The ultimate guide to making your vote count at the Federal Election

Image Source: Huff Post

By Anna Day @anna_day_

The federal election is being held this Saturday, and going to the polls is your chance to have a say on important issues like the environment and climate change, mental health, education and housing.

And why wouldn’t you vote this Saturday? For the 3.3 billion people who live in repressive and corrupt countries, voting in a healthy democracy, free from persecution, is an enviable privilege.

So whether you’re a first time voter, or in need of a refresh (the last election was in 2016), On the Record has broken down federal election voting into four easy-to-follow steps:

Step onemake sure you’re enrolled to vote

The 2019 election will have the highest enrolment rate in Australian history with 96.8% of the population enrolled to vote.

This includes a record enrolment rate for young Australians of 88.8%.

According to Triple J’s Hack, the 2017 same-sex marriage survey is largely to thank for the surge of young Australians’ enrolments.

Around 100,000 Australians, mostly under 25, signedup to the electoral roll in the lead up to the postal survey.

The electoral roll closed on Thursday 18th of April, so if you haven’t yet enrolled, unfortunately you will have to sit out voting in the election this Saturday.

You can, however, still enrol or update your details for future federal, state and local government elections on the Australian Electoral Commission website.

Step two: figure out which political party best suits 

One of the hardest parts of voting is weeding through the political promises and smear campaigns to get to the truth of what the different parties are offering at this election.

Dr Sue Anderson, a UniSA lecturer in Australian Politics, Civics and Citizenship, suggests the best way to help decide who you should vote for is to go to the various party websites to see what they promise.

“Given that it is highly unlikely that any party other than the Labor Party or the Liberal Coalition will gain government, they should view the three debates between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on ABC’s iview, Dr Anderson said.

ABC’s vote compass also has an online questionnaire that aligns your views with those of Labor, Liberal, the Greens and One Nation.

The aligning questions are based on the usual election issues like immigration, taxes, climate change, welfare, security and education.

Step threeunderstand the voting system

Australia uses a preferential voting system.

This is a system of voting that allows voters to individually rank candidates for both the House of Representatives (AKA the lower house) and the Senate (AKA the upper house) according to their preferences.

When voting for the House of Representatives, you must preference all the candidates on the ballot paper.

Numbering a candidate as 1 makes this candidate your most preferred, 2 your second most preferred and so on.

If the votes are counted and no candidate has an absolute majority, then the counters go back and eliminate the lowest voted candidate.

If you voted for the lowest voted candidate as your first preference, then your full vote will be reallocated to your second preference to try and declare a winner.

If a candidate doesn’t gain a majority the second time around, the process repeats until someone eventually gains the majority.

When voting in the Senate, you have to number either 1 to 6 above the line for the Party you want or at a minimum 1 to 12 below the line according to your own preferences.  

Voting above the line gives the party you vote for control of your preferences.

Voting below the line gives you maximum control over your preferences.

Unless you are voting for very fringe parties there is no real need to preference more than 12 candidates as it’s unlikely that your vote will be recounted more than 12 times.

If you are voting for fringe party candidates, however, there is a risk your vote could be exhausted, where none of your preferences are left for any of the surviving candidates.

So it’s recommended to preference at least one major party candidate as they are most likely to reach the final round.

While voting above the line seems simpler, voting below the line gives you the control to preference the candidates that you want.

Dr Anderson suggests using how-to-vote cards in the House of Representatives but voting below the line in the Senate in order to get the best result for your beliefs.

Volunteers from various parties hand out how-to-vote cards at your voting booth.

Use your chosen party’s how-to-vote card to number your House of Representatives ballot paper once you’ve reached the polling booth.

If you are still unsure or like to be really prepared, you can practice both types of voting on the Australian Electoral Commission’s website.

Step fourvote!

Now that you know which political party you want to vote for and how to vote for them, all that’s left is to actually vote.

Polling booths are open from 8am to 6pm this Saturday; find out where you can vote in your electorate.

Be sure to get your democracy sausage on your way out, and go about the rest of your day knowing you completed your civic duty and helped to shape Australia’s future.

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