Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Notes: Saturday-Tuesday, August 14-17, 2010

More on the morality and legality of voting in Australian Federal elections

From yestereday's Herald:

In an anti-climactic ‘journalistic’ debut, former Labor leader Mark Latham revealed he will be lodging a protest vote this Saturday — and is urging others to follow suit.

[...] Mr Latham revealed his intention last night to place a ‘‘totally blank’’ ballot in the box as he posed as a journalist for a special report on the federal election for 60 Minutes.

According to the transcript for Mr. Latham's report for 60 Minutes, he said that

When it comes to good ideas for Australia's future, Gillard and Abbott have given the voters a blank piece of paper. I say let's give them a blank piece of paper in return. They say voting is compulsory in Australia, but it's not compulsory to fill out the ballot paper. You can put it straight into the ballot box totally blank - that's what I'll be doing next Saturday, and I urge you to do the same. It's the ultimate protest vote.

Mr. Latham (the former Member for Werriwa, to which electorate I belong) is incorrect to say that it is "not compulsory to fill out the ballot paper"--a particularly disappointing error to hear coming from a former Leader of the Opposition. As I said recently at Terra's blog,

Section 245(1) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 gives the following command:

"It shall be the duty of every elector to vote at each election."

(The same Act (Section 101) also commands us to apply "forthwith" to become electors if not electors already. Also, Sections 239 and 240 prescribe the manner of voting for Senate and Lower House elections, respectively, thus ruling out the possibility that an informal vote could satisfy the obligation to vote.)

So given that the requirements imposed in the Act are, as far as I know, just, possible, and properly promulgated, the Act is a valid law and thus its commands are binding in conscience (I have no reason to think that they are purely penal) and it would therefore be a sin not to vote (properly).

To sum up:

1. Australian law commands non-electors to become electors.
2. Australian law commands electors to vote (and not merely informally).
3. A lawful command by a competent authority (which is what the preceding commands are) binds on pain of sin, so informal voting is sinful, as is obstinate non-enrolment.
(Obviously there are also exceptions.)

Meanwhile, according to a report, apparently not available on-line, on page five of yesterday's Sydney Daily Telegraph entitled "Latham's informal vote call" by Nathan Klein and Alison Rehn,

While [1] it's not illegal to vote informally, [2] it is an offence to encourage others to do so.
[my square-bracketed interpolations]

(See also here for another instance of 2). I was interested to read that, because those two propositions were also raised in the blog comment which elicit my own blog comment quoted above:

One correction - since Australia has secret ballots the requirement is to attend a polling station. One can then voting informally. The candidates are usually so shameful it is surprising that the informal vote is not higher - never high enough to invalidate the poll.

What is wicked is that it is illegal to encourage informal voting - which is often the only moral choice.

I've shown that 1 is mistaken, and as for 2, I was interested to read the following in that Herald article:

It was not illegal for Mr Latham to promote the casting of blank votes, Australian Electoral Commission spokesman Phil Diak said.

"There's no explicit provision in the electoral act against someone telling someone else to cast an informal vote as an opinion or a view," he said.

However, it was an offence to publish information that could cause people to cast an informal vote, such as a misleading election ad.

It seems that 1 and 2 are something of an urban myth, then. As for 2 though, although there might not be any explicit prohibition against "telling someone else to cast an informal vote as an opinion or a view", any command implicitly forbids its contradictory, and it hardly seems becoming of a conscientious elector to tell others, even if only "as an opinion or view", to shirk their duties.

Mr. Gurries on Msgr. Gherardini's book The Ecumenical Vatican Council II: A Much Needed Discussion


An amusing joke, told by Dr. Brown, on France's (and, by extension, the West's) demographic prospects

From a comment by Dr. Brown at Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog:

You know the old joke. If Lefebvre wins, the liturgical language of France will be Latin. And if he loses, it will be Arabic.

Comment by robtbrown — 16 August 2010 @
8:18 am

The beliefs and non-beliefs of a man who has spent "forty six years involved in Catholic education"


(In related matters, see here for some of Mr. Coyne's opinions on the "real Jesus".)

Cardinal O'Brien on the death penalty and related matters

His Eminence The Cardinal Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh has written a dreadful opinion piece for Scotland on Sunday. The column came to my attention via a Catholic News Service article which appeared in last Sunday's Sydney Catholic Weekly under the headline "Cardinal attacks US 'vengeance culture'" (see here for a copy of the article at the C.N.S.'s own website). When I saw that headline I thought of St. Thomas Aquinas on the virtue of vengeance in the Summa, IIa IIæ, q. 108. If I had time I'd write I thorough rebuttal of His Eminence's article (a quick look at it indicates that it is even worse than it seemed in the C.N.S. report on it), but I don't at the moment, unfortunately (though there's a chance that I might write a confutation later.)

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Hyacinth, Confessor, A.D. 2010