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Understanding The Implications Of The New Senate Voting System

Ok, I think that I’ve got this right.

You can number boxes above the line OR below the line.

If you number them above the line, you need to number at least six boxes above the line for the parties or groups of your choice. However, if you vote below the line, then you need to number at least 12 boxes below the line for individual candidates of your choice.

Ok, I know that the whole idea is that this was meant to eliminate the anomalies that enabled people like Family First senator, Charlie Manson or Steve Fielding or whatever his name was, who was elected when he only received votes from his actual family and due to complicated preference deals, he ended up being elected in spite of only nine people actually wanting him there.

Basically, it was meant to be the death of the minor parties in the Senate, but I’m not so sure that they’ve thought this through. I know, I know, politicians not thinking something through to beyond the election, that’s a surprise.

Anyway, over the years, I’ve been a bit of maverick. I’ve usually attempted to vote below the line, and while I’m good with numbers, there have been times when I’ve wondered why I’ve got to number 123 out of 123 and I still have a box left. Then begins the long process of trying to work out which number I’ve skipped and whether I’ll end up regretting giving my 53rd preference to the person to the person I intended to give preference 123. At least, though I know that it was my stuff-up and I don’t have to have six years of me telling myself that I elected Charlie Manson by putting a “1” above the line!

It’s hard to keep track of all the numbers if you vote below the line… Or rather, it was. Now, I can vote below the line and that enables me to do something like this. (I’ve only listed the Parties, some of the minor parties may have more than one candidate.)


(Ok, not all the parties in the example are real, but due to the lack of reporting of anything but the major parties with the odd attack on The Greens, I couldn’t think of twelve. As for Googling them, good luck finding a party whose name you don’t know.)

The basic point I’m making is that it’s going to be easier to vote below the line. Not only that, you don’t even need to give either of the major parties your vote at all.

Yeah, I don’t know if that’s the way it’ll pan out, but it’s certainly a possibility.

Personally, I’d like to see half the Senate decided like it’s jury duty. You know, random people get called up. They can seek an exemption, but if they accept, then they have three years on $198,000, plus whatever benefits accrue. You organise it on a rolling basis so that there are a handful of new senators every sitting so there’d never be any need for a double dissolution because of an obstructionist Senate because surely, if the legislation was worth voting for, then they’d get the numbers sooner rather than later… Yep, that’s just silly and we’re so much better off when one of the parties gains complete control of the Senate. Yep, my idea is just the sort of nonsense that you’d expect from someone like me.


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  1. kathysutherland2013

    Make your own “How to vote” card and take it into the polling booth with you. Naturally, this involves lots of research beforehand. Bit tedious, but it’s worth it.

  2. Rossleigh

    Yes, I know, cb, but I was working on the theory that a lot of below the line parties won’t have more than one candidate.
    Besides, suggesting Arts Party 1 2, Cycling Party 3,4,5, Recycling Party 6, 7, 8, didn’t give me the chance to give the mythical minor parties a plug so that by the next election we actually have a Blues Party… Not to mention a Sex Party.

  3. Rossleigh

    Wait, someone just informed me that we already have a Sex Party… Why wasn’t I invited? Is it because I’m considered too old? Ok then I’ll join the Seniors Party.

  4. Bacchus

    I did that in 2013 kathysutherland2013 – got a few strange looks from those handing out “how to votes” on the way in, but it was worth it.

    This time should be easier – you only actually have to number 1 above the line – although you’d be an idiot to do so – there are 12 spots available in each state, hence the misguided “must number 6” from the AEC.. Sure, if you’re silly enough to exhaust after your preference for one party…

    Below the line becomes more interesting and easier – no need to number every square, and you can just not include anyone you don’t want to possibly receive any of your preferences (Liberals, Nationals, Pauline Hanson, Family First…)

    It’s probably important to number more than the required 12 though, to ensure you’re not exhausting your vote prematurely – best to make the maximum use of the limited choice you have every three years.

  5. corvus boreus

    The Senior Pirate Blues Artists Recycled Drugs and Sustainable Sex Party gets my vote.

  6. Shogan

    With the changes to the Senate voting system, the voters are the only people who can now give preferences…

    Voting above the line…A valid above-the-line vote is to number 1 to 6 according to your preferences…an above-the-line “savings provision” means that even if you mark only one square, your ballot will still be counted, however, if you only vote 1 for an independent or minor party & they fail to get enough votes to remain in the count, your ballot will become exhausted, meaning it will not count towards electing a senator. If you only vote 1 for a major party above the line then that vote remains with that party right through the count.

    Voting Below The Line…A valid vote below the line is to number at least 12 squares, but your ballot is still formal provided it shows six consecutive preferences.

    As I see it you could vote for all the Independents you wanted to & as long as your last preferences stopped at the major party members you wanted to win, your vote wouldn’t be wasted or end up with a minor party or the party you hated the most…

    I would think once the Independents & voters work this out we could end up with more Independents winning seats on the Cross Benches & if everyone who didn’t give the LNP their first preferences left them out completely they could end up with fewer seats in the Senate & imagine the joy that could bring…:)

  7. kathysutherland2013

    Absolutely, Bacchus! I only have one vote – I intend to make the most of it!

  8. Florence nee Fedup

    Govt would love 1 above the line. Not optional voting but that will be accepted. Truth is above line voting not needed. It is voting for a party, which by the way isn’t mention in constitution.

    Voting below line has been made much more sensible. Can mark as many as one likes over 12.

    Please don’t vote 1 above line. Make government work for their votes. They treated us a idiots, Let them know that isn’t appreciated.

  9. Florence nee Fedup

    Recall the Sex Party which has been around long time not a stupid as one could think. Family First is one to avoid, unless you have read some of the speeches made in senate, Seemed to vote against all that would support, help families. Not sure what families he supports.

  10. Florence nee Fedup

    Be interesting how many independents turn up this time. Suspect numbers might be less.

  11. wam

    in the last council election of 3 members. The Aboriginal candidate got close to a quota but missed and as he wasn’t precluded his supporters’ second preference played no part in the election

    A vote above the line will distribute your preferences the same as 12 below, rossleigh with still a risk of exhausted votes,
    You could pick out one member from those parties and run the risk of your vote not being included in any part of the election..
    With the quota at 7.7%, there could be an almighty cock up if people:
    mix the above and below – informal
    forget to preference 6 above the line(12 below the line) – informal
    votes for someone under the line who doesn’t get precluded – no preferences are counted
    there are so many exhausted votes that render the election a joke
    the supporters of the minor parties all vote within those parties they may win the last seat as their votes are at full value whilst excess votes could be at 0.4.
    ps I love the authorised by T Nutt wonder of his name is anthony??
    cela va sans dit turnball gets no number
    The safest is to vote 1 labor and CYCLING PARTY 2 RECYCLING PARTY 3 RENEWABLE ENERGY PARTY 4
    and your vote will only go to labor or an independent (leave the loonies and X well alone)
    or you can
    vote below the line like 20% of canberrans, 10% of tasmanians and 8% of NT did in 2013, You have the numbers 1-12
    Again list all labor 1 to however many then, if less than 12 number the independents as you wish up to 12. This will give labor the best chance. especially in SA (again leave the loonies and greedy X out) with the wowsers vote.

  12. wam

    sorry – the X wowser vote hopefully will come from the disaffected libs.
    Note if you stray into the independents for your 1 vote do not assume your second preference will be counted. The system is arse up from the reps.
    go bill go labor the rabbott’s debt lie is the key to sink turnball

  13. Margot

    This is the best explanation of the new Senate voting system.

    Antony Green’s Election Blog
    2016 Senate Calculator Plus Tips on the New Senate Voting System

    The new Senate voting system, passed by the parliament after a marathon Senate sitting in March, has abolished group preference tickets. Parties no longer lodge tickets and therefore have no control over the between-party preferences of ballot papers completed by voters above the line.

    Parties can try to influence voters by distributing how to vote material, but it is no longer possible for any party or candidate to determine the between-party preferences of a ballot paper.

    The only between-party preferences that will count under the new system are those filled in by voters themselves

    Should I keep numbering beyond 6/12?

    The most effective way to vote is to express a preference for every candidate who has any chance of being elected. That ensures that your vote will be live and taking part in the choice between candidates for the final vacancy. If your ballot paper runs out of numbers and ‘exhausts’ its preferences, it will not take part in choosing the last candidate elected.

    Can I just vote 1 above the line?

    For the last 32 years, a single ‘1’ above the line has been formal, with the ballot paper then taking on the full group preference ticket of the chosen party. The new system has abolished the tickets and now a minimum six preferences is the instruction for completing an above the line vote.

    However, with 95% of the electorate having voted with a single ‘1’ for three decades, requiring six preferences had the potential to create a huge increase in informal voting caused by voters not being aware of the new instructions…..
    If you only vote ‘1’, and your party has a surplus beyond the number of elected candidates, then your vote would ‘exhaust’ and play no part in determining which of the remaining candidates and parties win the final vacancies to be filled.

  14. Garth

    Thanks Rossleigh. Personally I liked Shaun Micallef’s guide to senate voting at this election. Seemed to sum up my attitude to the whole election, actually.

  15. Gangey1959

    What a bloody joke this whole thing is.
    I just want to vote YES for same sex marriage.
    Friggin’ parliamentarians. Who do they think they are? The people who run this country or something ?
    At least turdbott is looking panicked, and his bunch of purple minion sidekicks cant read their scripts. Apart from being as dumb as a bag of sawdust, moronscum hasn’t yet figured out that he is wearing his mum’s glasses. I think that best explains his weird expression.
    Jobs and growth doesnt work either. I finally found a job, for 2 days a week. It’s great. Money’s a bit low though. Then I report to Centerlink, and they take 60 cents in the dollar back. And my healthcare card. So my myki, and my medication all cost full price.
    Now at the end of each fortnight I’m further behind than I was without a job. Hmmm. I must not be working hard enough. Can I still register to be a candidate? I just need a good 3 word slogan, and the lnp has used them all up. Bugger.
    See you all July 2. Vote with a pen. That way no one can correct any mistakes you might have made. Black I believe. And fill in all the numbers below the line, just to be sure to be sure. Ok , I’m a bit Irish too.

  16. Slapsy

    Considering that below the line voting has been made easier,and simpler,then why is there a need to even have a line. Won’t the line just confuse some people,or is this what one of the major parties want?

  17. Marilyn Riedy

    When you can’t trust both majors this is the way to make the Senate independent and stuff the majors if they don’t like it!

  18. keerti

    Gangy,cant give you 3 worder,but what about the lnp’s real one? Eff you jack, I’m alright

  19. Tim

    I will be voting for all parties apart from the Greens and LNP below the line, and then I will vote 1 for the Greens above the line and vote 2 for the LNP above the line… I’ll let the Greens and the LNP work out which of my votes they would like to count?

  20. kathysutherland2013

    @Tim – My opinion – NEVER vote above the line. You lose control of your vote. Someone else decides how to allocate it.

  21. Tim

    @Kathy – don’t worry I’m sure if I vote above the line and below the line, the government will step in to decide exactly what I meant…? And we can hold up the constitution of Australia and know that senators will be chosen ‘directly by the people’…

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