Disclaimer 1: I am currently assisting in the campaign for the Australian Democrats (of which I am a member) in Western Australia. I also used to be a member of the Australian Labor Party, and served as a scrutineer for them.
Disclaimer 2: I banged this out pretty quickly, and I intend to go back and make corrections, add references, etc. later on. You know, when I don't hate democracy for stealing all my time.
So the aforementioned federal election is almost upon us, and last week the Labor Party's crazy-accumulator, Mark Latham, suggested that voters should hand in a blank ballot paper.
This is known as an informal vote. There's nothing illegal about it, and many people do it to protest compulsory voting (attendance) in general, or to protest the specific candidates or government of the time. See, while it's necessary for enrolled voters to attend the polling place and have their name checked off, they're completely free to do whatever they want with the ballot paper after that. While most of us are putting numbers in boxes — and while I'm trying to figure out how I numbered 55 boxes with 57 numbers — some people write messages in large letters, draw pictures, leave teeth marks... that is, generally render their vote uncountable in some way.
But there are good reasons not to do this, and it basically comes down to this: your vote does more than elect the government.