Federal Election 2019: Don’t make this preferential voting mistake
Some people heading to the polling station this weekend will be planning on using their vote to stick it to candidates they really dislike, but there is a good reason why this isn’t a great idea.
Australia’s unique preferential voting system means we have two options when voting in the federal election.
On your Senate paper you will be asked to number either six boxes for parties above the line or 12 boxes for candidates below the line.
The party or candidate that you put as number one will be your first preference and then the ones you number after that will be in defending order of who you want to see elected.
However, you don’t just have to stop at six or twelve, you can continue numbering until either all of the boxes above or below the line are filled out.
For NSW voters there are 105 candidates crammed onto the ballot paper, which is just under a metre long.
Some voters choose to number all the candidates because they want to make sure that the person they really don’t want elected is put last on their ballot.
But according to the ABC’s election analyst, Antony Green, this is basically pointless.
“People feel they get a sort of medal of honour if they number every party below the line and put somebody they really don’t like last,” he said on ABC’s podcast The Party Room.
“There are twenty-five groups on the NSW ballot paper with absolutely no chance of winning the election, so mucking around numbering is just a bit of a waste of time really.”
According to Mr Green, there are really only six or seven parties that have any chance of getting elected and they are the ones voters need to consider.
He named the Liberals, Labor, the Greens, One Nation and the United Australia Party as a few of the parties that have a real shot of being elected.
Mr Green suggested voters should just keep things simple and vote for the candidates or parties in the order they want to see them elected.
By numbering every single candidate below the line just to put the one you hate the most last, you may accidentally end up giving preferences to people you don’t agree with.
“If you want to go through and you want to put somebody last, you’ll have to number all of the squares,” Mr Green said.
“To do so, you’ll have to number a lot of people you don’t know or have never heard of, so how do you know you are giving them the right preferences?
“People shouldn’t over complicate it. Vote for the candidates you know, in the order you’d like to see them elected and just do that.”
There is a lot of confusion surrounding preferences and whether or not parties have control over how they are distributed.
Before the 2016 election, voters had the option to just choose a single party above the line then that party would distribute preferences any way they wanted.
This system was abolished before the 2016 federal election.
Now when you vote for a party your preference goes to the candidates in the order they are listed.
So when parties announce their preferences or distribute their how to vote guides, it is more of a suggestion of how they want you to number your preferences.
Mr Green said the main reason you would vote below the line was if you wanted to rearrange the order the parties have printed the candidates.
“If you don’t like the ordering of the Labor ticket or Liberal ticket you can rearrange the candidates. You have to go below the line to do that,” he said.
“But if you don’t know who the candidates are and you’re quite happy to vote for the parties, it is a perfectly reasonable thing to do to vote above the line.”
So when you get into the polling booth this Saturday think twice about if it is really worth your time numbering over 100 candidates just so you can put a few people you really dislike last.
Originally published as Don’t make this pointless voting mistake