The Northern Territory Parliament yesterday passed legislation that will dramatically change the face of elections in the Northern Territory. I outlined the provisions of the bill in a blog post in January (you can find the post here), but the two provisions with significant political consequences are a switch from full to optional preferential voting, and a ban on posters, how-to-votes, handbills and all forms of campaigning within 100 metres of a polling place. The original bill included a 500 metre ban, reduced to a more practical 100 metres by government amendment in the debate. The ban will remove what locals call ‘the gauntlet’, the tunnel of posters and party workers thrusting how-to-vote material at voters outside polling places. From my own personal observation, campaigning outside polling places is more vigorous in the Northern Territory than in any other Australian jurisdiction.
Polling day campaigning as seen in Australia is unusual by international comparison. Most countries have bans on polling day campaigning, with New Zealand going as far as banning any form of election day paraphernalia anywhere in the country.
In other countries the normal election day activity of candidates and parties is turning out the vote, contacting known supporters and making sure they get to a polling places.