Thousands of Tasmanians are apparently messing up their votes without meaning to, potentially making the difference in close election results.
It is widely known that many people intentionally cast informal votes.
However, over the last four House of Assembly elections combined, more informal votes appear to have been from people who were actually trying to cast valid votes and failing than from those deliberately messing up their voting papers, or not marking them at all.
... we're assuming all our community is literate and assuming everybody's got good vision and assuming everybody knows how it works.Mike Gaffney
According to the Tasmanian Electoral Commission, the 2018 House of Assembly election had 8468 apparently intentional informal votes and 8731 apparently unintentional informal votes.
Apparently unintentional informals easily outnumbered apparently intentional informals in the 2006 and 2010 polls, while more people appeared to deliberately vote wrongly than accidentally vote wrongly in 2014.
There were also significant numbers of apparently unintentional informal votes in Legislative Council elections between 2014 and 2018.
Mersey independent MLC Mike Gaffney said unintentional informals could make the difference in tight contests.
He suggested literacy would be a factor, and that some voters became confused by the bombardment of advertising and media coverage during campaigns.
"I think the everyday person sometimes gets confused with the messages out there, not knowing who to believe," Mr Gaffney said.
"With the federal election, voting above the line, below the line, and we're assuming all our community is literate and assuming everybody's got good vision and assuming everybody knows how it works."
Asked if the system was too complicated, Mr Gaffney said: "It's overkill now."
"Even with local government elections, I think there were over 500 candidates for the last election.
"Eventually, they'll have to work out a system where there's online voting, but they are still going to have to have a way for people who are not au fait with that type of communication to go in and do it by hand, and you're still going to get people who are not literate in that medium."