The 2010 Victorian state election was the second general election to occur following major legislative and constitutional changes to Victoria’s electoral system in 2003. One of the key messages of this inquiry is that Victoria has much to be proud of when it comes to electoral processes. Victorian elections feature some of the highest rates of voter turnout for periodic general elections anywhere in the developed world, and some of the lowest rates of informal voting for a preferential voting system. Victoria also has a history of electoral innovation and a reputation throughout Australia for the quality of its electoral administration. This is due to the good work of the VEC, which should be commended for ensuring the 2010 Victorian state election ran smoothly and for their timely and substantial contributions to this inquiry.
Notwithstanding these points, this report has found that Victoria cannot afford to rest on its laurels. It is clear that electoral engagement in Victoria is declining. While the average voter turnout rate at Victorian state elections since 1999 is over 92 percent, there has been a general decline in voter turnout at the 2006 and 2010 Victorian state elections. Electoral enrolment is also a concern. The VEC estimates that over 700,000 eligible Victorians are not participating fully in their democracy, whether inadvertently or by choice.
In addition, the Committee is concerned about informal voting in Victoria; indeed, the rate of informal voting for the Legislative Assembly has steadily increased since 1996. The number of apparently deliberately informal votes was also significantly higher at the 2010 Victorian state election when compared to the 2002 and 2006 Victorian state elections.
Another trend to emerge from the Committee’s analysis of the 2010 Victorian state election is the substantial increase in early voting, otherwise known as pre-poll voting. Over 500,000 Victorians chose to vote early in person or by post for the 2010 Victorian state election. Taken alongside rates of early voting at previous Victorian state elections, there has been a 202 percent increase in early voting in Victoria since 2002. While the Committee accepts that there is a demand for early voting services given the increasingly busy lives we all lead, the Committee is cautious in its views about the growing popularity of early voting. Further research is needed to understand the implications of this trend for the administration of future Victorian state elections.