Electronic voting is coming to the House of Representatives!

Two years after the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Procedure published a report supporting introducing electronic voting in the House of Representatives, Coalition MP Christopher Pyne has announced that the Government will be doing just that by 2019!

While this is very good news and a step in the right direction, there is no indication that the Government plans to change its voting practices. Instead, they’ll simply replace how the House currently conducts formal votes – known as divisions – with a new electronic voting mechanism.

How are divisions currently done?

There are two kinds of votes: voting ‘on the voices’ and divisions.

Votes that take place ‘on the voices’ are considered less important and the House doesn’t record how our Members of Parliament (MPs) vote in them. Instead, the vote is won by shouting ‘AYE!’ or ‘NO!’ more loudly than the other side.

Divisions, on the other hand, are recorded. During a division, our MPs stand up and walk to one side of the chamber or the other depending on whether they wish to vote ‘Aye’ or ‘No’. Their names are then recorded and the side with the most names wins the vote.

How will electronic voting change things?

As things currently stand, electronic voting won’t change very much. Instead of standing up and walking around in order to vote in a division, our MPs will instead input their vote electronically.

This will speed things up – “freeing up more time for important parliamentary business”, according to MP Pyne – but won’t otherwise change parliamentary procedure. Voting ‘on the voices’ will continue to take place and we will still not have any data on how our MPs are voting at those times.

Why is this disappointing?

Most votes in Parliament take place ‘on the voices’. This means that we have no data on how our individual representatives are voting most of the time a serious problem in terms of keeping our representatives accountable.

As we submitted to the inquiry back in 2016, we believe that, thanks to the time saved by electronic voting, it would allow the House to “produce a fuller voting records” by ensuring that all – or, at least, most – votes are officially recorded:

This record will be used by Australians to hold their MPs accountable, and will become an important historical record of MPs’ contribution to our democracy. Without this level of accountability, our democracy remains open to abuse by politicians who say one thing to their electorate but vote quite differently within Parliament.

Where to from here?

Introducing electronic voting into the House is an excellent first step towards true accountability. Although the Standing Committee on Procedure disagreed with our proposal back in 2016, it is possible that once electronic voting is up and running well, they will be more inclined to extend its use to all forms of voting in the House.

What about the Senate?

There are currently no plans to introduce electronic voting into the Senate. But the good news is that there are far more divisions taking place in the Senate thanks to our noisy independent and small party senators, who regularly demand that a formal vote takes place rather than simply resolving the matter ‘on the voices’. This means our senators’ voting records already tend to give a more accurate picture of how they are voting.



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