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Electoral Support For Non-English Speakers And Those With Low Levels Of Literacy

An important feature of the Australian electoral system is the support provided for non-English speakers and people with low literacy levels.

A reader writes:

I have come across the argument that Australia introduced changes in its electoral system to allow people with low levels of literacy or non-English speakers to participate.

I don’t know exactly what the person was referring to, but have you come across this in any history of Australia’s voting methods?

Several aspects of Australia’s electoral system are relevant to this question:

  1. the Australian Electoral Commission conducts multi-lingual education and all official electoral material is produced in a variety of languages.
  2. the AEC is mandated to conduct electoral education in conjuction with community groups and does a lot of work with migrant community groups and the like.
  3. the ‘roll reviews’ conducted by the AEC, including doorknocking of electorates, ensure that the electoral roll is up-to-date.
  4. during election campaigns, the AEC advertises widely in print, on radio, television, and in other media, providing advice on how and where to vote. During the 2001 federal elections, the AEC spent $10.4 million on advertising.
  5. the political parties complement the AEC’s work by producing material in different languages on their leaflets and how-to-vote cards.
  6. in 1984 a variety of reforms were introduced to assist people to cast valid votes. One of the most significant of these was putting the names of candidates’ political parties on the ballot paper. In the Senate, the system of Above-the-Line voting (Group Voting Tickets) was introduced, dramatically reducing the number of informal votes.


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Malcolm Farnsworth
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