Hands up who receives their ballot papers on Sausage Sizzle Day (sometimes referred to as Election Day) and walks purposefully over to the voting booth like they know what they're doing, only to get into the seclusion of the protected cardboard stands and let their confident facial expression droop into the mildly panicked frustration of not knowing what the hell you are doing? Be honest now.
There are some things that really should be taught in schools as a part of our mandatory education and others (like ... recorder??) that really aren't necessary. Civics is something we all should know about, along with taxes ... and many other life skills that just seem to become assumed knowledge. How our government works, how our elections work and what we are doing when we cast a vote seems fairly important, don't you think?
One thing that really seems to confuse people is preferential voting. This election is likely to be close. Uber close (pardon the technical jargon). So, preferences are going to be vital. But what most people seem to missing is that you, the voter are in charge of your preferences.
So, what does all this mean?
In the lower house, you will receive a ballot paper that has the list of candidates for your electorate with boxes next to their names. You put a "1" in the box next to the person that you want to win. But your work is not yet done on this piece of paper. For your vote to count, you must number every single box.
Let me say that again.
You. Must. Number. Every. Box.
If, for example, you only number "1" next to your candidate of choice and leave the others blank, your vote will be an "informal vote" and you may as well have drawn love hearts in all the boxes for all the good your ballot will do. It literally will not be counted. At all. Not even a little bit.
So, for the love of all that is holy, just number every box.
When you receive the how-to-vote cards from the campaign volunteers at the polling venue, some of those cards will have "Vote 1 for candidate name " on it and will also have the other boxes numbered in line with how they've worked out the preference voting will work best for them. You are not obligated to follow this order.
If you cast your mind back 100 years to 2019 (pre-COVID feels like another era, eh?) when we last went through all this, you might remember that there were a lot of news articles about "preference voting deals" between the UAP and the Coalition. A few days ago, WA Premier Mark McGowan called the Liberal's move to preference the UAP ahead of Labor in the Senate races as "disgraceful", so it's a marriage of strange bedfellows that seems to be persisting, if not across the board. Remember, it was only a couple of years ago that the federal government initially intervened in Clive Palmer's court case against WA's border closure.
But all this means is that the Liberals are recommending a certain order of preference voting to their voters. You do not have to follow this. It's a matter of influence, not requirement.
And it does make a difference who you vote for. We use a preferential system, so it's not as simple as whoever gets the most votes wins. You have to win more than 50 per cent of the ballot. So, when they count the first preference votes, each candidate will have so many votes each. Then they take the ballots from the candidate with the lowest number of first preference votes and then distribute those votes based on the second preference marked on each of them, and so on, until someone wins over 50 per cent. In 2013, when Cathy McGowan took the formerly Liberal safe-seat of Indi, she won by a final margin of just 431, despite Sophie Mirabella winning more first-preference votes.
Literally every vote counts. Every preference counts. Don't be influenced. It is your democratic responsibility to cast your vote based on your preferences and no one else's.
While I can't do much about the education system and what schools teach our kids, I can make the effort to take my vote seriously because it doesn't only impact me. It literally impacts us all.
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