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Making your vote count

Making your vote count

Next Sat, 21st May 2022, Australian citizens will elect our next Australian Government. Have you decided who you will be voting for?

This post describes how to make your vote count, and allocate your preferences to someone who you would like to represent you, your state and your electorate, in Australia’s parliament.  

Find out where you can vote here.  

When you arrive at the polling station you will be given two papers – a small green one with candidates for the House of Representatives, your local Minister of Parliament, and a bigger white one with candidates running for the seats allocated to your State or Territory in the Senate. 

Voting for representation in the House of Representatives

Voting in the House of Representatives (the lower house) – each electorate will elect one member. 

  • Number all boxes  
  • Use They Vote For You to find out how your current member represented you, and your electorate, when voting on legislation proposed in Parliament.
  • Find your electorate – go to the electoral commission website and type in your postcode.
  • Find out who the candidates are in your electorate. This wiki page contains a list.
  • Look up their names i.e. “Joe Bloggs for Warringah” to find their websites, or look up their parties website, and learn more about what they want to do if elected or what their party represents.  

I wish I could offer more information about how to understand candidate policies but unfortunately the level or detail, and quality, of information shared varies significant among parties and candidates. If you would like to learn more you can contact a candidate or party office directly. Please also consider the advice of the Australian Electoral Commission when evaluating this kind of information.

Voting for representation in the Senate

Voting in the Senate (the upper house) –  each State will elect six senators, each territory will elect two. This is 50 percent of the seats allocated to your State or Territory in the Senate. So you are voting for half of the Senators who will represent your State (or their party / preferences) when something is proposed in the senate. 

  • You can vote above or below the line. 
    • Vote above the line if you want to give a ‘group’ your preferences. Candidates form groups to allocate preferences to each other. Only candidates who are part of a group get a position above the line. When you vote for a candidate above the line, you must number at least six (6) candidates. However, if your first choice is not elected and eliminated as the votes are counted, then your vote will be allocated to the candidate of their choice i.e. other candidates in their group.
    • Vote below the line if you want to allocate your own preferences. You will need to number at least twelve (12) candidates in the order you want your preferences counted. 
  • Find out who the Senate candidates are in your state or territory. This wiki page contains a list.
  • Look up their names i.e. “Jane Doe for senator” to find their websites, or party websites, and learn more about what they want to do if elected. 
  • Look at the list of Senators whose seats are not up for election (incumbent senators), to consider who else will be voting in the Senate / who your candidate will need to discuss legislation with if it makes it to the upper house. These Senators make up 50% of the seats allocated to your electorate. This is also shown on the wiki page with senate candidates.
  • If you want to learn more about preferences flows and the politics of the seats allocated to your state in the Senate check out Tally Room.

Why it matters – representation in Parliament

Voting above the line has an effect on representation in our parliament, and party politics in Australia. 

If you vote below the line and your first choice does not get elected, your second choice gets your preferences. If you vote above the line, the person you choose first allocates your preferences to their preferred candidate.   

Voting above the line is easier so it’s more common, which means that candidates who run below the line (not in a group) have less chance of being elected. To be listed ‘above the line’ a candidate needs to be a part of a ‘group’. Groups of candidates allocate preferences to each other. The more people who vote above the line the more votes and preferences go to major parties, and candidates who make deals with them. Independents and minor parties have fewer associates so they are more likely to be listed below the line. Not being part of a group, or being part of smaller groups, also reduces the preferences given to a candidate.  

Please, practice citizenship. It’s essential to representative democracy

Please do yourself, your family, community and our country a favour, and spend a little bit of time on this. It took me an hour-and-a-half to follow these steps, and I am looking forward to voting below the line next Saturday.  I am sure that many of you have spent more than time watching the news, or complaining about democracy in Australia over the last three years. This is least a citizen can do.

If you want to learn more about Australia’s representative democracy, geographic representation, representation in parliament, and the way votes are counted please see this blog post. It is detailed so use the headings to skip to the sections that interest you most. 

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