberal seats to swing seats prior to the 2010 election, we would now have a majority Coalition government. In some nations this absurd hypothetical is impossible. Israel, for example, elects their major legislative body without any political districts at all. Citizens across the country face the same choice of candidates. The relevance of your vote is entirely unaffected by where you live.

Electoral districts also skew the composition of the House of Representatives in favour of larger parties. Despite winning around 11% of the primary vote for their candidates in 2010, only one Greens MP was elected out of one hundred and fifty, as their voters are not concentrated enough to outpoll Labor or the Liberals in the vast majority of seats.

The representation of regional communities on a national level is undeniably important. However, any electoral system which allows for the possibility that one party to form government without winning the popular vote, as is currently possible in Australia, the U.S, and most of Europe, is fundamentally undemocratic. If that were to happen, it would not be the people choosing the winner; it would be lines on a map.

More on the federal election:

Taking a microscope to the microparties - where your vote really goes

What will Abbott mean for universities? - the Coalition’s approach to tertiary education

When voting for the Sex Party, use protection - what does the ASP stand for, and where are their preferences going?

The party without any candidates - the party started by USYD students

Australia First, minorities second - an interview with the Australia First candidate for Bennelong

Like father, like daughter - the role of politicians’ daughters in their campaigns

John Gooding

John Gooding

John Gooding is a reporter for Honi Soit.
John Gooding

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