Voting its as clear as mud!

Journalism student Tessa Hoffman is a swinging voter.

She knows this is an important election and wants to make an informed choice. But how to get the best bang for her buck (or vote) in the House of Representatives?

When she started researching how to vote she found herself deep in the murky world of primary votes and preferences, and was shocked to realise how little understanding most people had.

Its amazing they dont teach this stuff at school, she said. My mother, whos a Greens voter, told me shes going to vote for Labor this time because she couldnt risk it! Shes afraid that by voting Greens she could inadvertently be helping the Coalition get back in. And shes a pretty well informed, well educated person.

What Tessa discovered was that her mother could in fact vote for the Greens (or any of the other minor parties or independents) but through her choice of preferences still have her vote ultimately count towards Labor.

(The same is true for conservative voters who want to send a message to Canberra, but ultimately want their vote to go towards the Nationals).

Tessa also found out that her primary vote is worth money!

The candidate she marks as #1 on the ballot paper (her primary vote) receives $2.10 from the Australian Electoral Commission to help defray expenses.

Lismore Greens member Tim Somerville concedes that Page is a two-horse race between Nationals Chris Gulaptis and ALPs Janelle Saffin, however, he wants people to think carefully about who they give their primary vote to.

Your vote is effectively worth $2.10, which is a little known fact, he said. Thats why the two major parties get a $10 million head start. Wouldnt you rather see that money go to an independent or a minor party? Why give it to someone who doesnt need it?

He said unless one candidate obtained an outright majority, then preferences would automatically come into play.

The preferential system is a very good system, he said. It is a little bit complicated though.

Picture this. At the end of election day they close the doors, they upend the ballot boxes and all the votes are put into piles according to #1 votes.

In Page there are 10 candidates, so there will be 10 piles. The candidates pile with the least number of votes, their pile is picked up and their votes distributed to the remaining piles according to who is marked as number two.

Now theres only nine piles. The same thing happens again. The vote cant ever go to a person who is already excluded, so they just continue flowing onto the next highest preference.

He said votes for the two major parties have never been distributed, which meant Labor putting The Greens as #2 on their How to Vote card is a purely symbolic gesture.

He said in Page ultimately your vote would end up going to either Janelle Saffin (Labor) or Chris Gulaptis (the Liberal/Nationals Coalition). It all depends on whether you rank Saffin above Gulaptis or vice versa.

Even if you put Saffin #9 and Gulaptis #10, then its a vote for Labor, he said. If you put Gulaptis #9 and Saffin #10, its a vote for the Coalition.

Wed just like to debunk the idea that a vote for the Greens is a wasted vote, he said. Vote Greens #1, give us the electoral funding and let Canberra realise that Labor only got in because people care about environmental issues and social justice. To save the Senate see page 6.

Make your vote count

When voting you MUST write a different number next to each and every single candidate (ranking them in order of your preference). Write #1 in the box next to the candidate that is your first choice. This is your primary vote.

Then rank the remaining candidates. In Page there are 10 candidates so you will need to choose a different number between two and 10 for each remaining box.

For your vote to be valid (and therefore counted) EVERY box on the voting paper must have a DIFFERENT and VALID number in it. This is different from the state elections.

In Page, where there are 10 candidates, valid numbers consist of those between 1 and 10. In Richmond where there are seven candidates, valid numbers range from 1 to 7.

Political parties hand out How to Vote cards at polling booths giving their suggested preferences. These are suggestions only. Just because you are choosing to give your primary vote to that party, does NOT mean you have to follow their How to Vote card. You can preference whoever you choose.

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