Above-the-line voting here to stay: academic

THE LINE on the ballot paper that may bamboozle average Joe and Jo Blows as they select Dubbo's civic leaders is likely to remain, a political commentator predicts.

Political parties were the big winners in a system that allowed voters to just mark "1" above the line for a group of candidates and so they would not abolish it, Dr Richard Stanton said.

Nevertheless the senior lecturer at the University of Sydney continued to argue it hid the people's real voice and wishes.

Last week Dubbo resident Chris Fallon observed confusion in the electorate about this month's council election, which he said was partly caused by having groups and two options for voting - above the line and below the line. He wanted to kickstart a debate on the issue and a spokesman for NSW local government minister Don Page said the public would have opportunities to have their say.

Dr Stanton, who stood as an independent candidate for the upper house at the 2011 state election, was pessimistic about change that would spell the end of groups.

"It's never going to happen - there's too much value in it for parties," he said.

"It's a high stakes game. . . parties would do anything to get an advantage.

"The whole reason for it is so people can go in quickly and vote."

Dubbo had eight groups of candidates and four ungrouped candidates stand at this month's poll. The city's below-the-line voting result was one of the strongest in the state, but the political commentator said the so-called donkey vote - cast above the line - was still an important factor in an election.

"The real democracy comes into play below the line and independent," Dr Stanton said.

He highlighted Cobar - where the number of candidates matched the number of vacancies - as the result "closest to democracy".

Candidates that stood in neighbouring councils to Dubbo - Narromine, Gilgandra and Wellington - all stood as ungrouped candidates, meaning there was no line on the ballot paper.

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