Australia’s highest levels of informal votes come from Western Sydney, a region set to be at the heart of the battle for seats in the 2016 Federal election.
Both the Labor and Liberal parties believe the region is crucial for winning government, but the increasingly complex ballot papers may be difficult for the significant migrant populations in the area to understand.
“The current voting system is fairly complex by international standards, and may be quite challenging for many migrants, particularly more recent ones,” said Joe Caputo, Chairperson of Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia.
“The result of having high informal votes is that the outcome is not reflective of the diversity of the population and a large percentage of people are de facto disenfranchised,” he said.
Each of the 10 Australian seats with the highest rates of informal votes lies in western Sydney suburbs, Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) figures show.
Recent changes to senate voting rules will only exacerbate the problem, Mr Caputo says, particularly given they were introduced so close to the election.
An AEC spokesperson told SBS the commission had run TV commercials in eight languages on the senate voting reforms and radio ads in 28 languages.
The AEC has provided information and education kits to almost 465 community groups and attended community events in Western Sydney. How to vote guides are also available in 27 languages on the AEC’s website.
Caputo told SBS that communities should educate and inform members on how to vote correctly, if they have the resources.
“Voting is an important part of an individual’s responsibility as an Australian citizen, and it’s important that we invest in civics education so that can engage in the democratic system,” he said.
“The government should consider introducing a voting system that is less complex, such as optional preferential, instead of our current system."