OPINION:  Vote catching can be tough to grasp

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 Voters don’t like party politics in local government.

And they prefer voting ‘‘above the line’’ for a team of candidates to numbering multiple boxes below the line.

Using those two facts, backers of millionaire developer and then mayoral hopeful Bruce MacKenzie designed what proved to be the perfect system. They stacked ward ballot papers with so many sympathetic candidates that they managed to put Cr MacKenzie into the mayoral seat with a decisive voting majority behind him.

The system they used was revealed because some of the money Cr MacKenzie provided to back those who joined his ‘‘team’’ was declared to the Election Funding Authority. This prompted some people to ask why the mayor had apparently donated money to so many candidates.

What emerged has divided opinion between those who admire the strategy and tactics behind the campaign, and those who believe it highlights major flaws in electoral laws that need to be reformed.

In a nutshell, the system boils down to an unofficial team of like-minded candidates running their own ‘‘teams’’, side-by-side, on council ward ballot papers.

On paper, for example, they might be ‘‘Team A’’, ‘‘Team B’’ and ‘‘Team C’’, but the head candidate in each (the only ones with any real chance to actually get elected) is a member of the wider team, a fact perhaps not grasped by many voters.

It is possible that a majority of apparently separate ‘‘teams’’ on a ward ballot paper might actually be allied in this way.

And on the how-to-vote cards of each, in what has been described by some of those involved as a ‘‘paid advertisement’’, the favoured mayoral candidate for whose benefit the whole scheme has been devised is featured.

Nobody denies it’s a clever scheme.

But there’s lots of debate, now it’s in the open, about whether it should be banned.

Fine print at the bottom of some of the independent how to vote cards in Port Stephens shows Bruce MacKenzie's authorisation.

Fine print at the bottom of some of the independent how to vote cards in Port Stephens shows Bruce MacKenzie's authorisation.

Some of the how to vote cards from Port Stephens. Fine print at the bottom shows Bruce MacKenzie's authorisation.

Some of the how to vote cards from Port Stephens. Fine print at the bottom shows Bruce MacKenzie's authorisation.

Bruce MacKenzie's how to vote card for his mayoral bid for Port Stephens.

Bruce MacKenzie's how to vote card for his mayoral bid for Port Stephens.

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