Understanding and Addressing Informal Voting in Victoria

Electoral Regulation Research Network SA seminar

Wednesday 17 November


  • Lisa Hill, Professor of Politics, University of Adelaide
  • Dr Rodrigo Praino, Associate Professor of Politics and Public Policy, Flinders University.
  • Paul Thornton-Smith, Manager, Information and Research, Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC).
  • Warwick Gately, Electoral Commissioner, Victorian Electoral Commission

About the Talk:

This webinar unpacks the aims and approach of our current ARC Linkage Grant entitled: ‘Understanding and Addressing Informal Voting in Australia, Industry Partner, Victorian Electoral Commission (CI’s L. Hill, R. Praino, W. Gately and P. Thornton -Smith).

Designed to ultimately reduce relatively high rates of informal voting, this project represents the most ambitious study of informal voting ever undertaken anywhere. In it, we combine experimental data, aggregate level data and individual level data to provide a multi-dimensional understanding of the full implications and effects of both intentional and unintentional informality.

Our aims are, not only to advance our understanding of the patterns, underlying correlates and sources of informal voting at both state and local elections in Victoria, but in light of this understanding, to develop test solutions for arresting informal voting.

The project will conduct 4 discrete studies over a 4 year period but this presentation focuses on Study 4 whereby we seek to determine whether such factors as: a relaxation of the legal threshold for formality; reducing levels of stress at polling places; and devising alternative options for intentional informal voting would reduce informal voting in Victoria. Using a quasi-natural experiment that involves a detailed analysis of every informal vote cast, and drawing on findings from other aspects of the project, Study 4 encompasses 2 election periods: the 2020 and 2024 local council elections.

This webinar is a joint initiative of the Electoral Regulation Research Network (ERRN) and Stretton Institute.

More about the Presenters:

Lisa Hill is Professor of Politics at the University of Adelaide. Aside from her interest in elections, electoral inclusion and electoral integrity, Lisa is also a democratic theorist and historian of political thought. Her recent and relevant publications include: Compulsory Voting: For and Against, New York/London: Cambridge University Press, 2014 (with Jason Brennan); ‘The Politics of Voter Presence’, International Political Science Review, Online First, 2020 (with A. Malkopoulou) and ‘Compulsory Voting and the Promotion of Human Rights in Australia’, Australian Journal of Human Rights, 23 (2) 188-202, 2017.

Dr Rodrigo Praino is Associate Professor of Politics and Public Policy at Flinders University. He holds a PhD in Political Science and has received several prestigious fellowships, scholarships and awards, including a Fulbright Scholarship. He is an expert in decision-making and political behaviour who has conducted successful research on elections, focusing on how voters make decisions in a context of low-information. His publications in this area cover a wide range of issues, including the effect of political scandals and corruption, the political behaviour of young voters, the political representation of women, and the role of candidate physical appearance.

Paul Thornton-Smith is the manager of Information and Research at the Victorian Electoral; Commission (VEC). He has worked at the VEC since 1988, mainly in the areas of voter information, media relations, legislation, political parties and representation. Paul is also the secretary of Victoria’s Electoral Boundaries Commission, and worked on the recent redivision of state electoral boundaries.

Warwick Gately’s early career was with the Royal Australian Navy. Joining the Western Australian Electoral Commission in 2003, he conducted three State General elections, local council elections and referendums on retail trading hours and daylight saving. He oversaw the redrawing of the State’s electoral boundaries under “one vote, one value” legislation. In April 2013, he was appointed as the Electoral Commissioner for Victoria with responsibility for the administration of the State’s register of electors and the conduct of Parliamentary and local council elections as well as referendums and various statutory polls in Victoria. This has included State elections in 2014 and 2018 and local council elections in 2016 and 2020. As a member of the Electoral Boundaries Commission, he was involved in the State redivision programs in 2013 and 2021. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Government, a Master’s Degree in Defence studies and is a graduate of the Institute of Company Directors.