Huge Australian ballot forces magnifying glass order

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian electoral authorities are expecting so many candidates in the nation's upcoming polls they have ordered magnifying glasses to ensure every name on the metre-long ballot paper can be read, officials said on Wednesday.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) said it would be providing magnifying glasses at polling places in the populous states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria after a rush of party registrations prompted fears of a font downgrade to fit candidate names on.

"The reason that we are ordering these magnifying glasses is because we have seen an increase in party registrations," an AEC spokesman said.

"Connect the dots and we are expecting an increase in candidate numbers."

There were 25 parties registered to run in the Senate, or upper house, in the 2010 election, a number large enough to warrant a 1.02m long ballot paper for NSW voters with the 84 candidate names printed in size 8.5 font.

The typeface was likely to be smaller still this year, with the spokesman saying there were a record 47 parties registered so far and nine more applications still being processed.

A magnifying glass would be affixed to every polling booth in NSW and Victoria, where there are a combined 5,000 voting places averaging 12 booths each - some 60,000 glasses in total.

An official WikiLeaks party is among the new groups registered in this year's elections, with Australian-born founder Julian Assange to run for the Senate in Victoria as one of its candidates.

Eccentric mining magnate Clive Palmer, who is building a functional replica of the Titanic to retrace its ill-fated 1912 voyage as well as a robotic dinosaur park in northern Australia, has also registered his own party.