Owning your Vote

More or less unique to Australia is our preferential voting system. “The essence of preferential voting is that voters number candidates on the ballot paper in a rank order of choice. You put the number 1 next to your first choice candidate, 2 next to your second choice, and so on. If your first choice candidate is not elected and no candidate receives half of the vote, your vote may be re-examined for its next preference. The point of the system is to elect the most preferred candidate, to choose the candidate that can build an absolute majority of support in the electorate rather than the simple majority required for first past the post voting” Anthony Green

  • Primary Vote: number of votes a candidate receives with 1 beside their name on the ballot paper. It shows the number of people who picked them as their first choice. Primary votes are counted first up and then the candidates are placed in order. The candidate with the highest number of primary votes is at the top of the order and the candidate with the lowest number of primary votes is at the bottom.
  • Preferences: A preference lets a voter pick which candidate they would prefer if their first pick does not receive many primary votes and can not win.

The counting process for preferential voting

At each stage of the count, the candidate with the lowest count is excluded and their ballot papers examined for the voters next preferences whose counts are readjusted. The preferences counted are those filled in by voters on the ballot papers.

This process of excluding the candidate with the lowest count and redistributing a voters’ preferences continues until the candidate at the top of the list has over 50% of the votes.

“Under special circumstances, it is even possible for candidates who finish lower than first or second to come through and win after the distribution of preferences….as was shown by the defeat of Pauline Hanson at the 1998 Federal election. However, it is quite rare for candidates to win from 3rd place, with only half a dozen instances since 1949.” Anthony Green

How to vote cards and Strategic voting

  • H2V cards do not align candidates on policy.
  • No one gives your vote away: Parties and candidates try to influence preferences by distributing how to vote cards outside polling places, but preferences are determined by individual voters and how they fill in their ballot papers.” Candidates and parties can not “give” your vote to any other candidate. The order you list your preferences on your ballot paper determines where you vote goes.
  • Generally a candidate’s H2V card outlines the preference order that would best help that candidate win IF they end up in the top few on primary votes.
  • If your candidate of choice does not receive many primary votes and you have followed a H2V card that preference strategy may end directing your vote towards a candidate you prefer less than another.
  • Vote 1 for who you want, then 2 for the next candidate you want if your first choice does not receive many primary votes. Then pick your 3rd, 4th and 5th etc. choices

Anthony Green – http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2004/guide/howpreferenceswork.htm