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Realising Democracy

Realising Democracy

Electoral law in Australia

Edited by Graeme Orr, Bryan Mercurio and George Williams


This book examines the law of elections in Australia. It explores Australia's rich history of electoral law innovation as well as exciting contemporary challenges such as electronic voting and party regulation. Topics covered also include the centenary of the first uniform federal franchise,  the Gore v Bush 2000 US presidential election, and the role of scrutineers in the electoral process.

The volume draws together as contributors a range of insiders and other Australian and international commentators with long experience in electoral administration and electoral law. Authors include leading lawyers, political scientists, historians and electoral administrators.


Foreword by Andy Becker, Australian Electoral Commissioner


The Australian Electoral Tradition
Graeme Orr, Bryan Mercurio and George Williams

The International Dimension

Lessons from the Florida Controversy
Daniel Lowenstein
Electoral Reform in the United Kingdom
Keith Ewing
Australian Electoral Law: Not a Model for Others
Michael Maley

A Century of Reform

Enrolling the People: Electoral Innovation in the New Australian Commonwealth
Marian Sawer
Measuring Parliaments Against the Spence Standard
John Uhr

Fundamental Rights and Values

The Evolution of the Commonwealth Franchise: Tales of Inclusion and Exclusion
Jennifer Norberry
One Vote, One Value: The WA Experience
Kirsten Robinson

Campaigns, Parties and Candidates

Campaign Finance Reform in Australia: Some Reasons for Reform
Joo-Cheong Tham
Dealing in Votes: Regulating Electoral Bribery
Graeme Orr
Party Registration and Preselection: A Minefield for Electoral Administrators?
Steve Tully
By Any Other Name: Parties, Candidates and their Ballot Labels
Tom Round

The Role of the Courts

The High Court and the Constitutionalism of Electoral Law
Gerard Carney
The Practice of Disputed Returns for Commonwealth Elections
Stephen Gageler
Justiciability: The Role of Courts in Reviewing Electoral Administration
Angela O'Neil

Best Practice in Electoral Governance

The Independence of the Commissions: The Legislative Framework and the Bureaucratic Reality
Colin A Hughes
Transparency and Elections in Australia: The Role of Scrutineers in the Australian Electoral Process
Phillip Green
Beyond the Paper Ballot: Exploring Computerised Voting
Bryan Mercurio

Table 0f Cases/ Table of Statutes/ Index


The book takes an interdisciplinary approach to electoral law and contains papers of high quality over a wide range of areas.

John Kernick, Law Society (NSW) Journal, Vol 42(9), October 2004, 101

One of the strengths of this book is that in a series of short chapters it provides useful summaries of various areas of electoral law at a level that is accessible to both students and the non-lawyer. While the authors predominantly have legal backgrounds and cover issues from a legal perspective, this is leavened by the contributions of political scientists and electoral administrators. The editors have managed to corral a range of disparate papers into coherent themes. While a few of the chapters are perhaps overly descriptive, there is something in this book for anyone with an interest in elections and the political process.

Alternative Law Journal, Vol 29 No 3, June 2004

There is too much content in this book to do justice to all of it in the confines of a single review. Taken as a whole, the collection forms a well-balanced, informative and quite readable overview of Australian electoral law. There is much about the issues discussed therein that will be familiar to election law aficionados from other jurisdictions, and much about the Australian response to those issues to make them think about their own backyards. For this reason, the appearance of this work is welcome, and it is wholeheartedly recommended.

Election Law Journal, Vol 3 No 2, 2004

Interest in the regulation of elections has increased globally since the debacle of Florida in 2000. In Australia, awareness has been heightened since the One Nation/Hanson litigation and its publication is particularly timely given that a range of amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 have recently been introduced into the federal parliament covering issues ranging from electoral roll integrity, roll use and representation of Northern Territory electors. …
The contributors come from diverse backgrounds, including the various electoral commissions, academia and practice, and most of the names will be familiar to observers of developments in electoral law in Australia.
Realising Democracy covers a catholic range of matters relating to electoral law. Matters analysed include campaign finance reform, electoral bribery, party registration and preselections (timely given the hard-fought Liberal Party preselection in Wentworth), the intersection with the Constitution, and the role of Courts in reviewing electoral administration. The book also contains a set of very practical and useful analyses by seasoned experts in their chosen fields on the independence of the AEC, the role of scrutineers in Australia, and the practice of disputed elections. The book also covers an international dimension by including lessons from Florida 2000 and a discussion of the distinctiveness of Australian electoral law.
This book is an important and welcome contribution to the public discussion of electoral regulation.

Ethos (Law Society of the ACT) No 192, March 2004


Electoral Reform for the Worse ...

This Opinion Piece was written by George Williams and published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 23 June and The Courier Mail, Wednesday 21 June 2006.


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Published November 2003
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781862874817
Australian RRP $75.00
International Price $70.00
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Law - Constitutional
Government / Political Studies
Secondary School Resources

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