On election day I will be numbering 79 boxes with with the numbers 1 to 79. Like 3-5% of the Australian population I will vote below the line in the Senate.
The Australian Senate is elected with a preferential proportional representation voting system. This is an extremely complex, and I would argue general extremely fair and democratic, system. The system requires the voter to indicate their order of preference of all the candidates standing in their state. The voter has the choice of two ways of how to do this: they can vote above the line by placing a 1 in the box for the party of their choice or below the line, by numbering all the boxes for all the candidate. If the voter votes above the line for a party, their preferences are distributed how that party specifies according to the Group Voting Tickets, not necessarily how that voter would have voted if they had voted below the line.
All parties have lodged their Group Voting Tickets with AEC, these show what an above the line vote is equivalent to below the line. The Group Voting Tickets are published on the AEC website as PDFs, on the ABC website in easier to follow HTML. Looking at these you can see where your vote will actually go when you vote for a particular party. It is very interesting to study where each party directs their perferences, in some cases it is based on ideologies, environmental preferencing environmental, left wing preferencing left wing etc, but in other cases it seems to be based purely on deals, two parties who do not share political ideas swap preference just to increase their chance of election. The problem I have with the latter is that people’s can end up electing a candidate who they disapprove of. Some people may say this is a problem of having a preferential voting system, would disagree in the extreme. I am extremely proud to live in a county with a preferential system, as I believe it is the fairest type of system. I think that the issues are: that the political parties decide the preferences not you the voter when you vote above the line and that with 70+ candidate it is difficult to vote below the line, that is why only 3-5% people do it. Greens leader Bob Brown has suggested a new system:
“Have people number the parties for the Senate in the order of their choice above the line, that’s a simple prescription,” he said.
“I will be putting that to the next government, we Greens will be moving for that, so that people make up their own minds.”
I agree with him, but at this election I want MY VOTE to goto who I choose, so I will be filling in all 79 boxes on election day.